Practicing stress management is like owning a highly specialized toolbox. Instead of hammers and nails, our stress management toolbox is filled with techniques, ideas, and resources. The more we have, the more effective and useful that toolbox will be to you.
TAKE A NAP
Stress and disturbed sleep patterns go hand-in-hand.
A few nights of poor sleep can quickly lead to daytime fatigue, lack of concentration and inability to focus. While not a substitute for getting quality sleep on a regular basis, a 20-30 minute “power nap” on a stressful day can help reset your system and refresh your brain.
INHALE THE SCENT OF STRESS RELIEF
Aromatherapy combined with essential oils can be a powerful holistic form of stress relief.
While essential oils can be applied topically and used in cooking, proponents of aromatherapy believe that the inhalation (through diffusion) of specific essential oils and plant compounds such as thyme, lemon and basil can also help lower anxiety, reduce fatigue, elevate mood and alleviate stress.
SHARE YOUR BED
Sharing your bed with a partner relieves stress by lowering stress hormones and boosting the “love” hormone oxytocin.
Sleeping next to a loved one not only promotes better quality sleep during the night but can result in reduced stress hormones throughout the day.
Stress and anxiety are often accompanied by physical tension.
Progressive muscle relaxation is an easy to learn technique that helps you to both recognize the early signs of tension, and to quickly dispell that tension.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation is not only beneficial for relieving stress. With a little practice, it can also be used to help induce sleep and as a natural pain reliever for those “tension” headaches.
The idea isn’t to have one great tool that will perfectly fit every need. Instead, we want to fill our box with multiple tools designed to meet individual needs as they arise.
You can help reduce the damaging effects of stress by learning to control your breathing.
Whether you are headed into a stressful situation or lying in bed thinking about the next day’s stressful situation, there’s a focused breathing technique to help lower your stress level. The easiest technique for beginners to master and one that works for multiple situations is the Abdominal Breathing Technique.
FIDGET ABOUT IT
The jury is still out on whether anti-stress toys such as spinners and stress balls live up to their claims of reducing stress and lowering anxiety.
But they are inexpensive, durable, colorful and fun. And, having fun is always an antidote for being stressed out.
Yes, the roof may be leaking and the dog has pooped on the carpet again, but if we can trick our brain into thinking we are happy, the stress from dealing with these events is lessened.
Practicing your best smile in a stressful moment is the ultimate “fake it til you make it” technique that actually works. Research shows that a smile – even when it’s “manipulated” helps lower both the physiological and psychological effects of a stressful situation.
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
Having an established routine is a key component to good stress management.
Having an established routine (and no, it doesn’t have to be boring, just consistent) ensures that you have made room in your daily life for a balanced mix healthy habits, relaxation, adequate sleep time, social interaction and pursuing positive activities. A well-designed routine can lower stress in a busy life by eliminating the sense of being constantly overwhelmed.
Some practices may be useful on a daily basis – others may only be needed in special circumstances. Some techniques work perfectly fine on their own, others may work best when used in combination. And some may not be your cup of tea at all!
PLAY THAT FUNKY MUSIC
Relaxing music doesn’t just calm the savage beast – it reduces stress.
Listening to calming music immediately before tackling a stressful task will lower the impact of stress both during the task and once you have completed it.
Not a music lover? Try your hand at creating a playlist filled with sounds of the great outdoors. Nature sounds can be equally effective in promoting relaxation and decreasing feelings of stress.
GETTING TO THE POINT
If you have a fear of needles, acupuncture might not be the obvious choice for a stress reliever. But acupuncture can offer some powerful benefits.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves insertion of needles into specific body points. The procedure has been shown to trigger the pituitary gland to release endorphins. Endorphine is a “feel good” hormone that also acts as a natural pain reliever. Electroacupuncture has also been found to prevent “stress-induced increases in HPA hormones” with “potentially long lasting effects.”
EAT GREEN/DRINK BLACK
When we’re under chronic stress our brains produce more stress hormones and fewer mood enhancing hormones.
Foods high in folic acid, such as spinach, broccoli, avocado, and asparagus, can help restore the balance. Swap out your cup of coffee for a cup of black tea to further lower cortisol levels.
Which one of these ideas can you add to your own personalized stress management toolbox?
REACH OUT AND TOUCH
Massages, hugs, and cuddles are all immediate stress relievers.
Just the simple act of holding hands can reduce stress activity in the hypothalamus and lower cortisol levels.
Frequent small physical touches, even as short as 20 seconds in duration, can improve immunity, boost mood, lower cortisol levels and help induce feelings of calmness. Best of all, both the toucher – and the person receiving the touch – equally benefit from the stress relieving and mood-boosting effects of physical contact.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Just as exercise is crucial in reducing anxiety, exercise also plays a key role in stress reduction.
To really get the benefits of exercise it has to be a daily activity. It’s not enough to be Sedentary Susan all week and turn into a Weekend Warrior Wendy. We need daily exercise to condition our bodies to deal with stress. The less exercise we get, the more difficult it is for our bodies, physically and psychologically, to effectively handle stress.
HUG A TREE
Walking is good for the heart – but walking along a quiet nature trail can be good for the mind.
Research shows that short and frequent walks in natural environments such as hiking trails or quiet parks can decrease stress and promote a sense of well-being and calmness.
CLOSE THE (FACE)BOOK
Taking a break from social media, or just limiting your daily use, can do wonders for your stress levels.
Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Snapchat. Reddit, Bossip, Youtube…we all have our favorite social media outlet. Most of us, especially under 35, cannot imagine going a day without being connected.
But, along with being informative and/or entertaining, social media consumption can also stress-inducing. While a full social media detox is not practical for many people, we can reduce the stress by limiting the amount of time we spend on social media.