Balancing stress is an essential skill for maintaining your mental and physical well-being. We will all experience stress and it can come in a variety forms. From mental, physical, environmental, and relational stress, one will benefit greatly from having a host of tools and strategies for mitigating stress and turning the stress response into a powerful asset.
Research has shown that how we perceive stress, can be the single greatest determining factor on whether we use stress as an ally to bolster ourselves, or as an enemy, depleting us of our internal resources of resiliency, motivation, and drive.
Here are some strategies you can consider:
1. Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques: Practice deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation to calm your mind and reduce stress. These techniques can help activate the body’s relaxation response.
2. Physical Activity: Engaging in regular exercise can help reduce stress by releasing endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Activities like walking, jogging, yoga, or dancing can be beneficial. Anything that gets your body moving will be helpful, while higher intensity exercise is recommended for those who are able.
This can be a challenge to start for most people, so if you are not in the habit of exercising, start with doing something physical today! Can you do 5 push-ups? Great, start there. Can you walk around your neighborhood one time? Great, start there! Begin with the lowest denominator, and you will be surprised at the likelihood of increasing your time once you START the process.
3. Healthy Lifestyle: Prioritize a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and proper hydration. A well-nourished body is better equipped to handle stress and use it to improve the immune system and learning. By utilizing the first two suggestions of relaxation techniques, and exercise, you will be on your way to drinking more fluids and being able to sleep easier.
Like the exercise suggestion, start slowly. Try to integrate a piece of fruit and a piece or two of vegetables you enjoy. Omit one thing per day you recognize as unhelpful for your health goals. Like anything, start small and build up from there.
4. Time Management: Create a schedule to manage your time effectively. Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed. When we are acutely stressed, we may be prone to impulsive decision making and can struggle with memory recall. Engaging in time management in the form of scheduling or time blocking, can dramatically reduce stress and help us stay on track with our responsibilities.
As you may have noticed, the more stressed we become, the more behind we may become with our duties, and the more behind the more stress we experience…turning into a vicious cycle.
5. Social Support: Spend time with friends and family who provide positive support and understanding. Sharing your feelings with loved ones can be cathartic and comforting. Even a short phone call or taking the time to speak with a work college in the hallway for a few minutes can help bolster your stress response.
6. Hobbies and Activities: Engage in hobbies you enjoy, whether it’s painting, playing a musical instrument, gardening, or reading. These activities can divert your focus from stressors and refill your tank for stress mitigation. I’m sure you are catching on to the pattern here and know what I’m going to say next…Yes! Start small. Even a few minutes of a pleasurable activity can bolster your mood, immunity, and outlook.
7. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practice mindfulness to stay present and aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment. The key component with mindfulness, is not just the awareness of the present moment, but the non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced any time throughout the day, while meditation is usually performed sitting, spine erect, with eyes closed, focusing one’s concentration on something specific. This increases attentional awareness dramatically and helps you stay focused during times of stress. It is akin to lifting weights to strengthen muscles, meditation and mindfulness strengthen attentional focus and the ability of the mind to concentrate. Meditation can help you develop a greater sense of calm and control.
8. Limit Stressors: Identify sources of stress in your life and consider ways to minimize or eliminate them. This might involve setting boundaries, delegating tasks, or changing your perspective.
9. Positive Self-Talk: Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more positive and realistic ones. Avoid catastrophic thinking and focus on problem-solving instead.
10. Seek Professional Help: If your stress becomes overwhelming or persistent, consider seeking help from a therapist or counselor. They can provide guidance and coping strategies tailored to your situation and immediate guidance that fits your needs.
11. Relaxation Techniques: Engage in activities that help you relax, such as listening to soothing music, taking a warm bath, or practicing aromatherapy.
12. Journaling: Write down your thoughts and feelings to gain insight into your stressors and develop a sense of control over them.
13. Humor: Laughter can be a great stress-reliever. Engage in activities that make you laugh, such as watching a funny movie or spending time with people who have a good sense of humor. As the old saying goes, “Environment is stronger than will power”, so surround yourself with those who are calm, upbeat, and lighthearted. It will rub off on you.
14. Limit Caffeine/Stimulants/Nicotine and Alcohol: Excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol can exacerbate stress and anxiety. Limit your intake, especially during stressful periods. Be mindful of any stimulant use, particularly nicotine. If you vape or use nicotine frequently, it is likely a major contributor to your overall stress and ability to rebound effectively from stressors.
Remember that everyone’s coping strategies are unique, so it’s important to find what works best for you. If stress is impacting your daily life or mental health, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Sometimes a single session intervention can make all the difference. Call us today for a free consultation. Even if we are not a good fit for your situation, we will provide guidance and direction on suggested next steps.