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7 Stress Management Techniques to Get You Back on Track

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7 Stress Management Techniques to Get You Back on Track

There is no one in this world that can say they have never been stressed. Stress affects us all. Some of us are better at managing the negative impact that stress can have on our lives.

The one person who can control stress in your life is you. It is also up to you to be accountable for how you want to live your life.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with what is happening in your life and you want to get back on track, then these 7 stress management techniques will help to minimise the negative impact that stress has on your life.

What You Didn’t Know About Stress

Stress is a state of tension and it is a normal part of life. The most common external sources that can cause stress in our lives are finances, the demands of work and relationships.

The internal sources of stress come from within us and the pressure we put on ourselves because of our high personal standards, beliefs, values, attitude, goals, needs and wants. Some examples of internal sources of stress can be striving for perfection in all we do or refusing to speak to an audience because of our internal fears.

We also have what is called “internal chatter” which can also cause huge stress in our lives. This internal chatter comes from our negative thought patterns, negative experiences and bad habits. Our negative internal chatter, if we let it, can be quite destructive and lead us to living highly stressed and anxious lives.

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The body reacts to these changes and demands with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Internal and external stressors can have the same physical and psychological effects. You may have trouble sleeping, lose your appetite or lose interest in daily activities. You may be irritable, have headaches or stomach pains, or find that you cry easily.

If not dealt with, overtime stress can have a devastating impact on your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

Managing Stress Positively

The good news is that not all stress is bad for us. Being stressed in the right context can have a more positive influence on our lives. Some people say that they produce their best work when they are under pressure to deliver.

When you are able to manage stress in a positive way, this can open you up to new opportunities outside of your comfort zone. It can also be the catalyst you need to change and empower you to come up with solutions and challenges so that you can grow and move forward in your life.

The 7 stress management techniques make up a tool box of strategies that you can use at any time where you are feeling stressed and want to get your life back on track. The more you use these tools, the more proactive you are in managing your stress levels. By managing your stress, you minimise the negative influence it can have on your quality of life.

1. Write Down 5 Benefits You Will Achieve When You Have Your Stress Under Control

When making change or implementing anything new in your life, it is important to identify the benefits for you. The 5 identified benefits become the incentives to encourage and motivate you to make the changes and take action. Once you have these 5 benefits written down, then ask yourself these 2 questions:

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  • “What is it the goal I want to achieve?’
  • ” What are the benefits I expect from achieving this goal?”

Write these responses on stick-it notes and put these notes in a place where every morning you see them.

2. Get To Know Who You Are And Give Yourself Some Slack

Spend some time getting to know you, your personality, your strengths, things you don’t like doing and things you do like doing. The objective of this exercise is to become more self-aware so that you can quickly identify what things in life stress you out, and how you can manage these activities so that they don’t have such a negative impact on your life.

When you know who you are and what is important to you, you will take action to manage the negative activities that are not serving you well.

We can be our own worst enemies and we can be very hard on ourselves, which is not great when it comes to managing stress in our lives. The more self aware you are, the more accepting you are of what your strengths are and what you are not so good at.

Striving for perfection in everything you do and comparing yourself to others will not be so important to you when you know who you are and you are very happy with you.

3. Exercise Regularly

This is a very practical strategy that works. A regular exercise routine in your life builds your physical resilience to manage stress. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.

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Along with exercising regularly, eating healthy, well-balanced meals is just as important when it comes successfully managing the impact stress has on your life.

4. Learn And Practice Relaxation Techniques

“Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago health and wellness coach.

Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events. Relaxation techniques you could try for stress management are meditation, yoga, or tai-chi. You will always be facing times of stress in your life and by relaxing and calming your mind you give your body time to recover from these stressful events.

5. Commit To Spending Time With People Who Make You Smile

The more stress we face, the more likely we are to withdraw from our circle of friends and family. Stress, if we allow it, can consume our lives physically, mentally and spiritually; and all we want to do is hide away from the world.

Surrounding yourself with people who bring you joy, encourage and support, you will build your spiritual and mental resilience.

Keep a positive outlook on life is a lot easier to do when you are surrounded by people who love and support you. Laughing out loud and smiling lots is a great way to manage the stress levels in your life. The more you laugh in life, the better your “quality of life” will be.

