Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on December 18, 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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Why You Can (And You Should) Quit Your Job Because of Stress 15 Ways to Stop Overthinking and Worrying About Everything How to Be More Positive: 15 Habits to Take Up How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence 17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness

Trending in Restore Energy

1 How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy 2 9 Best Energy Supplements To Fight Fatigue And Tiredness 3 23 Foods That Give You An Energy Boost Instantly 4 What Is Brain Fog: Why It Happens And How To Get Over It 5 How to Avoid Burnout and Improve Your Well-Being

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on April 14, 2021

How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy

How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy

You didn’t get to where you are in life without learning how to relieve stress along the way. But just because you’ve “been there, done that” doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to be easier this time around. Granted life experience will likely have taught you the old refrain, “this too shall pass” but that same life experience will also likely have taught you something about the active role you need to take to combat stress from time to time and how we could all stand to benefit from a stress-busting reboot.

I think we all know the dangerous side effects of too much stress in our lives. Stress is a major contributor to many poor health outcomes, such as diabetes, weight gain, hypertension, poor memory, and a whole host of mental health issues.[1] Therefore, how we manage the stress in our lives, needs to be revisited with a fresh and new perspective, in the same way, we need to clean out and freshen up our closet every so often.

Below are my top 10 strategies to relieve stress and restore energy with a fresh look at some old favorites that are guaranteed to help you self-optimize for health and happiness in body, mind, and spirit.

1. Compartmentalize—Prioritization on Steroids

People think of the compartmentalizing tactic in different ways, and there are negative associations with this term. However, when I suggest that you compartmentalize to manage your stress—or better yet, relieve stress—what I am referring to is the idea that you block out certain parts of your life that are distracting you from what you need to do in your daily life.

For example, you are at work but also have some extraordinary stress in your private life due to ailing parents with no siblings to share in the caretaking. Managing this alongside your own family and professional responsibilities, which were already heavy enough, places an enormous amount of stress on you.

When you compartmentalize, you put up mental blinders to help you focus on the task in front of you with the knowledge that managing your parent’s living and financial situation will be handled in due time after work hours.

Learning how to block out these different realms of your life will help you prioritize and manage the work that is in front of you.

2. Get Outside, It’s Like Therapy

Simply getting outside in the fresh air will automatically bring down your stress levels and restore some lost energy.[2] The research around this growing field known as ecotherapy is proving once again how powerful nature is and how we can improve our mental wellbeing along with our physical and spiritual health with time outdoors.[3]

When you are outside, you are more likely to have increased activity levels and will be exposing yourself to the mood-boosting sun, which helps our body create vitamin D. Research on vitamin D indicates that those who are vitamin D deficient may be more susceptible to inflammatory illness, depression and lowered resistance to stress, and more and more of us are becoming vitamin D deficient across the United States.[4]

Advertising

Spending as little as 10 minutes outside every day can be enough to improve mood, mental focus, and decrease blood pressure. Think of the increased concentration and improved efficiency you will get as a return on investment that yields way better growth on your aptitude and attitude for life.

3. Do an Organization Reboot

We all know the secret to success is largely due to organization or at least some form of it. I would argue that organization is a process. We build structures to organize information and life events based on our current demands. Over the course of your life, this will vary and probably increase as your life becomes more complicated, which will force you to innovate and change things up as you go.

What was enough in college or your first job out of college may not be enough at this point in your life. Furthermore, many, many systems can help us organize, and too many can detract from their intended benefits.

Assessing and weeding out the unnecessary systems or consolidating from the many to one might just be the answer.

Is a family calendar on Google more efficient than the calendar hanging in the kitchen? Don’t just assume that the answer will be in tech. Sometimes the old-fashioned pen and paper is more practical and might also serve as a better physical reminder—think of the whiteboard in the kitchen vs the hidden “to-do list” on your smartphone with reminders that consistently fail.

Another strategy for your organization reboot is an organization self-assessment. First, what it is that you need help organizing, and what the intended outcome is? Is it for communication purposes—to make sure that everyone is on the same page—or is it to help you process and think about the workload in front of you? Answering these 2 questions will help you move forward as you think about what makes the most sense for you, your family, or your team at work.

Another way to approach an organization reboot is to ask other people how they stay organized. This is especially helpful when taking on new responsibilities that might come with a job change or a new family dynamic.

I did this in a new position I recently took and by collecting data on how other people approached their work (think of the complex systems in public education), I was able to create “a best practice” that worked for me and that I could share with my colleagues. Something that could earn you some extra kudos is a bonus, especially when you are the new kid on the block.

4. Engage Your Creative Brain

When we engage the creative parts of ourself we tap into the part of our brain that releases dopamine, which has a naturally calming, therapeutic effect. Needless to say, this will almost immediately help us to relax and will lower our stress levels. One of the premises for which art therapy has been well established.

Advertising

In one study, in particular, it was found that after just 45 minutes of engaging with artistic materials, regardless of the level of production or artistic talent the person had, there was a notable decrease of cortisol in 75% of the participants.[5]

Music therapy is another form of creative art that can relieve stress and restore our energy.[6] Many of us use music to help us decompress or move into another part of our day or activity. Music also taps into this part of our brain that increases focus and can help us emulate the feeling or “vibe” we perceive in the music. As we know, upbeat music will help you feel more positive while slower music can help you feel more relaxed by easing some of the tension in your body.

