Stress can be one of the most crippling things to struggle with on a regular basis. Its debilitating nature can make it difficult to focus and immobilize our minds, bodies, and emotions.
Figuring out how to manage stress can be challenging. Anxious thoughts and feelings can’t simply be bandaged over and left to heal like a cut or scrape. The overwhelming emotions that accompany stress can make coming up with a plan of action feel like an impossible task.
But don’t despair! There are actually plenty of ways to address stress and anxiety, many of which are simple to implement and can quickly make a difference.
In this article, you will learn the effective ways on how to manage stress. But before that, let’s understand the problem more first.
What Is Stress?
Did you know that over a quarter of a billion people around the world suffered from anxiety in 2016 alone? And yet, less than half of those struggling with stress are doing something about it. Part of the issue stems from the fact that often, it’s difficult to even know where to start.
It’s important to understand the distinction between a genuine stress disorder and the mere feeling of being stressed. The latter is actually a good, honest human emotion. It’s part of what keeps us alive and kicking. If you never experienced stress, you wouldn’t feel motivated to do much of what you need to thrive in life.
However, once you start to feel afraid of those anxious feelings, that’s when you know you’ve got a problem.
Diagnosing the Problem
Stress disorder symptoms can manifest in our lives in a variety of mental, physical, and emotional ways. Here are a few of the different symptoms you might find if you’re dealing with stress on a serious level:
- Issues with remembering things
- Feeling irritable
- Depression and negativity
- Mood swings
- Serious headaches
- Fluctuations in sleep patterns
While there are plenty of other symptoms, outlining all of the ways that stress can hurt you would be a Herculean task. Instead, let’s start discussing solutions.
Just remember that stress and anxiety are able to physically, mentally, and emotionally cripple us. It’s a critical part of the recovery process that we diagnose the problem when it becomes serious.
And then take steps to address it.
11 Simple and Effective Ways to Manage Stress
Self-awareness regarding your stress levels is a good first step, but it isn’t likely to resolve all of the issues. Once you have a grasp of how bad your stress and anxiety levels are, it’s time to look at ways to manage that stress.
We’re not talking about dozens of time-consuming, expensive visits to a therapist. While therapy may be an answer for some, often the best solutions can be elegantly simple and impressively effective.
1. Take a Deep Breath
Let’s start off with one of the most easily overlooked solutions: taking a deep breath.
This might sound basic, but it truly is one of the greatest anti-stress tools that you have at your disposal. Remember, stress is an emotional response. It indicates an overload of the senses and an inability to process your circumstances properly.
When you find yourself confronted by a stressful situation and you feel that fear creeping into your thoughts, the first and best thing you can do is slow down and take a few deep breaths.
This provides oxygen for your brain and allows you to retake control over your cognitive process, which can help channel your thoughts and emotions in a positive direction. Rather than simply panicking, you’ll find that a deep breath gives you the ability to think rationally no matter how bad the situation is.
It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a free, always-accessible, easy-to-implement coping mechanism you can rely on in practically any stressful scenario.
2. The Power of a Massage
If you’re literally feeling wound up by all of the stress, one of the best physical solutions available is to get a massage.
The calming effects of a good massage are an excellent way to help address the physical symptoms of stress. Further, if you consider the fact that it forces you to sit still and relax for a significant chunk of time, it can make it the perfect way to slow down and let your body unwind.
Even if you can’t afford to dish out the cash to go to a quality spa on a regular basis, you can always consider investing in something like a massage chair in order to get a similar effect. These can offer back massages, foot massages, and heat therapy, bringing the effects of a massage right into the comfort of your own home.
3. Fire up That Diffuser
If you find yourself confronted with a predictably stressful situation on a regular basis — say, for example, in your workplace — it can be helpful to head off the stress by using one of the oldest tricks in the book.
Aromatherapy is an affordable and easy way to manage stress in a long-term situation. All you need to do is get a good diffuser, some water, and some essential oils.
Lavender essential oil is one of the best options when it comes to stress. Not only is it a gentle fragrance and natural air freshener (so it won’t seem out of place to pump a room full of the stuff), but it’s also excellent for promoting mental well-being and sleep quality, both of which are important factors in the fight to reduce stress.
4. Have an Attitude of Gratitude
While we’re on the topic of your mental well-being, another really important step in conquering our fear of stress is to practice having an attitude of gratitude.
Again, this may sound like a simplistic suggestion, but the concept of “watching your attitude” isn’t just helpful for curbing the negativity of a stubborn three-year-old; it’s age-old wisdom that applies to everyone.
One of the best ways to begin to gain control over our thought processes (especially those negative ones!) is to understand the cognitive behavioral therapy concept of cognitive distortions. These are classic ways that the human brain tends to warp information, all of which can quickly lead to stress and anxiety.
If you can begin to identify thought processes like “disqualifying the positive” or “jumping to conclusions,” you’re much more likely to catch yourself and focus on being grateful, instead.
