- 5 Ways to Stress Less
- 5 Ways for Better Coping with Stress
- Related Articles
- 17 Highly Effective Stress Relievers
- Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress
- Quick Stress Relief – HelpGuide.org
- Tip 1: Recognize when you’re stressed
- Tip 2: Identify your stress response
- Tip 3: Bring your senses to the rescue
- Tip 4: Find sensory inspiration
- Tip 5: Make quick stress relief a habit
- Tip 6: Practice wherever you are
- Quick stress relief at home
- Quick stress relief at work
- Quick stress relief on the go
- 7 Thoughtful Ways to Stress Less
- 1. Give up the daily guilt.
- 2. Realize good is good enough.
- 3. Snooze, or lose.
- 4. Scale back on drive time.
- 5. Say no to others so you can say yes to you.
- 6. Power off.
- 7. Embrace the messiness.
5 Ways to Stress Less
Stress is different things to different people. It’s also different things at different times to the same person.
In other words, stress is very individual, and whether something becomes a stressor to you depends on a variety of variables, according to Richard Blonna, Ed.
D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author of Stress Less, Live More: How Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Can Help You Live a Busy Yet Balanced Life.
Specifically, he defines stress as a “holistic transaction between the individual and the potential stressor resulting in a stress response.” For example, being stuck in traffic on your way to work is a stressor. But traffic on a leisurely Sunday isn’t a big deal.
In addition, your response to the stressor also depends on your physiological state.
“Each transaction we’re involved in takes place in a very specific context that’s affected by our health, sleep, psychoactive substances, whether we’ve had breakfast [that day] and [whether we’re] physically fit,” Blonna said. Lack of sleep and many cups of coffee can heighten stress, whereas a great workout and a big breakfast may buffer it.
Still, oftentimes, it can feel we’re powerless to stressors. That we have no choice but to get bothered by traffic, the flu, taxes and bills. But we do have some control over our response to potential stressors, as Blonna said. Here’s how to empower yourself along with how to cope effectively with stress.
5 Ways for Better Coping with Stress
When trying to manage stress, Blonna said that many people mistakenly look for a Band-Aid approach. They look for one approach to work with all stressors in all situations at all times. But realistically you can’t rely on one technique.
For instance, diaphragmatic breathing is an effective stress reliever but you might not want to use it in a certain situation because you’re feeling self-conscious and don’t want to bring attention to yourself, he said.
Similarly, while Blonna is a big believer in meditation, he said it doesn’t work if you’re stuck in traffic, since it’s dangerous to close your eyes.
Instead, “What we need is a toolbox that’s full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment,” he said. Stress is complex, so your approach to coping with it has to be “broad-based and adaptive,” he said. Years ago, he developed five levels of strategies for coping with stress or the “five Rs of coping model.” Each level has multiple strategies.
As a health educator, Blonna knows the importance of a healthy lifestyle, especially for stress management. He said that “reorganizing your health” and “develop[ing] hearty habits” provides more energy and builds coping resilience. For instance, exercise not only improves physical functioning but it also helps your brain work better and process information better, he said.
In fact, maybe you “won’t even get stressed in the first place.” Blonna aims to get at least 30 minutes of cardio four to five times a week. As he said, physical wellbeing isn’t “merely your health insurance, but [your] basic defense against stress.”
What your mind tells you “about a potential stressor determines whether it becomes an actual stressor,” Blonna said. He gave the example of a student who’s terrified of failing a final exam.
He keeps focusing on how he isn’t smart and will do poorly, instead of focusing on the things that will help him do well on the exam, such as meeting with the professor, scheduling a study session with others and studying for the final.
The goal is to get over your negative thinking and accept that while you may not be an expert in a certain subject, in this case, you can still try your best and do what you can to learn the material.
Our scripts from the past also can turn potential stressors actual ones. They can stunt growth in the very areas that we value. From the perspective of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), Blonna said, we carry mental and emotional baggage about past events and experiences.
When similar experiences come up, these old scripts lead to negative self-talk. Take the idea of a new relationship, he said. This can be a potential stressor if other relationships didn’t go well.
While you’re very interested in this person and you value relationships, old images of past failed relationships, self-doubt and negative scripts keep coming up.
If we let these things become barriers to moving forward, then “we aren’t living lives with what we value,” he said. He ns this baggage to carrying around a duffle bag. “Each of us has this duffel bag filled with negative thoughts, mental images and dialogue.
” We have two options: we can “let duffle bag drag us down [or] we can just drop it or put it away.” It’s the idea of accepting that this baggage does exist—“we can’t eliminate it”—but “I don’t have to let it stop me in my tracks,” he said.
