Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation involves relaxing all the muscles in your body, group by group. To practice, you can start with a few deep breaths.
Then, practice tightening and relaxing each muscle group, starting with your forehead and moving down to your toes.
With practice, you’ll learn to recognize tension and tightness in your muscles and you’ll be able to relax more easily. Each time you practice, however, you should experience a feeling of relaxation sweeping through your body.
How To Manage And Reduce Stress
Here, we would like to start, by giving you an introduction to what stress is, what the signs of stress are, what simple steps you can take when feeling stressed and provide practical advice for preventing it, to show why we are passionate about moving towards a less stressed nation.
How To Relieve Stress: 37 Simple Activities And Games
29 Aug 2021 William Smith, Ph.D. Candidate
Periodic stress is a fact of modern life.
But we need not see stress as something perpetual, punishing, and unmanageable.
Instead, by learning to apply some simple techniques and cultivating an interest in activities that facilitate stress relief, stress management can become as mundane and manageable as commuting to work or cleaning your house.
Want to know how you can help your clients relieve stress? Read on for an interesting overview of what stress actually is, the good and the bad, as well as simple ways to implement stress relief into a daily routine.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to . These science-based exercises will equip you and your clients with tools to manage stress better and find a healthier balance in your life.
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Why Is Stress Helpful
Historically, stress was our friend. It acted as a protective mechanism that warned us of danger a natural reaction that told us when to run. This response is now referred to as the fight or flight response, or the stress response. When your evolutionary ancestors saw a saber-toothed cat and ran from it, stress saved their life.
Stress has remained part of the evolutionary drive because of its usefulness in survival. When used at the right time, stress increases our awareness and improves physical performance in short bursts .
Ways To Cope With Chronic Stress
“Its key to recognize stressful situations as they occur because it allows you to focus on managing how you react,” Dr. Stoll says. “We all need to know when to close our eyes and take a deep breath when we feel tension rising.”
Use these tips to prevent or reduce chronic stress.
1. Re-balance Work and Home
All work and no play? If youre spending too much time at the office, intentionally put more dates in your calendar to enjoy time for fun, either alone or with others.
2. Build in Regular Exercise
Moving your body on a regular basis balances the nervous system and increases blood circulation, helping to flush out stress hormones. Even a daily 20-minute walk makes a difference.
3. Eat Well and Limit Alcohol and Stimulants
Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine may temporarily relieve stress but have negative health impacts and can make stress worse in the long run. Well-nourished bodies cope better, so start with a good breakfast, add more organic fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods and sugar, and drink more water.
4. Connect with Supportive People
Talking face to face with another person releases hormones that reduce stress. Lean on those good listeners in your life.
5. Carve out Hobby Time
Do you enjoy gardening, reading, listening to music or some other creative pursuit? Engage in activities that bring you pleasure and joy research shows that reduces stress by almost half and lowers your heart rate, too.
6. Practice Meditation, Stress Reduction or Yoga
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Why Is Stress Bad For Us
We need the bodys stress response to get us through tough times. When you sense a threat or danger, your body rises to the challenge by releasing stress hormones, tightening your muscles, making your blood pressure rise and your heart and lungs work harder, and releasing a surge of fat and sugar to give you energy. When danger subsides, your body goes back to normal operations.
If you get stressed out frequently, however, the stress response can become constant and cause ongoing harm, including chronic inflammation the persistent activation of the immune system, which sharply raises the risks for many diseases such as dementia, heart disease, and stroke.
What Are The Signs Of Stress
When you’re under stress, you may feel:
Stress also affects your body. Physical signs of stress include:
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Upset stomach
- Weight gain or loss
- Tense muscles
Stress can also lead to a weakened immune system , which could make you more likely to get sick.
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Spend Time With Friends And Family
Social support from friends and family can help you get through stressful times.
Being part of a friend network gives you a sense of belonging and self-worth, which can help you in tough times.
One study found that for women in particular, spending time with friends and children helps release oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. This effect is called tend and befriend, and is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response .
Keep in mind that both men and women benefit from friendship.
Another study found that men and women with the fewest social connections were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety .
