Stress is more than just a buzzword. As more and more people struggle to accomplish everything expected out of them, it clouds the judgment and the mind and disrupts both the physical and mental well-being of anyone. To know how to manage and reduce stress has thus evolved from a skill to a necessity.
10 ways to manage and reduce stress and anxiety
Coping with the pressure upon one’s shoulders isn’t easy. Stress is like a snowball, once it starts rolling, it’s hard to stop it and it will just keep getting bigger.
The more stressed you are, the more your body gets affected and you may experience insomnia, increased or decreased appetite, general weakness and fatigue. As these symptoms settle in, the more stressed you get. It’s a negative cycle.
There are, however, a few tricks that can help you prevent stress and anxiety and even managing and controlling them. The key is to be aware of it and of your own reality.
Spot and categorize the problems
When you’re feeling stressed, take a step back and analyze the situation. What is it that is making you stressed? Is it one thing? Several?
Sit down and think of all the possible sources. Then, divide them into categories: the ones with a practical and doable solution, the ones that will get better with time or are conditioned by an external factor that you must wait for; and the ones you can’t do anything about.
Once you have a clear picture of the situation, it will be easier for you to let go of the two last categories and focus your energies on solving the problems at your reach.
Avoid stimulating foods
Sugar, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, caffeine and processed carbohydrates work as stimulants to the body without any added nutritional value. They can give you the jitters and leave you on edge, which, if you’re already stressed, it’s like throwing fuel into a fire.
Try to keep a healthy and diverse diet to ensure your body stays stronger and harder to conquer and to weaken.
When you exercise, even if it is just taking a walk to get some fresh air, the body is able to release the accumulated pressure out of the muscles while the mind can wander around and get a break of its own.
Teas and supplements
There are several herbs with a relaxing effect that are safe to take and don’t interfere with the level of alertness of the person.
You can either take them in the form of supplements or use the plants to prepare a tea. Look for valerian, chamomile, peppermint or lemon balm.
Some scents of aromatherapy, particularly lavender, peppermint and chamomile, interact with the human’s brain, promoting a general relaxation that soothes stress and pressure.
You can use them to your benefit by simply lighting up a candle with these fragrances, by putting a few drops of their essential oils in your pillow before sleeping or in a handkerchief that you can carry with you.
Breathing is the most efficient and quickest trick to reduce stress and calm you down when you’re about to lose control.
It works mainly by moving the diaphragm and increasing the blood oxygenation, which has a calming effect, and by focusing the mind on the movement and timing of each breath, thus distracting it from the stress source.
There are several techniques to perform this relaxing breathing. If you’re a beginner, try out inhaling slowly while counting to 4 and then again while exhaling. Keep repeating until you can easily increase the time to 6 or 8 seconds.
Don’t push it. As you start to calm down, 4 seconds to inhale and exhale will seem too short and the breathing will feel uncomfortably quick. That’s a good sign.
Call someone close to you
It doesn’t matter who. Maybe your best friend, your partner, your brother or sister, anyone as long as you feel comfortable and relaxed talking to that person. And then, let it go!
Rage about whatever is making you stressed, share your problems, your fears and your doubts. Listening to a reassuring voice can help you unwind. Besides, just the simple act of pouring your heart out will help you put everything into perspective and maybe find solutions you weren’t seeing before.
Laughter is almost as a compound of different strategies to reduce stress and anxiety.
Laughing works just as deep breathing to oxygenate your blood and help you relax. The muscle convulsions it triggers are the equivalent of exercising, releasing the tension and pressure from the body. And the mind gets distracted and immersed in whatever is provoking the laughter too.
It is hard to laugh when you’re stressed but try to find the time to look for funny situations around you or to watch a tv show or a video of your favorite comedian. If you’re having troubles finding a reason to laugh, you can even try out laughter therapy.
Find time for yourself
Even if your agenda is extremely busy, try to find a bit of time for yourself every day.
Use that time to do something you enjoy, like reading a book or listening to music, without any distractions. Or simply use it to do nothing, as long as that’s what you want and what you feel you’re in need of.
If you can’t find the time to do so, then you need to reevaluate your schedule. Perhaps you’re taking up too many responsibilities or are not managing them in the most effective way which can also be a source of stress.
Learn to enjoy life once again and to see the bright side of everything. When you feel good about yourself and your surroundings there will be no need to reduce stress because it will be inconsequential.
If you take a positive approach you can even predict stress and work to prevent it! Check the video below to watch neuroscientist Daniel Levitin explain how to do this and to know a few other tricks that can help you cope with stressful situations.