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Last Updated on August 19, 2021

How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy

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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]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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More Tips on How to Cope With Stress

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Meredith Flanagan

Embracing a strengths-based approach to life, passionate about creating opportunity out of adversity.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2021

7 Daily Stress-Management Rituals that Improve Your Productivity

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7 Daily Stress-Management Rituals that Improve Your Productivity

If you’re trying to be as productive as possible, stress will always be your biggest obstacle—and it’s not an easy one to overcome. To do it, you’ll need to develop a plan to make stress management a core component of your daily routine, but doing that takes commitment. The good news is that if you succeed in learning how to manage stress, you’ll unlock your potential and be well on your way to peak performance. But first, you need to learn how to make it happen.

The best way to do that is to learn about and integrate some stress management rituals into your daily routine. To help you get started, here are seven tips on how to manage stress and improve your productivity.

1. Give Yourself an Extra Hour in the Morning

If you were to do some research on some of the world’s most successful—and productive—people, you’d notice that many of them have one thing in common: they tend to be early risers. Apple’s Tim Cook gets out of bed before 4 AM each day.[1] Michelle Obama is already getting in her daily workout at 4:30 AM.[2] Richard Branson gets up at 5:45 AM each day, even when he’s vacationing on his private island.

There’s a good reason why they all do it—once you reach the point in your day that your work schedule kicks in, you no longer have control of your time. That means you have a limited opportunity every morning to reduce your stress by taking care of the things you need to do without anyone making other demands on your time.

What’s important about this isn’t the time you get up. The important part is getting up early enough to start your day without feeling rushed. For most people, getting up an hour earlier than you normally would is sufficient. This should give you ample time to complete your morning tasks without having to hurry or fall behind.

But when you implement this ritual, be careful. Don’t do it at the cost of getting the right amount of sleep each night. If you do, you might increase your stress instead of relieving it. Sticking to a proper sleep schedule and getting enough sleep is, in itself, a critical part of stress management.[3]

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2. Determine and Review Your Most Important Tasks Each Day

If there’s one productivity tip that almost all experts agree on, it’s that you should spend some time before bed each night to write down your three most important tasks for the following day. But if you want to maximize that practice and turn it into a stress-buster, you should turn that notion on its head.

Instead, you should do this as a part of your morning routine. There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, it’s that our always-on, always-connected business world means your priorities can change overnight, literally. You may list your top priorities, go to sleep, and wake up to find them woefully out of date. That means the best time to set your priorities for the day is in the morning. This will keep those priorities up to date and let you think about them before the distractions of the day begin. But don’t stop there. You should take some time before bed each night to review that day’s priorities.

Ideally, you’ll be able to check them off as accomplished. If not, though, think about what prevented you from getting to them. This is your chance to figure out some of the common daily interruptions that get in your way. Chances are, these also cause some of your stress. So, spend the time before bed game-planning how to remove those interruptions and stressors from your day. If you make this a habit, you’ll be more productive and far less stressed out in no time.

3. Save Your Emails for Later in the Morning

Another tip on how to manage stress is to save your emails for later. One of the key causes of stress comes from our inability to cope with the unexpected. If you stop to think about it, what is your most prominent source of near-constant unexpected information every day? You guessed it—it’s your email.

Now, you can’t simply ignore your email. The only thing you can do about your email is to learn how to manage it most effectively. But no matter what you do, it’s going to remain a source of daily stress and distraction. That’s why you should make a habit out of giving yourself an email-free hour or two at the beginning of each day’s schedule.

In that time, try to tackle one of your daily priorities and get it taken care of. Your email will still be there when you’re done. And when you do get to it, you’ll do so in a much better frame of mind knowing that you’ve already gotten some real work done before having to deal with anything unexpected. That alone will improve your mood and reduce the amount of stress you’ll feel—no matter what’s waiting for you in your inbox.

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4. Take a Walk After Email Time

Since you’ll have to deal with your email sooner or later, there’s no way to completely avoid the stress that will come with it. Although you’ll be in a better frame of mind after putting off your email to get some real work done, you’ll still feel some stress when you get to it. That’s why you should make a post-email walk a part of your daily routine.

