We all have stress – at work, at home and on the road. Sometimes we can feel especially stressed because of a bad interaction with someone, too much work or everyday hassles like getting stuck in traffic.
Chronic stress can keep you from feeling and performing your best – mentally, physically and emotionally. But no one’s life is completely stress-free. It’s important to know how to manage the stress in your life. These three simple techniques will help you deal with stress.
1. Positive Self-Talk
Let’s be honest, we all talk to ourselves! Sometimes we talk out loud, but usually we do it in our heads. Self-talk can be positive (“I can do this” or “everything will be OK”) or negative (“I’ll never get better” or “I’m so stupid”). Negative self-talk increases stress. Positive self-talk can help you calm down and manage stress. With practice, you can learn to shift negative thoughts to positive ones. For example:
Negative to Positive
- Instead of saying, “I can’t do this,” say, “I’ll do the best I can. I’ve got this.”
- Instead of saying, “I hate it when this happens,” say, “I know how to deal with this – I’ve done it before.”
- Instead of saying, “I feel helpless and alone,” say, “I can reach out and get help if I need it.”
- Instead of saying, “I can’t believe I screwed up,” say, “I’m human, and we all make mistakes. I can fix it.”
To really make it work, practice positive self-talk every day – in the car, at your desk, before you go to bed or whenever you notice negative thoughts. It’s a great practice to teach kids, too!
2. Top 10 Emergency Stress-Stoppers
Emergency stress-stoppers are actions to help you defuse stress in the moment. You may need different stress-stoppers for different situations, and sometimes it helps to combine them.
Here are some stress relievers:
- Count to 10 before you speak or react.
- Take a few slow, deep breaths until you feel your body un-clench a bit.
- Go for a walk, even if it’s just to the restroom and back. It can give you a chance to think things through.
- Try a quick meditation or prayer to get some perspective.
- If it’s not urgent, sleep on it and respond tomorrow. This works especially well for stressful emails and social media trolls.
- Walk away from the situation for a while, and handle it later once things have calmed down.
- Break down big problems into smaller parts. Take one step at a time.
- Turn on some chill music or an inspirational podcast to help you deal with road rage.
- Take a break to pet the dog, hug a loved one or do something to help someone else.
- Work out or do something active. Exercise is a great antidote for stress.
3. Stress-Busting Activities
Doing things you enjoy is a natural way to relieve stress and find your happy place. Even when you’re down, you may find pleasure in simple things like going for a walk, catching up with a friend or reading a good book.
When stress makes you feel bad, do something that makes you feel good – even if only for 10 or 15 minutes.
Some of these stress-relieving activities may work for you:
- Play with your kids or pets – outdoors, if possible.
- Take a walk in nature.
- Meditate or practice yoga.
- Work in the garden or do a home improvement project.
- Go for a walk, run or bike ride to clear your head.
- Read a book, short story or magazine.
- Meet a friend for coffee or a meal.
The key is to find your groove and make it a practice. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you may start to feel better once you disrupt the cycle of stress.
February 2, 2022
Practicing even a few minutes per day can provide a reserve of inner calm
We all face stressful situations throughout our lives, ranging from minor annoyances like traffic jams to more serious worries, such as a loved one’s grave illness. No matter what the cause, stress floods your body with hormones. Your heart pounds, your breathing speeds up, and your muscles tense.
This so-called “stress response” is a normal reaction to threatening situations honed in our prehistory to help us survive threats like an animal attack or a flood. Today, we rarely face these physical dangers, but challenging situations in daily life can set off the stress response. We can’t avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them.
One way is to invoke the “relaxation response,” through a technique first developed in the 1970s at Harvard Medical School by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson, editor of the Harvard Medical School Special Health Report Stress Management: Approaches for preventing and reducing stress. The relaxation response is the opposite of the stress response. It’s a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways. With regular practice, you create a well of calm to dip into as the need arises.
Following are six relaxation techniques that can help you evoke the relaxation response and reduce stress.
1. Breath focus. In this simple, powerful technique, you take long, slow, deep breaths (also known as abdominal or belly breathing). As you breathe, you gently disengage your mind from distracting thoughts and sensations. Breath focus can be especially helpful for people with eating disorders to help them focus on their bodies in a more positive way. However, this technique may not be appropriate for those with health problems that make breathing difficult, such as respiratory ailments or heart failure.
2. Body scan. This technique blends breath focus with progressive muscle relaxation. After a few minutes of deep breathing, you focus on one part of the body or group of muscles at a time and mentally releasing any physical tension you feel there. A body scan can help boost your awareness of the mind-body connection. If you have had a recent surgery that affects your body image or other difficulties with body image, this technique may be less helpful for you.
3. Guided imagery. For this technique, you conjure up soothing scenes, places, or experiences in your mind to help you relax and focus. You can find free apps and online recordings of calming scenes—just make sure to choose imagery you find soothing and that has personal significance. Guided imagery may help you reinforce a positive vision of yourself, but it can be difficult for those who have intrusive thoughts or find it hard to conjure up mental images.
4. Mindfulness meditation. This practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and bringing your mind’s attention to the present moment without drifting into concerns about the past or the future. This form of meditation has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years. Research suggests it may be helpful for people with anxiety, depression, and pain.
5. Yoga, tai chi, and qigong. These three ancient arts combine rhythmic breathing with a series of postures or flowing movements. The physical aspects of these practices offer a mental focus that can help distract you from racing thoughts. They can also enhance your flexibility and balance. But if you are not normally active, have health problems, or a painful or disabling condition, these relaxation techniques might be too challenging. Check with your doctor before starting them.
6. Repetitive prayer. For this technique, you silently repeat a short prayer or phrase from a prayer while practicing breath focus. This method may be especially appealing if religion or spirituality is meaningful to you.
Rather than choosing just one technique, experts recommend sampling several to see which one works best for you. Try to practice for at least 20 minutes a day, although even just a few minutes can help. But the longer and the more often you practice these relaxation techniques, the greater the benefits and the more you can reduce stress.
– By Julie Corliss
Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
Image: FatCamera/Getty Images
These days it’s hard not to get overwhelmed once in a while. Between juggling work, family, and other commitments, you can become too stressed out and busy. But you need to set time aside to unwind or your mental and physical health can suffer.
Learning how to manage your stress takes practice, but you can — and need to — do it. Here are 10 ways to make it easier.
Working out regularly is one of the best ways to relax your body and mind. Plus, exercise will improve your mood. But you have to do it often for it to pay off.
So how much should you exercise every week?
Work up to 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise like brisk walks or 75 minutes of a more vigorous exercise like swimming laps, jogging or other sports.
Focus on setting fitness goals you can meet so you don’t give up. Most of all remember that doing any exercise is better than none at all.
2.Relax Your Muscles
When you’re stressed, your muscles get tense. You can help loosen them up on your own and refresh your body by:
- Enjoying a massage
- Taking a hot bath or shower
- Getting a good night’s sleep
Stopping and taking a few deep breaths can take the pressure off you right away. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel once you get good at it. Just follow these 5 steps:
- Sit in a comfortable position with your hands in your lap and your feet on the floor. Or you can lie down.
- Close your eyes.
- Imagine yourself in a relaxing place. It can be on the beach, in a beautiful field of grass, or anywhere that gives you a peaceful feeling.
- Slowly take deep breaths in and out.
- Do this for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.
Eating a regular, well-balanced diet will help you feel better in general. It may also help control your moods. Your meals should be full of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein for energy. And don’t skip any. It’s not good for you and can put you in a bad mood, which can actually increase your stress.