Short-Term StressIf you’re feeling overwhelmed in the moment, these quick stress relievers can work quite well. While more in-depth stress relief techniques may bring more lasting and far-reaching benefits, these will help you to quickly reverse your stress response so you can better manage what you are facing right now:
- Breathing Exercises (1 to 5 Minutes) Breathing exercise can work quickly and be used virtually anywhere, and in any situation. I find them especially helpful because they can be used in the midst of a stressful situation. There's no need to take a break from things, calm down, and return after you've practiced them--you can use these to stay calm in the middle of a toddler's tantrum or whatever else comes your way.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (3 to 5 Minutes) PMR takes a little practice to master, but can help you to fully relax your body in minutes, and release stress in the process. You may need to take a break to practice in the beginning, but eventually this can be a helpful exercise to use at your desk, in the car, or whenever you find 5 minutes to sit.
- Mini-Meditation (3 to 10 Minutes) Regular meditation works extremely well as a stress reliever for most people, and 20-30 minutes is an optimal length for a session. Mini-meditations, however, can be useful as well, particularly if you are used to longer sessions practiced at other times. Even ">three minutes of meditation can help you to feel more calm.
- Take A Walk (10 Minutes) If you are able to get out and walk for a minute, the change of scenery and quick burst of exercise can work together in helping you to quickly relieve stress. This can be helpful for stressed moms and kids, as well as workers who are under heavy pressure and need to make the most of short breaks.
- Change Your Perspective (Varies) Sometimes you can't change what you are facing, but you can change the way you look at things. Shifting your perspective to a more optimistic one, or even simply finding the humor in a situation can help to dissipate stress.
General Lifestyle StressStress can come from many aspects of one's lifestyle. Often it helps to address the stress at its source, but that's not always a possibility. When you can, take action; when you can't change your situation, you can still minimize the stress you feel by cutting out stressors, building resources and adding stress relieving habits to your lifestyle. The following ideas can help.
- Cut Something Out If you're stressed from a busy lifestyle, an obvious solution is to cut down on your commitments. That's often easier said than done, but once it's done, you have a whole category of stress gone from your life. Look at ways of cutting something out, and see what you open yourself up to.
- Take Up A New Habit Certain habits help with organization or resilience. Taking on these habits can help you to better manage the stress you face.
- Let Go Of Negative People Friends and loved ones make our lives richer. Sometimes, though, the drama and conflict they create can bring more than a comfortable level of stress. Identify the people in your life who make you feel worse about yourself, drain your energy, or in other ways bring more stress than they're worth, and consider minimizing or eliminating their role in your life.
- Change Your Habitual Thought Patterns The way we think about what we face in life can increase or decrease our stress levels. Be sure your thoughts are supporting you to manage stress in the healthiest possible way. If they're not, these tips can help you to change that.
- Carve Out Time For Yourself Having some extra "down time" can be one of the best stress relievers, particularly for those who don't get enough. This is because, just like an overused muscle, we need rest in between workouts. If we are constantly running, there is no time to recover and build energy for the next challenge, even if that challenge is simply part of daily life. This can lead to burnout. Be sure to create some space for relaxation in your life, so you can continue to push yourself when you need to.
Emotional StressCertain stressors, such as relationship issues, hit you emotionally. This type of stress can feel particularly trying, so it is important to find techniques to manage emotional stress. The following techniques can help you to process your emotions, minimize their intensity, or shift your focus.
- Journaling Journaling can be a very effective tool in managing stress and exploring and processing your emotions. These techniques work particularly well for working through emotional stress.
- Meditation Meditation can be challenging when you have a lot on your mind, but this is also a time when it can be most effective. The loving kindness meditation is particularly useful for relieving emotional stress, and can be one of the easier forms of meditation to practice. Mindfulness meditation may take a little more practice, but does not require a distraction-free space. Experiment and see which types of meditation work best for you and your situation.
- Exercise Exercise can be a great distraction--running, walking, classes and other forms of exercise provide a change of scenery as well as something to focus on with your mind and body besides your stressors. Exercise provides health benefits and builds resilience toward stress as well, so it is an option that works in many ways.
- Maintain A Sense Of Humor You can't always change your circumstances, but if you can learn to maintain a sense of humor about life, your stresses won't seem as foreboding, which may lessen your stress response. You'll also reap the benefits of laughter, and the relationship closeness that it often brings.
- Change Your Perspective As mentioned, the way we perceive things can increase or decrease the stress we feel. Sometimes we see things in a more negative or distorted way than we need to, and learning to change this can bring relief to our stress levels and our relationships. That's why it helps to examine and change cognitive distortions we may have. If you can shift the way you look at the situation, you may experience less emotional stress.
- Talk To A Friend Simply sharing your thoughts with a friend can help you to feel less alone, and can provide you with another perspective. Wisely choose who you speak to, and be sure to reciprocate when your friends need your support, but don't underestimate the power of a supportive shoulder.
Anxiety About The FutureFears and anxiety about tomorrow can create stress and rob us of our happiness today. That said, anxiety is rather common, and finding stress relief techniques to combat it can help us to relax into the present moment and enjoy life more. Certain types of anxiety are intense enough to require professional help, but everyday anxiety can be managed well with a few stress relief strategies. These techniques can help.
- Meditation Meditation is a fantastic anxiety reliever, as it helps you to quiet (or learn to ignore) that nagging voice in your head that points out everything you could be but shouldn't be worrying about. Luckily, there are many different forms of meditation to try. See which types of meditation work best for you.
- Journaling Often, we worry about things that pose no real threat, things that have a low likelihood of happening, or things we can't control. Sometimes we need a reality check. Journaling can offer helpful tool for examining and refuting the sources of anxiety.
- Action-Based Coping There are often things you can do to change a situation, but sometimes our anxiety keeps us from moving into action mode. Other times, it may ease anxiety to build resources that we may need if the worst does indeed happen. Either way, brainstorming solutions can be quite helpful, and this journaling technique can walk you through the process.
- Talk To A Friend Friends can often provide a reality check or they can point us to resources that can help us to feel less concerned about what might happen next. Even talking to someone about how they may have faced similar situations in the past can help us to feel less anxious about the stressors that cause us anxiety. Talking to a friend or, if necessary, a therapist, can provide helpful support.
Getting Through A CrisisStress management is particularly important during times of crisis. Certain strategies, such as taking care of your physical health, tend to be particularly important during these times because they can be particularly helpful, and can affect the other ways in which you cope. See this article on Crisis Stress Management for coping techniques that work well during these challenging times.