We all know that stress isn’t good for us. The effects of stress can be debilitating, and for millions of people, stress leads to all sorts of symptoms and ailments, including headaches, muscle tension, difficulty sleeping, irritability, and lowered immunity. Chronic stress suppresses the body’s ability to regulate the inflammatory response, which can promote and advance disease. With demanding, hectic schedules, you may not always be able to control what happens in your daily life, but you can practice healthy habits to manage stress. Here are six stress management tips to cope with stress mindfully.
1. Take a Breather
Ever notice yourself responding to a frustrating situation with a deep sigh? A deep breath from your abdomen can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in a sense of relaxation. In stressful situations, take a minute, or a few minutes if you can, to breathe mindfully. Deep, mindful breathing can be a simple but very effective tool to help calm your mind and refresh your perspective. Practice mindful breathing on your commute, at your desk, or while waiting in a long line. Focus all of your attention on your breath while you take slow, deep inhalations and exhalations. Consider this exercise in stress management your natural “reset” button.
2. Go Outside
Go for a walk. Get some fresh air. Gain a new point of view. The point is to stimulate your senses and shift your awareness to something other than the stressor. A little break from your current environment and some fresh air and sunlight might be just what you need to refresh your mindset.
3. Help Others
Volunteering has been proven to relieve stress. It can be an uplifting way to change how you feel about your life, and at the same time positively impact someone else’s life in a profound way. In fact, “people can experience a ‘volunteer’s high,'” says One Medical Group’s Kristen Scarlett, LMHC. “This is also seen with random acts of kindness. Volunteering helps people find a purpose and builds self-esteem too!”
4. Burn off Some Steam
Exercise! Running, yoga, lifting weights, and playing sports are all great ways to get your mind off of the things that you find stressful and do something healthy for your mind and body. Exercise decreases stress hormones and increases endorphins, which are often referred to as the body’s “feel-good chemicals.” Physical activity releases endorphins and can help boost your mood and energy.
5. Write It Down
Make a list of every last frustration, no matter how small, that’s weighing on your mind. Type it up, draft an email, or write it down on paper. The idea is to interrupt the negative and repetitive thought cycle that you’ve been focusing on. Be honest. After you’ve looked over the list, take a few deep breaths and get rid of it. Delete it or throw it away. And let go of all of the negative feelings that are associated with it.
6. Think Positive
Employ the power of positive thinking. Rather than incessantly worrying about the same things over and over, break the cycle and train your brain to think in a way that is positive and uplifting. One way to do this is to envision the results that you want, rather than thinking about the results that you’re afraid of. Imagine everything working out. Sometimes, just the very thought of things unfolding in your favor can be truly inspiring. Another approach is to practice positive affirmations. Scarlett shared a few examples of positive affirmations to practice with:
- I can let go.
- I embrace this challenge.
- I can overcome this obstacle.
- I can handle whatever comes my way.
- I can find balance.
Say these affirmations aloud if the situation permits, or silently if you must. Repeat several times.
Editor’s Note: How do you manage stress? We’d love to hear your comments.