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6. Be Grateful

Keeping a daily gratitude journal is one of the most effective ways to successfully managing stress in your life. This act of writing down every day all the things that you are grateful for keeps you present and real. It gives you a more optimistic and hopeful perspective of your life right now.

To successfully manage stress in your life, optimism and hope are the two key ingredients that you need. Without them, your ability to effectively manage stress is a lot harder – in fact impossible!

7. Commit To Taking Action And Do It

If you allow stress to creep into your life, it will take over your life – physically, mentally and spiritually.

We live in a world of constant change and disruption, so we will always be challenged by the threat of stress.

Commit to taking action to managing the impact that stress has on your life, and do something about it. You are the only one who has the power to do it.

The Bottom Line

There is no escape from stress. These 7 stress management techniques, however, are strategies that if you adopt and practice consistently, will enable you to live your life to the fullest — resilient and strong in mind, body and soul.

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More About Stress Management

Featured photo credit: ALIAKSEI LEPIK via unsplash.com

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Published on January 18, 2022

How to Stop Being Anxious And Regain Your Calm

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How to Stop Being Anxious And Regain Your Calm

Are you sick and tired of wasting your mental and emotional energy worrying about (and replaying) events in your mind? Even sabotaging yourself, your performance, and your relationships, at times? Constantly playing the “what if” game in your mind?

Let’s be honest, feeling anxious is miserable and unequivocally sucks the enjoyment out of life. It does this because it is impossible to be in the present moment when you are constantly worried about the future or past events. Here’s the deal—it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s talk about some tips on how to stop being anxious and get your calm back.

The Difference Between Feeling Anxious and Having Anxiety

Feeling anxious is just part of the human experience and is a normal stress response. When the stress is removed, the anxiety usually goes away, too. With an anxiety disorder, the stressful trigger is removed but the anxiety can still be present.[1]

There are multiple anxiety disorders with varying characteristics. If you are concerned that you may have one of them, it is best to be evaluated by your doctor, especially since anxiety is very common. According to research, up to 33% of all Americans will experience an anxiety disorder at some point during their lifetime.[2]

What Can You Do to Manage Feeling Anxious?

The good news is there’s a lot that you can do to stop being anxious. Science is learning more and more every day about ways we can manage feeling anxious.

I am a strong believer in being proactive and preventative. If you have a lot of stress in your life or are prone to feeling anxious, I always recommend establishing a foundation of good daily habits. That way, when something happens to poke the anxiety bear, you are already in a position to handle things.

Twenty tips may be overwhelming for some people but remember: you are not expected to incorporate every tip on this list. Look at it as a menu of potential helpful options. You can pick and choose whatever you want and leave the rest.

Here are 20 tips on how to stop being anxious:

1. Eat the Right Food

It might come as a surprise to some, but certain foods can make anxiety worse, such as sugary foods, processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners.[3]

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Here are some foods you can try instead that can help reduce anxiety: Brazil nuts, fatty fish, eggs, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, Turmeric, Chamomile, yogurt, and green tea.[4]

2. Stay Hydrated

One simple tip to help you stop being anxious is by staying hydrated. Even being mildly dehydrated has been shown to worsen anxiety.[5] So, drink up! Water, that is.

3. Work Some Mindfulness Into Your Day

This one shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Meditation and diaphragmatic breathing (breathing into your belly and engaging your abdominals upon exhale) are what usually come to mind, but there are some other fast and easy exercises that can help calm you down almost immediately.

One of my favorites is called Five Things, and it’s based upon our five senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch). It can be done in any order.

For example, you might start by picking five things you can see. As you list each item, it’s important to take in the detail of each one. Next, you pick four things you can feel, noting each item with the same attention to detail. Work your way down to one item accompanying your last sense.

4. Get Some Exercise

Completing 30 minutes of exercise three to five days a week may significantly improve symptoms of anxiety. Even as little as 10 minutes has a positive impact.[6]

In one study, exercise was shown to be as effective as medication in the treatment of symptoms of anxiety, with higher intensity exercise more effective than lower intensity exercise.[7]

5. Sit With It/Observe It

Dr. Judson Brewer recently penned a book (and an app) entitled Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind in which he discusses turning toward our emotions as a way to process them rather than distracting ourselves or bottling things up (turning away).

