How To Take Your Stress Levels Down A Notch In 2017

We learnt a lot about stress this year.
So. much. information.
So. much. information.

You've (almost) made it to the end of the year. You did it. Congratulations.

Right now, you're probably navigating mixed feelings as you tie any loose ends and gear up for Christmas -- when all you really want to do is sleep for five days straight.

From all accounts, 2016 has been a stressful year. We've been stressed out by Trump, by Brexit and Berlin. We're a bit of a stressed out mess. Time for a refresh.

In 2016, The Huffington Post Australia has tackled stress from all angles. We've heard from doctors, wellness experts and CEOs on its impacts that can seep into every aspect of our work and home life... if we let it.

So what can we do about it? Well, quite a lot. And though this can sometimes be part of the problem (where do I even start NOT living in a perpetual state of stress?), there are some simple steps to manage it next time it raises its head in 2017.

Let's start with the background stuff (it's a little heavy, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, we swear).

The state of our stress

Our relationship with stress is a confusing one. From working longer hours than ever and sleeping less to remaining endlessly connected to social media and managing our mental health, it is omnipresent. And yet we react to it flippantly.

"We trivialise stress. Look at the messages around us...If you're sick or a bit tried, we're told to soldier on," author and CEO of sheIGlife Bronwen Sciortino told The Huffington Post Australia.

If we are not busy, than what are we doing?

"Because we as a society say stress is normal, it continues to go under the radar. Busy is just a badge that we put on, but we don't stop think about what we are busy with and what stress this is adding to our lives."

It's all a matter of perception. And the facts.

Send help.
Send help.

Stress and the body

Which brings us here. Being in a constant state of stress can affect the body in various ways. As heart surgeon Dr Nikki Stamp writes, it is tied in part to heart disease. The direct effects of stress on your body's hormones and blood pressure are coupled with poor eating and exercise habits that we use to cope. And there are similar discussions surrounding stress impacting our immune system's ability to fight cancer.

Stress may also have an impact on fertility. Various points of research point to stress (and the release of cortisol) preventing the actions of a key reproductive hormone and releasing another. (In layman's terms, worrying and stressing over your inability to fall pregnant may in fact make it that much harder.)

Stress and the mind

This is where the strongest links lie. Stress is a risk factor for developing depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders. And so managing our stress levels become more important than ever.

Stress at work

Long hours. Late nights. Serious stints of overtime. We've all been there.

According to a study conducted by The Resilience Institute (Australia), more than 80 percent of workers assessed their work place as high stress.

And this is only exacerbated when you're rising up the corporate ladder -- particularly for young women.

Is that the sun coming up?
Is that the sun coming up?

What can we do about it?

If you're still with us, we promise things will get lighter from here. We present to you a theory Sciortino likes to call 'Keep It Super Simple' -- a series of small steps that people from all walks of life can consider to manage stress.

Long term, these small changes will completely change the direction of your life -- and you won't even notice.

"If you can make your life simple, it becomes less impactful. It's all about the little things that you can do incrementally that can make an immediate impact in the first instance," Sciortino said.

"Long term, these small changes will completely change the direction of your life -- and you won't even notice."

Spend time on things you enjoy doing -- and cut down on those that you don't.

Not sure where to draw the line? Try this:

Make a list of all the things you spend time doing. Draw two columns next to this -- one for those that you enjoy doing, and the other for those that you don't. Take note.

Make a separate list of things that you would like to be doing.

Now, remove one thing off your 'don't-like list' and devise a plan to stop doing it. Decide whether you want to replace it with something from your 'like list' (see step 2) or whether you want to leave that time free.

Align your work with your values.

Put yourself in an environment where you feel energised by being there. Is your role right for you? If not, think about making the switch -- or adopting some small changes in your work day (like taking a proper lunch break or leaving on time at least a couple of times a week if you work late).

Life is golden.
Life is golden.

Spend time with positive people.

Do this intentionally. And be okay with seeing less of others.

Go to bed an hour earlier.

Just breathe.