Having strong social ties may help you get through stressful times and lower your risk of anxiety.
Its hard to feel anxious when youre laughing. Its good for your health, and there are a few ways it may help relieve stress:
- Relieving your stress response.
- Relieving tension by relaxing your muscles.
In the long term, laughter can also help improve your immune system and mood.
A study among people with cancer found that people in the laughter intervention group experienced more stress relief than those who were simply distracted (
Try watching a funny TV show or hanging out with friends who make you laugh.
Find the humor in everyday life, spend time with funny friends or watch a comedy show to help relieve stress.
Not all stressors are within your control, but some are.
One way to do this may be to say no more often.
When Does Stress Become Chronic
Stress that lasts for weeks or months indicate chronic stress.
Chronic stress can impact your overall health. One risk is high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. For example, studies have shown that chronic stress is associated with a hypertension . Furthermore, some risks can snowball into others: Hypertension, for example, can raise your risk for other health problems, such as heart attack or stroke.
Similarly, the hormone cortisolwhich gets released during chronic stressmay also lead to cravings of sweets and fats. As we all know, unhealthy eating can also raise your risk for obesity or other chronic diseases.
But the consequences of chronic stress dont stop with the physical effects. Stress can affect your emotional or mental health toonot just making you more prone to nervous or anxious feelings, but also more depressed. Recently, the American Medical Association acknowledged how anxiety and depression can be connected, as well as how the isolation of COVID-19 may exacerbate problems.
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A Comprehensive Stress Management Technique
Apart from calming a busy mind, where you apply the techniques physiologically to reduce thoughts and calm the mind, here we need deeper expertise and the application of subtle energies to create specific thoughts to reduce and eliminate mental stress.
For fast results, one thing is to keep the mind calm and reduce stress, but more importantly you need to train the mind to stay busy and efficient. We will work with a two-in-one technique here.
Identify the stressor . You can discover this by being aware of your surroundings and of your reactions to it is it the person and her/his actions/behavior that are causing my stress? Is it the idea I have about how things are happening around me ?
Be realistic with yourself in identifying the root-cause of your stress. No one can do it more quickly.
After you have identified the stressor, generate specific thoughts, such as, I am grateful for this challenge, and I will find a way to accept it as is and work on changing my approach and reaction to it. Once you achieve this, the stressor has no longer the same level of influence on you.
Develop/apply the stress relieving activity together with the tool, and approach the stressor when youre ready .
Apply gratitude and practice breathing exactly when the stressful situation is happening and not only when walking in the park or when you know that you are safe from the mental stress.
What Is Focused Meditation
Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:
- Mindfulness this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
- Concentrative a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space youre meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
- Moving this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.
Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase or a sound .
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How Can I Identify The Signs Of Stress
Everyone experiences stress. However, when it is affecting your life, health and wellbeing, it is important to tackle it as soon as possible, and while stress affects everyone differently, there are common signs and symptoms you can look out for:15
- feelings of constant worry or anxiety
- feelings of being overwhelmed
7. Dont be too hard on yourself
- Try to keep things in perspective.
- Remember that having a bad day is a universal human experience
- When your inner critic or an outer critic finds faults, try and find truth and exception to what is being said
- If you stumble or feel you have failed, dont beat yourself up
- Act as if you were your own best friend: be kind and supportive
- Take a few minutes each day to appreciate yourself
Now, we would like to move on to a more detailed look at the causes and effects of stress. In this section we will focus on the effects prolonged stress has on your body, behaviour and emotions, and look at key causes such as relationships, money, work, alcohol and drug use.
How Can You Help Yourself
Stress is a natural reaction to many situations in life, such as work, family, relationships and money problems.
We mentioned earlier on that a moderate amount of stress can help us perform better in challenging situations,34 but too much or prolonged stress can lead to physical problems. This can include lower immunity levels,35 digestive and intestinal difficulties, e.g. irritable bowel syndrome ,36 or mental health problems such as depression.37 It is therefore important that we manage our stress and keep it at a healthy level to prevent long-term damage to our bodies and minds.
