Stress is our body’s way of letting us know we’re under pressure and is a natural response to challenging or threatening situations.
Occasional stress is not a bad thing and can even be useful. But our bodies and minds don’t fare well when dealing with stress over a longer period of time. And getting buried under a mountain of work, dealing with relationship problems, or juggling a jam-packed diary of commitments can all tip us over the edge.
Although you can’t sweep stress under the rug or silence it completely, there are many simple ways to manage it efficiently—so read on for our top 10 tips.
1. Talk it out
When we’re stressed, sometimes all we need is an empathetic ear or someone to validate what we’re going through. Talking to a friend or family member can help to get things off your chest and give you a new perspective on a problem.
Even if you don’t want to talk about what’s stressing you out, just spending time with friends, colleagues, or family members can lift your spirits and boost your wellbeing,taking the edge off a stressful week.
Alternatively, you could contact a support helpline if you’d prefer to chat with someone independent. In the US, you can find some emotional support contact details via Mental Health America Warmlines.
Perhaps because breathing is something we do automatically, it’s easily overlooked as a simple route to stress relief and relaxation. Doing frequent breathing exercises can help calm a stressed-out body, and take only a few minutes.
Breathing exercises typically ask you to bring attention to your breathing: to breathe more slowly and/or actively breathe into your abdomen rather than your chest. There’s an abundance of guided breathing exercises online to suit any schedule. Learn more about the power of breathing and explore some quick and simple breathing exercises here.
3. Master your time management
We can be our own worst enemy when it comes to cramming our diaries full of jobs, tasks, and to-dos. Spreading ourselves too thinly for too long can send stress levels soaring if we’re struggling to keep up with commitments.
There are lots of quick ways to sharpen your time-management skills, such as writing lists, planning events in a diary, and prioritizing important tasks.
Scheduling time for yourself, such as an evening of self-care, a morning jog, or a regular lunch break can also help you protect precious de-stressing time.
4. Get moving
Exercise releases mood-boosting chemicals which could take the sting out of a stressful day, even when you’re short on time. By prioritizing some form of activity in your day, you also carve out valuable time for yourself away from your desk or the demands of others.
Finding an activity you love could make the time go even quicker. Stretch your legs on a lunchtime stroll or re-center with an online yoga class at the end of a day—whatever floats your boat and gets your body moving.
5. Laugh about it
Chuckling away your stress is no laughing matter—humor and laughter can be a highly effective way to relieve stress.
Laughing with colleagues may be just the medicine you need to shrug off a stressful day at work. Or you might indulge in a solo giggle with your favorite comedy show or podcast. If you’re feeling particularly funny, spread the joy and share a joke with a friend.
6. Start a gratitude habit
Reflecting on and noting down the good things in our life can be a helpful habit to cultivate feel-good emotions and reduce stress.
Take time to think about what or who you’re thankful for and try writing 3 things down. Even if you only spend 10 minutes a few times a week practicing gratitude, it’s a small investment that could bring valuable stress-busting rewards.
7. Get a good night’s sleep
Stress and sleep are intimately related. Chances are, if you’re sleep-deprived and running on an empty tank, your stress levels will start to climb.
But of course, it’s not so easy to drift off when you’re stressed out. A few ways you can set yourself up for a solid night’s sleep include cutting out caffeine close to bedtime and creating a wind-down routine to help get your body in the mood for sleeping— try having a bath, listening to music, or sipping on a comforting hot drink.
8. Focus on the now
If you’re searching for a moment of calm amid a stressful day but don’t have buckets of time, you could try incorporating some mindfulness into your everyday tasks.
Mindfulness involves bringing your awareness to the present moment and you can practice it during ordinary activities, such as cooking, washing up, or brushing your teeth. Try to bring your attention to the sensations you’re experiencing at that moment—what can you see, hear, touch, taste, or smell?
9. Break it down
Do you have one massive goal you’re working towards? Sometimes, big goals can feel like a lofty mountain to climb. If you’re only looking at the summit this can feel daunting and stressful.
Make things easier by breaking tasks down into manageable milestones. Achieving each smaller goal is then an opportunity to congratulate yourself.
10. Be a friend to yourself
When you’re stressed, a sure-fire way to pile the pressure on is to be overly harsh on yourself. To get some perspective on your inner monologue, ask yourself, “Would I say this to a friend?”. If the answer is “no” you may benefit from a dose of self-compassion.
To help kick negative self-talk to the curb, try being as kind to yourself as you would a loved one—let go of mistakes you’ve been dwelling on, try to accept yourself for who you are, and know that everyone has flaws and imperfections.
Stress helps us rise to the challenges in our life, and is a very normal response to difficult situations and circumstances.
Everyone is different, and what may be a stress-relieving remedy for one person may fall short for another. In general, being kind to yourself, connecting with others, and giving yourself enough time and resources could help take stress levels off the boil.
If you’re finding that stress is becoming unmanageable, it’s important to get help if you need to, whether that’s talking to your doctor, mental health professional, or a therapist.
If time is in short supply, you may find speaking with a therapist online is more convenient. BetterHelp is one online counseling platform that connects people to a therapist that matches their unique profile and needs. You can chat with your therapist in the comfort of your own home at a time that suits you.
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