Plus, once you experience a positive relationship or experience, you create a healthy frame of reference.
In general, “be aware of that baggage and how it’s affecting [your] life in the present moment; how it’s influencing your ability to enjoy life now” and to accept “the fact that that’s how [your] mind works.” But you do have the power to change those negative thoughts and push through self-doubting scripts.
Blonna gave an example from his own life when he was considering becoming an ACT trainer.
He had various negative scripts running in his mind, including how he’d inevitably fail and who did he think he was to train psychotherapists with years of experience in the first place. He “almost said no.
” But after a while, he decided that he’d do several training sessions. If they were “total failures,” he’d stop. The result? The training sessions went exceptionally well, and he continues to train others.
“Sometimes we’re stressed out because of the sheer volume of things we’re involved in,” Blonna said. When you’re overwhelmed, even fun things lose their appeal and become stressors. Take running, for example.
If you’re rushing around and have to force running in between two other commitments, this passion may become another source of stress, he said. The key is to find optimal stimulation, so you aren’t understimulated (i.e.
, bored) with your activities or overstimulated (i.e., overwhelmed).
To do that, consider all the things you’re involved in. It can help to keep a journal to track your activities and your feelings about them, Blonna said. Also, he suggested asking yourself, “Do they mesh with my goals and values? Am I doing things that give my life meaning? Am I doing the right amount of things?”
Other questions that may provide you with good insight: “When you wake up in the morning, do you look forward to what’s on your plate? Are you excited to start the day? Or do you dread getting bed because you don’t have any energy?”
Understand that getting to this balanced place takes trial and error. Also, it takes saying no to things that aren’t that important to you.
For instance, Blonna has worked with students who take on 19 credits to please their parents, but they get incredibly overwhelmed with the course load.
“They can only handle 12 credits and would rather cut back and enjoy the process of learning but allow others to bully them into toughing it out yet they’re miserable,” he said.
This level is “designed to put your body in a state that’s incompatible with stress,” Blonna said. Interestingly, “a lot of people are so stressed [that] they don’t know what the absence of stress or a calm mind feels ,” he said.
But practicing clinically proven relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or systematic muscle relaxation, for about 20 minutes a day can help tremendously.
While you won’t always have the time to devote to these techniques on a daily basis, he said, it is important to make relaxation a priority.
Here, the goal is two-fold, according to Blonna: to reduce muscle tension and to “use up energy that’s mobilized during a stress response.” He divides physical activity into mild, moderate and vigorous activities. Maybe in addition to your physical activity routine, you need something more vigorous to release the tension so you lift weights or go on a brisk walk.
* * *
To learn more about Richard Blonna, a certified coach, counselor and health education specialist, please visit his website.
5 Ways to Stress Less
17 Highly Effective Stress Relievers
Verywell / Joshua Seong
From minor challenges to major crises, stress is part of life. And while you can't always control your circumstances, you can control how you respond to them.
When stress becomes overwhelming, or it's chronic, it can take a toll on your well-being. That's why it's important to have effective stress relievers that can calm your mind and your body.
There isn't a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to stress relief, however. What works for one person might not work for another.
And what works for you at home might not be an option when you're at work or in the community (dancing around your living room might be helpful but dancing in the grocery store might not be).
So it's important to have a variety of stress relief tools at your disposal. Then, you'll be able to pick a strategy that works best for your current circumstances.
Whether you're about to be interviewed for a job or you're feeling overwhelmed by your child's behavior at the playground, it's important to have some stress reduction tools that can lower your stress right now.
The best short-term strategies:
- Can be performed anywhere
- Take very little practice to master
- Are free
- Provide immediate relief
Guided imagery is taking a short vacation in your mind. It can involve imaging yourself being in your “happy place”—maybe picturing yourself sitting on a beach, listening to the waves, smelling the ocean, and feeling the warm sand underneath you.
Guided imagery can be done with a recording where you listen to someone walk you through a peaceful scene. Or, once you know how to do it yourself, you can practice guided imagery on your own.
Simply close your eyes for a minute and walk yourself through a peaceful scene. Think about all the sensory experiences you'd engage in and allow yourself to feel as though you're really there. After a few minutes, open your eyes and return to the present moment.
Meditation brings short-term stress relief as well as lasting stress management benefits. There are many different forms of meditation to try–each one is unique and brings its own appeal.
