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Last Updated on April 22, 2020

11 Simple and Effective Ways to Manage Stress

11 Simple and Effective Ways to Manage Stress

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.

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.

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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.[1]

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.[2]

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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.[3]

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.[4]

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.

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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.[5]

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.[6]

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.

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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.[7]

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 Stress Management Tips

Featured photo credit: Kaboompics via kaboompics.com

Reference

More by this author

Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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