Stress is a part of everyday life and it comes in many shapes and forms from the physical stresses and strains we place on our bodies to the emotional stress of personal hardships or the chemical stress that’s placed on us through exposure to hazardous irritants or poor dietary choices.
An inability to cope with too much stress can reduce mental well-being and be counterproductive in long term health and happiness. Learning to manage stress and keep it in check is important. If you notice you are dealing with too much stress, here are twelve simple things you can do to improve the way you deal with it.
One of the best ways to reduce stress is to practice meditation. Taking a break from life and putting your mind somewhere else helps you focus on calming your body and re-centering your thoughts. Practicing daily meditation can help you recover faster from stress by reducing cortisol levels and by increasing self-esteem.
2. Regular Exercise
People who regularly exercise experience less anxiety than those don’t. Being active lowers stress hormones, releases endorphins, and increases confidence and mental well-being. While using large muscle groups gives the best results for delivering these benefits, what’s important is finding an exercise activity that you enjoy most, whether it is dancing, walking, running, or weight lifting.
3. Breathing Techniques
Controlling your breathing can have a direct effect on your sympathetic nervous system. Without a person even noticing, stress causes the body to go into “fight or flight” mode with fast, shallow breathing. By purposefully breathing deeper, you can bring your heart rate down and calm the body into a more relaxed state. Specific techniques you can try are diaphragmatic breathing (focusing on breathing from the diaphragm) and paced respiration (timing it).
4. Get a Pet
Pets have been shown to help reduce stress by releasing oxytocin into your brain and putting you in a better mood. On top of that, they provide companionship, keep you active, and give purpose to life. If you don’t have a pet, borrow someone else’s for a while.
5. Take a Break
Specific reasons for stress, like work, school, or tense situations, sometimes can’t be eliminated from life. However, taking a break can help you reset your stress levels. If possible, schedule in breaks or carefully watch your stress levels so that you can understand when to step back and switch gears temporarily.
Listen to music, call a friend, go for a walk, or go out with friends. This will do more than help reduce stress, it can help you come back more motivated to tackle a task.
6. Declutter Your Surroundings
The environment around you has a direct effect on the way you feel. Having cluttered surroundings can lead to cluttered feelings and increased levels of stress. Clean up your room, clear off your table, or organise your desk. Once your belongings are organised and there is less clutter, you may have a clearer mind.
7. Make a List
Sometimes the biggest reason behind stress is feeling overwhelmed. During these times, make a list of what needs to be done so you can visualise the tasks easier. Prioritise them and place them into one of four sections: urgent things that are important, urgent things that are not important, non urgent but important things and non urgent, not important things.
Start tackling things from your prioritised list and you will have a visual reminder that everything is under control. The satisfaction of crossing tasks off the list is very rewarding too.
8. Get some Sleep
People have a higher tolerance for stress when they are not sleep deprived and are better rested. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep as this can impact your thought processing and make you more irritable.
9. Examine Your Nutrition
Just like everything else in life, nutrition can help or hurt your situation. Eating a lot of sugar, not getting enough nutrients, or ingesting high levels of caffeine can make your body feel out of sorts and stressed. Eating right will keep your brain clear and your body happy.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can prevent surges in stress hormones and may help to protect against depression. St. John’s wort and valerian root have shown benefits for depression and anxiety and are said to have a calming effect too.
10. Play Soothing Music
Playing music while you work can motivate, energise, or sooth your mood, depending on the style playing. If you need help reducing your stress during a project, choose something relaxing. For many, this is classical music or something slow and soft. Whether you are actively listening to the music or not, it influences the way you feel.
11. Time Management
Learning to schedule your time helps to reduce stress. Knowing that there is a plan and organising your time wisely can keep you on task and in control. Make time for the things that are important to you and give them a set time so that it’s out of the question whether you do them or not.
If you know that you don’t have time for something, learn to say no so you don’t become overwhelmed.
12. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a term used to describe a practice that anchors you in the present moment. It aims to decrease negative thoughts and emotions, which reduces anxiety and stress. Yoga and meditation are often placed in this practice, but it is more than that.
If you find your thoughts escalating and your emotions getting out of control, pause and find a way to put yourself in the moment. Appreciate things around you, focus on your breathing, and turn your thoughts into empowering, positive ones. Learning mindfulness can reduce anxiety and stress and increase self-esteem.
Stress will never totally go away, it’s what makes us stronger and more resilient. The important thing we must consider is that it’s how we deal with our stress that will allow us to either cope or choke under pressure. Once you start practicing one of our suggestions during periods of higher stress, you may find that you start to develop a higher sense of control over your life which will leave you feeling mentally stronger. And don’t worry if your first try isn’t successful. Practice makes perfect and it takes a while to change habits, just keep going.