You might develop a mantra that you repeat in your mind as you take slow deep breaths. Or, you might take a few minutes to practice mindfulness, which involves being in the moment. Simply pay attention to what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
When you're focused on the here-and-now, you won't be able to ruminate about something that already happened and you can't worry about something in the future. Meditation and mindfulness take practice, but it can make a big difference in your overall stress level.
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.
Just focusing on your breath or changing the way you breathe can make a big difference to your overall stress level. Breathing techniques can calm your body and your brain in just a few minutes.
The best news is, no one around you will even know you're doing them. So whether you're in a stressful meeting or you're sitting in a crowded theater, breathing exercises could be key to reducing your stress.
While there are many different breathing exercises, karate breathing, a few simple ones include:
- Breathe in through your nose and watch your belly fill with air. Count slowly to three as you inhale. Hold for one second and then slowly breathe out through your nose as you count to three again.
- Breathe in through your nose and imagine that you're inhaling peaceful, calm air. Imagine that air spreading throughout your body. As you exhale, imagine that you're breathing out stress and tension.
Exercise is a fantastic stress reliever that can work in minutes. Taking a walk allows you to enjoy a change of scenery, which can get you into a different frame of mind, and brings the benefits of exercise as well.
So whether you just need to take a stroll around the office to get a break from a frustrating task or you decide to go for a long walk in the park after work, walking is a simple but effective way to rejuvenate your mind and body.
In the privacy of your own home, there are many stress relief strategies that can help you relax fast. So whether you've had a tough day at work or you're stressed about how much you have to do, these strategies can give you some immediate relief from your stress.
Physical touch can do a lot to relieve your stress. Hugging a loved one can be especially beneficial.
When you hug someone, oxytocin (also known as the “cuddle hormone”) is released. Oxytocin is associated with higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress.
Oxytocin also causes a reduction in blood pressure. It reduces the stress hormone norepinephrine and can produce a sense of relaxation.
So don't be afraid to ask a loved one for a hug if you need it. It's good for both of you and it can be one of the simplest forms of stress relief available.
Aromatherapy has real benefits for stress relief—it can help you to feel energized, more relaxed, or more present in the moment.
Emerging research suggests certain scents can alter brain wave activity and decrease stress hormones in the body.
So whether you enjoy candles, diffusers, or body products, consider incorporating some aromatherapy into your day.
Getting in touch with your creative side may have been easy for you during childhood, but if you’ve lost touch with your penchant for artwork, it’s not too late to pick it up again.
If you aren't into drawing or painting, consider coloring in a coloring book. Adult coloring books have risen in popularity and for good reason—coloring can be a great stress reliever.
Research consistently shows that coloring can have a meditative effect. One study found that anxiety levels decline in people who were coloring complex geometric patterns, making it a perfect outlet for stress reduction.
Certain habits can promote resilience to stress, as well as increase overall wellness. For example, those who exercise or meditate regularly tend to become less stressed in the face of a difficult challenge.
So it's important to create a lifestyle that will help you ward off stress and deal with challenges in a healthy way.
A poor diet can bring greater reactivity toward stress. Emotional eating and reaching for high-fat, high-sugar foods can provide a temporary sense of relief that adds to your long-term stress.
Refined carbs, cookies and potato chips, can cause a spike in blood sugar. When your blood sugar crashes, you might experience more stress and anxiety.
Consuming a healthy diet can help you combat stress over the long haul. Foods eggs, avocado, and walnuts support mood regulation and energy balance.
Leisure activities can be a wonderful way to relieve stress. Yet, many people feel as though their lives are too busy for hobbies, games, or extra fun.
But building time for leisure into your schedule could be key to helping you feel your best. And when you feel better, you'll perform better, which means leisure time may make your work time more efficient.
Whether you find joy in caring for a garden or you making quilts, hobbies and leisure are key to living your best life.
The way you talk to yourself matters. Harsh self-criticism, self-doubt, and catastrophic predictions aren't helpful. If you're constantly thinking things , “I don't have time for this,” and “I can't stand this,” you'll stress yourself out.
It's important to learn to talk to yourself in a more realistic, compassionate manner. When you call yourself names or doubt your ability to succeed, reply with a kinder inner dialogue.
Positive self-talk can help you develop a healthier outlook. And an optimistic and compassionate conversation can help you manage your emotions and take positive action.
Yoga combines physical movement, meditation, light exercise, and controlled breathing—all of which provide excellent stress relief.
And while you're ly to reap immediate benefits from a single yoga session, you're ly to receive long-term benefits if you incorporate it into your life in a consistent way.
Yoga offers a variety of physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits. To get started, you might take a class, enroll in an online program, or use an app to help you begin practicing.