He encourages people to be an observer of the emotional response in their bodies, almost as if conducting a research project in great detail and noting the exact location of physical sensations (stomach, right or left side, front or back) with as much detail as possible.

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6. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an approach that utilizes the cyclical connection between our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as a means to control unwanted (anxious) thoughts.

One exercise to stop ruminating thoughts includes picturing a stop sign in great detail, instructing yourself to “stop,” and then changing the narrative to something positive, encouraging, or even more realistic or likely.

Another CBT exercise involves challenging negative thought patterns and beliefs for validity by asking yourself:

  • Is there evidence for my thought or am I making assumptions?
  • What’s the worst that could happen? Is this likely?
  • What’s the best that could happen?
  • What’s most likely to happen?
  • Will this matter in a week, a year, or five years from now?

7. Realize What You Can and Can’t Control

Take action where you can. Many of us spend time worrying and feeling anxious over things we can’t control.

Figure out what you can do and take action from there. Studies show that taking action reduces anxiety.[8]

8. Gratitude

Reminding ourselves of the good things in our lives not only brings positivity to us but also reduces anxiety. This is because it is neurologically impossible for our brain to focus on negative and positive information at the same time.[9]

9. Volunteer or Do Something for Someone Else

Helping others feels good. It also reduces stress, boosts our immune system, and can help us live longer.[10]

10. Journal in the 3rd Person

The practice of journaling has long been known as a valuable tool to help us manage our emotions, and it can also help us stop being anxious and regain our calm.

Making a point to name the emotions you are experiencing (“name it to tame it”) is a principle Dr. Dan Siegel discovered that heightens the value of journaling. More recently, Dr. Kross, in his book, Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It, noted that journaling in the 3rd person (as if narrating your life) creates further value by creating some distance between you and the emotion you are experiencing, thus allowing you to breathe easier and gain perspective.

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11. Go Out Into Nature

Spending time in nature has been shown to improve attention, lower stress, improve mood, reduce the risk of psychiatric disorders, and even cause upticks in empathy and cooperation.[11]

12. Spend Time With Animals

Dogs are not only your best friend, but it turns out they are good for your mental and emotional health, too. The fact that cats just allow you to live with them as their servant doesn’t detract from the positive impact they also have on our emotional well-being.

Spending time cuddling with your pet on the couch can decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have also found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.[12]

13. Get Good Sleep

Getting good sleep can be difficult when we feel anxious, but being tired can worsen the issue. Try sticking to a consistent bedtime, make your bedroom dark, the temperature cool, and limit screen time before going to sleep.

14. Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

Alcohol changes the level of neurotransmitters in our brain. This can lead to a heightened sense of anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant, specifically stimulating our fight or flight response, which is already more sensitive for those struggling with anxiety. Use both in moderation.

15. Show Yourself Compassion and Encouragement

What would you say to your best friend? Many times we make things worse by shaming or berating ourselves for feeling anxious because we fear it makes us appear weak or vulnerable. This makes the problem worse.

What would your best friend say to you? Stop beating yourself up and be your own best friend.

16. Spend Time With Friends

Healthy friendships make us feel included, improve self-confidence and self-esteem, and thus, help reduce anxiety.[13]

17. Create Balance in Your Life

Set healthy boundaries and priorities, and don’t be afraid to enforce them. Nobody else can do this for you. Value yourself. You are worth it.

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18. Have a Plan

Another tip to help you stop being anxious is to have a plan. Knowing what you will do takes away a lot of the “what if” thoughts in your mind. Being certain about some things and managing your expectations can help give you peace of mind.

19. Remind Yourself of a Past Event

You can also try to remind yourself of a past event in your life that you were anxious about but still ended up okay. Have confidence that you will make it through this situation, too.

20. Have Some Structure or Routine in Your Day

Knowing what to expect can significantly reduce anxiety and the fear that can accompany uncertainty.[14] Give yourself as much structure as you need. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Final Thoughts

It can be difficult to manage feelings of being anxious. Take charge and pick a few of these to try out. Be consistent, and see how you feel.

You can always discard what doesn’t work for you, and pick something else to try. Confide in a friend that you are implementing some new strategies, and get some support.

Always tell your doctor your concerns, and don’t hesitate to get help if you are having difficulty managing things on your own. Good luck!

More Tips for Calming Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

Reference

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