Midterms got you down? Kiddos grinding on your patience? Staying late at the office again?
You are probably stressed! Most of us will experience stress on some level every single day of our lives. One of the most common stressors for the average American is–the feeling of not having enough time in a day to accomplish all that we need to. Other common stressors include worries about the future, problems at work, life changes and transitions, illness and disease, problems with family or personal relationships, the death of a loved one, and more.
Sadly we cannot eliminate stress; it will always be there. But we CAN deal with it in a healthier way!
Why? – you ask.
No, but seriously. Stress, when not dealt with in healthy ways, can kill you. Stop taking it so lightly when there are very easy and simple ways to relieve stress! Don’t ignore your body when it is telling you it is stressed. Follow these 10 easy and simple steps to reduce your stress level.
1. Find time to meditate each day.
My favorite time to meditate is right before bed, but you can do this exercise at any time. Meditation is simple! Find a comfortable sitting position (can be in a chair or on the floor) and think about nothing. Focus on your breathing (making it even, deep, and slow). You may feel silly the first few times but you will feel a change in your body if you continue this practice. Almost all doctors and psychologists recommend meditation!
2. Try Breathing Exercises.
There are hundreds of apps for you to download and practice your breathing. I know what you’re thinking – Madison, I know how to breathe! But the truth is, you probably do not. At least not in stressful situations. I spent months in biotherapy retraining my body how to breathe. If you practice breathing deep, slow, and evenly, then your body will know what to do when you are under great stress. Breathing exercises are training you for future stress.
Try this at your desk
Take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.
“Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure,” psychologist Judith Tutin, PhD, says.
3. Be Present in the Moment.
Pick a thing in your vicinity, whether it be a sound, a sight, a smell. Focus on that thing. Be in the moment. This should make you less tense.
Example: Before a test, I wait in line at the testing center. I am very stressed, but I focus on my surroundings–the sound of the clock, the smell of the paper in the room, and I repeat the day and the time in my head. This produces a Zen-like state to calm you down.
4. Get a massage or take a warm bath.
Being tense all day can make your muscles and your body hurt. Relax with a massage or a warm bath!
5. Watch your favorite comedy or sitcom.
Laughing is a natural stress reliever as it releases endorphins. Studio C is my favorite to watch when I need a quick relief.
6. Take a Walk or do Yoga.
Do not run while you are under a lot of stress. Moving and exercising is a good stress relief, but be warned! Running or doing hard, strenuous working out can put strain on your heart which is already working hard.
7. Keep a Gratitude Journal.
Studies have shown that when you focus on the good in your life, that the problems and stress of life seem minuscule. When you are stressed about school, remember how blessed you are for being able to attend there! When you want to yell at your children, remember how much you love and are grateful for them.
8. Turn on your Tunes.
Music that you would “study” to (calming instrumental music) is a great stress-buster. You can meditate to this or play it as you walk.
9. Talk or write about what is bothering you.
Having a friend or a therapist to vent to is a great stress relief. Try not to gossip or discuss people/events; instead, talk about your feelings and anxieties. They don’t have to give you advice; they just have to listen. If you don’t feel confident talking with someone about your problems then try making a “stress” journal.
This is a point that I cannot stress enough (haha punny). Remember the important stuff first. Stop overworking yourself with 1,000 things to do in the 24 hour day! Take the APPROPRIATE amount of time each day to sleep, eat, exercise, and then use the rest of the time you have to accomplish only the necessary things. Netflix is not one of them. If you find yourself constantly being overworked, take a few minutes to think about what “important” stuff you can cut out of your schedule. Counsel with your family members or friends so they can help you stay on track. Stress relief is all about knowing yourself and your limits. Do not ignore your body!
P.S. (aka why I’m qualified to give this advice)
I spent 7 months going to weekly sessions of biotherapy in a city 2 hours away from home. All because I ignored my body telling me it was stressed. People might roll their eyes at breathing apps and daily meditation, but I promise you it works. If you apply these tips to your life you WILL be happier because of it! And who knows, you may just live a little longer.
What is your favorite way to relieve stress?