Stress is an inevitable part of life. Despite our best efforts to plan ahead, there will always be work deadlines, traffic jams, and bills to pay on time. However, too much stress can impact our physical, mental and emotional functioning.
Sometimes there is very little we can do to change the stressful situations that life sends our way, so the most proactive way to handle stress is to practice easy coping mechanisms that help us manage these situations. Below are some simple steps that I recommend to reduce your current levels of stress and to help you respond more productively to stressful situations in the future.
Any type of physical activity is good for stress management. Stress can cause significant strain on your physical health. Regular physical activity not only manages physical health naturally but has numerous psychological benefits for relieving tension.
Take a walk for fun, join a gym or go to a yoga class. Physical activity can improve your physical health, mood and sleep. Struggling to stay motivated with your workout routine? Here are some great recommendations for how to maintain your goals and follow your fitness plan this year.
Deep breathing throughout the day increases the supply of oxygen to your brain which can promote calmness, mindfulness and focus. It’s an effective tool to practice both for short term stress relief as well as longer term stress and anxiety management.
Relaxation techniques assist your body in learning how to become physically and emotionally calm. Rather than mentally willing yourself to relax, a few deep breaths will automatically send your brain and body a message that it’s time to slow down. When first starting out, I recommend trying a guided imagery exercise which you can access by downloading a relaxation app like Calm or Headspace on your phone.
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Did you know there is such a thing as a stress reaction cycle? This is the series of responses your body automatically launches into when faced with a threatening or stressful situation. Intermittent breaks from high stress environments can help disrupt this stress response cycle and help you return to a de-stressed state more quickly.
Try scheduling short breaks throughout your day. These pauses can be anything from a 5-minute meditation, a short stretch at your desk, or a brief head-clearing walk around your office. The idea is to focus on something other than the situation or task at hand, to give your mind and body a chance to reset.
Music can help us manage stress and positively impact our health in so many ways. While most people think of listening to music as a passive activity, it can have a tangible impact on certain bodily responses like reducing the number of stress hormones in your body.
Implementing music into your daily routine is a fun way to reduce stress throughout your day. Put together some playlists with different speeds, styles, and tempos that correspond with your daily routines and enjoy! Popular streaming services like Pandora and Spotify also have pre-populated meditation or concentration playlists, which are perfect for background music at work or when you don’t know what you want to listen to.
Some stressful situations are unavoidable but reaching out for support and guidance from a friend or trusted loved one will almost always make you feel better and less alone. Your audience may not be able to make your stressors disappear but talking through your troubles with friends helps to foster a sense of support and can serve as a welcome mental distraction from the problems at hand.
Sharing your burden with another person can help you process your situation in a different way. It can also have the additional advantage of bringing you closer together as you confide in one another.
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