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Use Essential Oils Or Scented Candles
The refreshing scent of essential oils and scented candles can have a relaxing effect on your mind, stimulating the smell receptors in your nose and sending positive signals to your brain!
Functioning as forms of aromatherapy, certain scents and essential oils may have compounds that help release stress and calm nerves.
One such example is lavender oil, which can help target the limbic system, the part of your brain that controls emotions.
Now that you know these handy tips on how to release stress, its time to start practicing them in your daily life! However, if you still cant seem to get a handle on your stress levels, getting some mental health advice could help.
Tip : Find Sensory Inspiration
Having trouble identifying sensory techniques that work for you? Look for inspiration around you, from your sights as you go about your day to memories from your past.
Memories. Think back to what you did as a child to calm down. If you had a blanket or stuffed toy, you might benefit from tactile stimulation. Try tying a textured scarf around your neck before an appointment or keeping a piece of soft suede in your pocket.
Watch others. Observing how others deal with stress can give you valuable insight. Baseball players often pop gum before going up to bat. Singers often chat up the crowd before performing. Ask people you know how they stay focused under pressure.
Parents. Think back to what your parents did to blow off steam. Did your mother feel more relaxed after a long walk? Did your father work in the yard after a hard day?
The power of imagination. Once drawing upon your sensory toolbox becomes habit, try simply imagining vivid sensations when stress strikes. The memory of your babys face will have the same calming or energizing effects on your brain as seeing her photo. When you can recall a strong sensation, youll never be without a quick stress relief tool.
Take a break from technology
Taking a short hiatus from the television, computer, and cell phone will give you insight on what your senses respond to best.
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How Do I Know If I’m Too Stressed
The key to stress management is finding the right balance between productive stress and stress that makes you feel overwhelmed and unproductive.
You can look out for physical signs of stress as well. Stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released by your body and cause your heart to beat faster and your breathing to quicken. Your stomach may feel uneasy, your muscles may tense up and your skin can become sensitive.
All of these are signs that your body is preparing for a fight or flight situation. These feelings should pass soon after the stressful situation is over. If they dont pass, it may be a sign that you are too stressed.
The point where stress is no longer productive is different for everyone, but you can look out for the following clues:
- feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope
- feeling on edge or unable to stop worrying
- changes in sleep patterns, feeling exhausted
Sometimes internal stress can be brought on by anxiety, depression or self-criticism. Talking negatively about yourself and feeling as though you are never living up to your own or others expectations can be very stressful and can strain your mental and physical health.
Threat Stress And Challenge Stress
Not all stress is negative, and encouraging a sweeping policy of stress avoidance may actually do more harm than good. This can be illustrated by considering the difference between âthreat stressâ and âchallenge stressâ .
Threat stress is associated with fear, alarm, and negative emotion, and represents a response to situations in which an individual feels overwhelmed and at risk of harm. This stress is harmful and should be considered a legitimate therapeutic target.
In contrast, challenge stress is associated with situations in which an individual may feel a certain amount of apprehension, but simultaneously feels an exciting or otherwise compelling drive to face the situation and overcome its difficulties.
While nevertheless uncomfortable, this stress is constructive and can be a force for self-improvement and growth. Encouraging an individual to avoid challenge stress could lead to stagnation and the inability to confront difficult but ultimately therapeutic experiences.
For more on positive stress, we recommend spending a few minutes reading through our article on eustress.
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Offer Yourself Forgiveness And Compassion
Just like the forgiveness you might offer someone who wronged you, self-forgiveness allows you to let go of past events and move forward.
So, instead of giving yourself a hard time, tell yourself its all right:
Waiting to do that project didnt turn out so well, but its OK to make mistakes. Now I know what not to do next time.
Self-compassion can also go a long way toward easing the harsh criticism and self-blame that tend to trail in procrastinations wake.
Instead of focusing on how you messed up , offer yourself some words of comfort.
If it helps, consider what you might say to a friend:
- It sounds like youre struggling right now, but I can tell youre doing your best.
- That assignment sounds really stressful. I know you want to do the best work possible, but its just a first draft, right? You can always improve on it later if your team has any suggestions.
Dont you deserve that same kindness?