Taking a walk is one of the best ways you can relieve stress. It’s a form of meditation that will put you back into the right condition to be productive, and there’s no better time to do it each day than after taking care of your emails.

Ideally, you’ll want to take a walk outdoors, and preferably in the most natural setting possible. If you’re in an urban environment, a nearby park will suffice. Studies have demonstrated that walking in such environments for as little as 20 minutes per day leads to an overall reduction in the body’s cortisol level.[4]

Cortisol, if you’re not aware, is your body’s main stress hormone. It helps regulate your blood pressure, energy levels, and even your sleep cycle. Every time your stress goes up, cortisol production also increases, throwing your body into chaos. So, taking a walk right after dealing with your email will help you to relax, reset, and get ready to be productive for the rest of the day.

5. Reserve Time to Research and Plan a Vacation

By now, everybody knows that taking vacations every now and then can improve your productivity and lower your stress level. But did you know that even thinking about a vacation can help you to reduce your stress? It may sound strange, but it’s true.

A Cornell University study in 2012 found that the anticipation of a positive experience—like a vacation—can reduce stress and make you measurably happier. It logically follows, then, that adding to that anticipation each day can maximize the stress-relieving effects of a vacation.[5]

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To do it, set aside at least a half-hour each day to research or plan an upcoming vacation. You can read about destinations. You can research airfares. You can even look at places to stay in locations you’re interested in visiting. And if you’ve already got a vacation booked, use the time to take a deep dive into what your destination has to offer.

This is an especially important daily ritual to observe right now, while the COVID-19 pandemic may be limiting your vacation options. If it’s been a while since you’ve been able to take a trip, the act of planning your next vacation will have a therapeutic effect. With vacation rental bookings still hovering below 50% in most major markets, there’s no doubt that the vast majority of people are in desperate need of their next stress-relieving vacation.[6]

6. Create a Shutdown Ritual to End Your Day

Another simple yet effective way to manage stress is to create a shutdown ritual. Just as it’s important to get your day off to a stress-free, unhurried start, you’ll want to do the same when the day is through. It’s because after spending each day in a reactive mode—dealing with the unexpected—you need to get back into a proactive mode to relax.

Studies have shown that having the perception of control over what you’re going through acts as a buffer against negative stress.[7] In other words, feeling like you can manage even a small chunk of your own time counteracts the stress from the parts of your day when you can’t.

This also means that your shutdown ritual can be whatever you want it to be. You might write in a journal, get in a quick light workout, or prepare your outfit for the following day. As long as you’re the one in complete control over what you’re doing, anything goes. Just make sure that you include the aforementioned review of your daily priorities somewhere in your routine!

7. Set a No-Screens Rule to End Your Day

Even though your shutdown routine is important, there’s one more ritual to include before bedtime that will help you manage stress. Spend the last 30 minutes to an hour before you plan to go to sleep observing a strict no-screens rule. Not only will this give you time to disconnect from the stresses of your day, but it will also allow your body to make a transition into a proper sleep mode.

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The screens we use—smartphones, tablets, laptops—all emit a wavelength of blue light that disrupts our sleep patterns. It’s the same type of light that our bodies recognize as daytime, so seeing it is like telling your brain that it’s the wrong time to be asleep.[8]

By eliminating all sources of this type of light before bedtime, you’ll increase your odds of getting restful, deep sleep. And since getting proper sleep is one of the best ways to manage your stress, this is the perfect way for you to end each day.

Final Thoughts

Although a totally stress-free lifestyle would lend itself to achieving maximum productivity, not many people will ever manage to live that way. So, the next best thing is to work some or all of these daily stress-busting rituals into your day to minimize the inevitable stress instead. Doing so will put you in the best possible position to succeed. And there’s no better antidote for stress than to make the most out of every day no matter what it has to throw at you.

More Tips on How to Manage Stress

Featured photo credit: Kaboompics via kaboompics.com

Reference

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