Stress tends to be one of those things that you don’t think about too often; stress is merely a part of your life, an annoying ailment if you will. Some stress is necessary for survival; stress can help improve performance in certain activities by enhancing the body’s ability to function at its best.
But prolonged stress, which we have become increasingly accustomed to, can have debilitating effects on your life.
There are numerous ways stress can be dealt with; you can push stress away and cover it up, or you could face it head on and deal with it at its core. These 11 stress management techniques will help you face your stress proactively and stop it before it starts to take over your life.
Why Stress Happens
Stress has many different causes, from certain people, to situations, to even the holiday season, but it is a completely natural reaction to something in our life (whether real or perceived) that causes a chemical reaction in our bodies. Stress can be triggered by something physical in your body (like an injury), your surroundings and even stress can be induced from stressors that are internal (like worry or anxious thoughts).
Cortisol is the stress hormone responsible for the stress response in our bodies. Cortisol is helpful during short-lived stressors, but prolonged cortisol can do a lot of damage.
Not only does stress have a negative impact on your overall health and well-being, but stress hormones can also literally make you sick. Stress is one of the leading causes of heart disease, hypertension, ulcers, migraines, and chronic pain issues.
What stress does to your body
Stress in our bodies is caused by the fight-or-flight response. (This has more recently been updated to include fight, flight, freeze, and fawn, because freeze and fawn are natural responses in humans as well as animals.)
Chronic stress damages many tissues in your body including:
- Thyroid and adrenal glands
- Blood vessels
- Digestive system
- Immune system
But stress also has an emotional impact. In fact, stress can trigger depression or anxiety and worsen both conditions. Stressful situations can also lead to unhealthy coping behaviors including abuse of drugs, alcohol or other substances, eating disorders, and more.
What relaxation techniques should I use?
The relaxation techniques you use will be determined by what stressors are causing stress in your life.
If stress is caused by stressors that are internal, try psychological stress-relieving techniques like journaling or visualization. Actively working toward a healthy, positive mindset can be a huge help.
If stress is caused by external stressors, other techniques like deep breathing, yoga, or exercise are good stress relievers. These stress-relieving activities will stabilize your body’s stress levels, allowing you to face any anxiety head-on without the stress eating away at the seams.
11 Stress Management Techniques to Cope with Crushing Stress
Use these 11 techniques to manage stress at the source and find relief in your life.
1) Take a Break
If stress is an issue in your life, take a break from whatever the cause is. You may get away for the weekend, or to the beach for the day; if stress is debilitating, you may want an actual vacation for yourself. Plan something fun and stress-free that you can do with some friends and enjoy yourself.
It doesn’t even have to be an extended break. A 20-minute walk with a stress reliever, or perhaps getting out your stress on the punching bag at the gym; stress is stress and no matter what form it comes in, stress can be dealt with.
If you don’t have time for any of that, try a simple breathing exercise to clear your mind and change the focus; closing your eyes and breathing deeply through your nose can relax stress away. This can help you live in the present moment, too.
2) Exercise to Manage Stress
This stress management technique is for everyone and happens to be my favorite stress-relief technique. Exercise is a stress buster that you can do at any time, you will find benefits whether your stress levels are high or just mild. Exercising helps your heart (and soul) a whole lot, so try running on the track, or playing a couple of games of tennis with friends.
Exercise releases endorphins into your body; these endorphins are the hormones that make you feel good and stress-free. Working out also helps strengthen the body, so your stress can’t get to you in the first place.
It may be difficult to get started with exercise but once you’ve gotten yourself going, you might find yourself more successful in multiple aspects of life.
Laughing stress away is also a great way to manage your stress that you can do at any time. Watching your favorite sitcom (The Office, anyone?) or comedy show, getting together with friends, and just laughing about anything will take the stress out of the picture easily!
Try to laugh as much as possible; it’s good for the soul! Consider exploring more simple joys in life that can boost our mood and relieve stress!
Meditation is a stress management technique that can be used for stress relief and mental health at any time. Contrary to popular belief, meditating doesn’t necessarily mean sitting down in silence with your hands folded; meditation is an exercise in mental awareness that helps you refocus and clear your mind.
All you need is a quiet place to sit down and close your eyes. You can meditate for as little as five minutes or as long as an hour. Meditation has all kinds of positive effects on the body and the mind, and stress is no exception. A growing body of research indicates that mindfulness meditation and non-judgment can lower stress levels, reduce stress-related maladies like heart problems and high blood pressure, and improve concentration and focus.
Need help focusing while you’re meditating? Try mala beads!
5) Cut stress by spending time with family and friends
Spending time with those you care about, whether it be your family or a couple of friends; stress can get to the best of us but when stress strikes, always be around people who love you for who you are.
You don’t have to be an extrovert to take advantage of this stress management technique. (Being an extrovert means you gain energy by being with other.) Even introverts can benefit from company with friends and family. Of course, it has to be the right company. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh, make you relax, and help you take your mind off your worries.
6) Eat clean
Focusing on eating healthy and nourishing your body can reduce stress levels. When stress strikes, it’s not uncommon to turn to food as a stress reliever; whether it be ice cream or chips, stress makes us want to eat anything with calories in it. But rather than turning stress into stress eating, you can actually cut stress from your life altogether.
This stress management technique may not be as fast acting as the others but it sure does last; eating a well balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and lean protein like chicken will keep you feeling good for the long run.
7) Regular Self-care
Self-care is the simple act of taking some time for ourselves. Self-care can range from taking a relaxing bath, getting a massage, or taking a hike in nature. Self-care might even be going to your favorite amusement park for those who are adrenaline junkies. Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s a stress management technique that will help you tremendously in the long run.
One of my favorite tools for self-care is my affirmation cards. They are something simple I can take out when I need words of affirmation that everything is okay.
8) Get a good night sleep
Any stress management technique list should include getting a good night sleep as it is proven to reduce stress and improve your mood.You may think stress won’t get to you when you’re asleep but stress does exist in the unconscious. Luckily stress doesn’t stand a chance when you sleep because stress releases natural hormones and neurotransmitters that act as stress relievers.
Additionally, a good night’s sleep can help you ward off future stress. Getting enough sleep is linked to boosting our immune system, preventing weight gain, being more productive, and being in a better mood, among other things.
9) Write it down
Taking the time to journal and stress out over the stress you’re having is something that many people find to work.
Writing down what stress is causing it and then coming up with a plan on how to deal with stress will make stress disappear faster than just wondering what stress may be doing to your life.
There are many different ways to journal to help with managing stress. First, you can focus on your feelings and explore why you might feel that way. For example, I often feel like a burden to people around me, and writing about my emotions helps me process those feelings.
You might also like to write poetry or perhaps finding questions or journal prompts might be more your style.
Need help getting started with journaling? Try these 75 Deep Questions to Ask Yourself for Personal Growth.
10) Cuddle with your pet
Animals are stress reducers. From Hopkins Medicine:
Research has shown that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol , while the social interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin (the same hormone that bonds mothers to babies).
They’re extremely low maintenance and they love you for who you are. When stress strikes, take some time to cuddle with your stress disappearing furry friend. Even if you don’t have a pet, consider volunteering at an animal shelter or finding a friend who has a pet. If you’re allergic to certain animals, stress won’t stand a chance when they’re around.
Stress management requires a bit of work but if you can implement them into your life every day or even once in a while; stress will no longer have a grip on you.
When stress strikes, these stress management techniques are there to help you with managing stress. Whether your stress comes in the form of a move, children, or a new job, it’s important to know your own ideal levels of stress.
We have a huge amount of power over our lives, and stress doesn’t have to control us.