Here’re some ways to help you practice gratitude daily: 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude
5. Revolutionize Your Sleep
Did you know that the average night sleep for a modern American is less than 7n hours? It was over 8 hours fewer than a century ago.
The truth is, 6 hours of sleep a day just doesn’t cut it. Not only that, but sleep is a crucial part of living a healthy, happy life — and naturally, also a life with less stress.
If you’re feeling stressed, one of the first things to do is take your sleep schedule seriously. This doesn’t just include longer sleep times. Make sure to avoid screens before you go to bed, and consider implementing something like lavender essential oils in order to improve the quality of your sleep as well.
6. Break out the CBD Oils
While we’ve talked about essential oils a couple of times now, another great oil that can help combat stress and anxiety is CBD oil.
CBD oil is a powerful natural supplement that, like lavender, doesn’t just combat anxiety, but promotes overall mental wellness. It can help improve sleep and relieve depression symptoms, as well, all of which are natural remedies for addressing long-term, chronic stress.
If diffusing lavender just isn’t doing the trick, or if you can’t stand the overly floral aroma, you may want to consider taking some CBD oil as an alternative to help combat the stress.
7. Get Moving
Another tried-and-true way to address stress is to get up and get moving.
Whether you’re heading to the gym, going for a long run, or hitting up the park with your dog by your side for some company, it’s important to carve out some time to exercise. It may be preaching to the choir at this point, but it bears repeating:
Stress isn’t just a mental battle, nor is it just an emotional struggle — it affects our physical bodies as well.
Getting exercise helps release endorphins, gives you a confidence boost, gets you out in the sunlight, and helps distract you from whatever is causing you to feel anxious. In the same way that exercise is a classic anti-depression tool, it’s worth adding into the mix as you try to find relief from the stresses and strains of life.
8. Get Everything off Your Mind
One of the ways stress can cripple us is by muddling up our thoughts. Between unprocessed feelings and fretting about unknown or unpredictable events, anxiety and stress can easily make a person feel like they’re drowning.
One of the best ways to clear your thoughts and regain control over your mind when you’re dealing with serious stress is to simply grab a pen and paper and write everything down. You can make a pros and cons list, organize everything by categories, or create a mind map.
However you choose to go about it, taking the time to write down and organize your thoughts can immediately ease the pressure and help take the fear and worry out of a situation.
Take a look at this article and learn more about the technique: How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster
9. Grab a Stick of Gum
Did you know that chewing gum has been shown to both increase memory recall and reduce stress?
The important thing with this suggestion is to give it a decent chance. Some studies have shown that the actual act of chewing gum can be a bit distracting at first, but when implemented for the long term, it can actually be quite an effective anti-stress tactic.
It doesn’t matter if you’re managing a huge workload at school or dealing with unreasonable demands at work — keeping a pack of gum in your pocket can be a great go-to option when you feel your stress levels rising.
10. Laughter Is Still the Best Medicine
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but laughter is still the number one prescription for a healthy life.
It isn’t just an old wives’ tale, either. The science really does back this one up. Laughter provides a host of different short- and long-term benefits, particularly in the area of — you guessed it — stress.
Laughter smooths tension away, alleviates pain, helps with your mood, and even brings a flood of oxygen-rich air into your body.
If you find yourself feeling stressed out, look for a friend or two and do something fun that you know will get you laughing.
11. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”
Finally, just like pausing to take a deep breath, another tried-and-true stress management tactic is developing the simple ability to say “no.”
It’s always admirable to help those in need. No one is arguing that. But in the same way that you should put your own oxygen mask on before the child sitting next to you on a plane, it’s critical to understand that if you aren’t aware of your own limits, you’re likely to end up being less effective for everyone.
If insecurities and the fear of rejection lead you to uncontrollably say “yes” every time you’re asked to do something, sooner or later you’re going to have a panic attack.
As you practice many of the things on this list and gain more control over your thoughts and feelings, begin to practice the complex and challenging art of simply saying “no” sometimes. It doesn’t mean you need to become a selfish person. Just take a moment to weigh each request against your ability to take the time and effort to help properly.
If you want to learn about how to say no, this article is for you: The Gentle Art of Saying No
The Bottom Line
There are clearly plenty of ways to cope with stress and anxiety in our lives. The important thing, though, isn’t which of the items on this list you choose to try, but rather that you understand where you’re trying to get to.
Remember, stress isn’t a bad thing on its own. It’s a natural part of life that actually has many benefits. However, letting stress itself dictate our mood, thoughts, and feelings can be detrimental to our physical and mental state.
So take some time now, pick 2 or 3 things from the list, and commit to implementing them from here forward. As you slowly mature and regain control over your stress, continue to add more things from the list.
Before you know it, you’ll be breathing easy and coping masterfully through each and every stressful situation that life throws your way.
More Articles About Managing Stress
Featured photo credit: Kaboompics via kaboompics.com