If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.
Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress, but you don’t have to spend hours in a gym to experience the benefits. Just about any form of physical activity can help relieve stress and burn away anger, tension, and frustration. Exercise releases endorphins that boost your mood and make you feel good, and it can also serve as a valuable distraction to your daily worries. Here are a few easy ways:
- Take your dog for a walk
- Use the stairs at home or work rather than an elevator
- Pair up with an exercise partner and encourage each other as you workout
Pick an activity you enjoy, so you’re more likely to stick with it. Instead of continuing to focus on your thoughts while you exercise, make a conscious effort to focus on your body and the physical (and sometimes emotional) sensations you experience as you’re moving. Adding this mindfulness element to your exercise routine will help you break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that often accompanies overwhelming stress. Getting out of your head and paying attention to how your body feels is also the surest way to avoid picking up an injury.
#2| Engage Socially
Social engagement is the quickest, most efficient way to rein in stress and avoid overreacting to internal or external events that you perceive as threatening. There is nothing more calming to your nervous system than communicating with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. The experience of safety as perceived by your nervous system, results from nonverbal cues that you hear, see and feel.
The inner ear, face, heart, and stomach are wired together in the brain, so socially interacting with another person face-to-face—making eye contact, listening in an attentive way, talking—can quickly calm you down and put the brakes on defensive stress responses like “fight-or-flight.” It can also release hormones that reduce stress, even if you’re unable to alter the stressful situation itself.
Reach out to family and friends and connect regularly in person. The people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix your stress; they just need to be good listeners. Opening up is not a sign of weakness and it won’t make you a burden to others.
#3| Master the 4 ‘A’s
A good stress management mechanism is to: avoid the stressor if it can be, if it can’t be avoided, can be altered, if it can’t be altered can you adapt to it? If all other ‘A’s are not possible, then simply accept it.
- Learn how to say “NO”– Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress.
- Avoid people who stress you out– If someone consistently causes stress in your life, limit the amount of time you spend with that person, or end the relationship.
- Take control of your environment– If the evening news makes you anxious, turn off the TV. If traffic makes you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route.
- Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, be more assertive and communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the stress will increase.
- Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.
- Manage your priorities better. Poor priority management can cause a lot of stress. But if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself, you’ll find it easier to stay calm and focused. Put the most important thing first, always.
- Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Never view yourself as the victim.
- Look at the big picture. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
- Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection.
- Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control (death of loved one, the behavior of other people). Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.
- Look for the upside. When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. Reflect on them and learn from your mistakes. Accept complete responsibility for past mistakes.
- Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments and yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.
#4 | Nurture Yourself
Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.
- Set aside relaxation time.Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
- Do something you enjoy every day.Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy.
- Keep your sense of humor.This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways.
#5 | Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
In addition to regular exercise, there are other healthy lifestyle choices that can increase your resistance to stress.
- Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eating habits, especially when stressed.
- Avoid/reduce caffeine, sugar, alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol, caffeine, sugars or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only a temporary ‘high’. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand. Deal with them head on and with a clear mind.
- Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.