There are tons of great playlists out there aimed at stress relief. The next time you are on your preferred music streaming service, test out a few and see which works for you. Needless to say, music is one of those things that we can have in the background while moving forward with other parts of our day.

Perhaps this is another area in need of a reboot that could enhance your stress relief routine.

5. Do You Need a Vacation or Weekend Away?

Vacation opportunities may not be as readily available as we would like. However, it doesn’t have to be a week in the tropics to feel the benefits of a short break from your everyday routine.

If we are optimizing our time with some of the above strategies, perhaps we might be able to sneak in that weekend getaway or even just a day trip with the family. Getting out of your everyday environment, especially when trying to build in some respite and relieve stress, can do wonders for our mind, body, and spirit.

We may love our homes, but they do represent the endless “to-do list” and remind us of all the things that contribute to our stress levels. Getting away from this environment where you can get outside and engage in some of your favorite activities with your favorite people will free your mind and your body.

Granted, COVID-19 has definitely hindered our road trip or vacation opportunities. However, with a little creativity, we can build in the little breaks that we need to relieve some stress, reconnect with the people who are important in our lives, and help us to feel ready for the next hurdle in front of us.

6. Meditation and Mindfulness, Make Them a Habit

Meditation and mindfulness can offer endless benefits to us emotionally and psychologically, which will naturally relieve stress. Many of those benefits include increased focus, relaxation, and a decrease in the mental clutter in your head.

Advertising

One of the biggest challenges with mediation or mindfulness is that to feel the impact, we need to practice it consistently, which takes discipline. The people who are most successful at integrating mediation and mindfulness into their self-care and stress relief routines are people who build it into their daily practices.

And as is true with many strategies, we don’t need to spend hours doing it. Just 5 or 10 minutes a day can make a difference, but we do need to make sure we are doing it.

Maybe there is a 5 or 10-minute window at the end or beginning of your day where you could fit this consistently? There are lots of great apps to help guide you through your mediation with music and visualization.

7. Fight Off “Aloneliness” and Find Your Alone Time

I read an article recently about “aloneliness,” which is the opposite of loneliness. As an introvert, I have always been that person who replenishes her energy from time alone but never quite thought about the craving as a likening to loneliness for the introvert.

The benefits of alone time are science-backed and include those things that many times go out the window when we are stressed and overwhelmed—things like creativity, mental strength, and productivity. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people without the opportunity to have their alone time, which could be another reason that you are feeling more stressed and less able to deal with your daily challenges.

You might need to be strategic, but you could build some alone time into your life with a walk outside to get lunch for example, which will also be incorporating strategy #2 on this list.

8. Find Balance in Your Life

Stress can turn our lives upside down and throw everything off-kilter. Finding your equilibrium, getting your bearings straight, and finding the balance in your life between the many demands of family, partner, work, and friends is essential.

If you are feeling increased stress, take a look at the demands around you and make sure that there is a balance between the different parts of your life—in particular, the areas where you find more nourishment for the soul.

Incorporating the well-known life coaching strategy “life wheel” is a great way to think about the different parts of your life to ensure that you are giving all areas the time and attention that they need.

Advertising

9. Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene

It’s no secret that sleep can be your best friend or public enemy number one. As the saying goes, “what a difference a day can make” is in large part due to a restful night’s sleep. However, when we are stressed, sleep is one of the first things to get out of whack.

If you are going through a period of high stress, you are likely feeling an increase in outside or family demands. Finding the time to fit it all in may naturally creep into your sleeping hours or, on the other hand, the stress might keep you from being able to get a restful night’s sleep. Either of these two scenarios is a case where it might be good to take a look at your sleep routine and force you to be a little more protective of it.

Some of my go-to tips and strategies around maintaining healthy sleep hygiene are:[7]

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Maintain your physical activity
  3. Limit alcohol
  4. Sleep in a cooler environment
  5. Get plenty of fresh air

So, before you get to thinking that you can sleep “later,” remember that healthy people and well-balanced lives have a healthy amount of sleep in their lives.

10. Animal Love

There’s tons of research out there about the benefits of having a pet, in particular, a dog or a cat. Taking care of a pet or any member of the animal kingdom can have such a positive impact on our mood and psychological well-being that our brain releases a hormone known as oxytocin, dubbed the love hormone.

We get this hormone from other nurturing (human) relationships as well, but we cannot underestimate the impact this can have on us when we care for and connect with one of our four-legged buddies. A case in point is the fact that many pet owners report feeling a connection to their pet that rivals that of any significant human connection and, in some cases, can even be more significant than a human-to-human connection.[8]

Additionally, having a pet will likely promote other healthy habits. Some of which I spoke about above, such as being outside more often and increasing your physical activity. On a social level, connecting with friends and neighbors about your pet creates a shared connection—another protective factor in the fight against stress.

Botton Line

Modern life places many demands on us which hits us in different ways during different periods of our lives. Maintaining our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being requires a fresh and renewed approach every so often.

If you take the time today—to take care of yourself for tomorrow by revamping the old worn-out items in your self-care toolbox—you will reap the benefits 20 fold! Learning how to relieve stress from our life is a process that we will need to revisit time and time again, each time getting better and better.

More Tips on How to Cope With Stress

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next