Gratitude helps you recognize all the things you have to be thankful for. Whether you're grateful for a sunny day or thankful you arrived at work safely, think about all the good things you have in life.
Gratitude also reminds you of all of the resources you have to cope with stress, which can be quite empowering.
Studies also show grateful people enjoy better mental health, lower stress, and a better quality of life.
So whether you decide to make it a habit to identify what you're grateful for as you sit around the dinner table or you decide to write down three things you're grateful for in a gratitude journal every day, make gratitude a regular habit.
Physical activity is key to managing stress and improving mental health. And the best news is, there are many different kinds of activities that can reduce your stress.
Join a gym, take a class, or exercise outside. Keep in mind that there are many different ways to get more physical activity in your day too.
Walking, strength training, kayaking, hiking, and spin class are just a few different examples of ways you can get stress relief.
Most stress relievers focus on changing your emotions. But sometimes, you won't necessarily get relief until you change the environment.
This is referred to as problem-focused coping (as opposed to emotion-focused coping). Problem-focused coping involves taking steps to remove the stressor from your life (as opposed to changing how you feel about the stressor).
If you're trying to squeeze 20 hours worth of work into 16 hours, you're going to feel stressed. Reducing your workload could be key to helping you get through the day feeling better.
Whether that means stepping away from a committee you joined or it involves hiring someone to complete some of your household chores for you,
Honing your time management skills can allow you to minimize the stressors that you experience, and better manage the ones you can't avoid.
When you are able to complete everything on your “to do” list without the stress of rushing or forgetting, your whole life feels easier.
Having supportive people in your life is the key to stress management. If you lack emotional support and friendship, it's important to get it.
That may mean reaching out to your existing network. Perhaps confiding in a family member or distant friend can help you become closer and it may give you the social support you need.
You may also need to expand your network. Join an organization, attend a support group, or get professional help if you lack supportive people in your life.
Sometimes, the best way to reduce your stress is to cut something your life. Get rid of the things that are adding to your stress so you can experience more peace.
Watching the news, being constantly connected to your digital devices, drinking alcohol, and consuming too much caffeine are just a few of the things that may add more stress to your life. Making some changes to your daily habits could be instrumental in helping you feel better.
Finding the best stress relief strategies may take some experimenting. Some strategies may take practice too.
But it's important to keep looking for the tools that will help you manage life's inevitable ups and downs in a healthy way. Keeping stress at a manageable level is important for your overall well-being.
Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress
From the WebMD Archives
Relax. You deserve it, it's good for you, and it takes less time than you think.
You don't need a spa weekend or a retreat. Each of these stress-relieving tips can get you from OMG to om in less than 15 minutes.
A few minutes of practice per day can help ease anxiety. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago health and wellness coach.
It's simple. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting — out loud or silently — a positive mantra such as “I feel at peace” or “I love myself.” Place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let any distracting thoughts float by clouds.
2. Breathe Deeply
Take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.
“Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure,” psychologist Judith Tutin, PhD, says. She's a certified life coach in Rome, GA.
3. Be Present
“Take 5 minutes and focus on only one behavior with awareness,” Tutin says. Notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food.
When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.
4. Reach Out
Your social network is one of your best tools for handling stress. Talk to others — preferably face to face, or at least on the phone. Share what's going on. You can get a fresh perspective while keeping your connection strong.
5. Tune In to Your Body
Mentally scan your body to get a sense of how stress affects it each day. Lie on your back, or sit with your feet on the floor. Start at your toes and work your way up to your scalp, noticing how your body feels.
“Simply be aware of places you feel tight or loose without trying to change anything,” Tutin says. For 1 to 2 minutes, imagine each deep breath flowing to that body part. Repeat this process as you move your focus up your body, paying close attention to sensations you feel in each body part.
Place a warm heat wrap around your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and relax your face, neck, upper chest, and back muscles. Remove the wrap, and use a tennis ball or foam roller to massage away tension.
“Place the ball between your back and the wall. Lean into the ball, and hold gentle pressure for up to 15 seconds. Then move the ball to another spot, and apply pressure,” says Cathy Benninger, a nurse practitioner and assistant professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
7. Laugh Out Loud
A good belly laugh doesn’t just lighten the load mentally. It lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and boosts brain chemicals called endorphins, which help your mood. Lighten up by tuning in to your favorite sitcom or video, reading the comics, or chatting with someone who makes you smile.
8. Crank Up the Tunes
Research shows that listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety.
“Create a playlist of songs or nature sounds (the ocean, a bubbling brook, birds chirping), and allow your mind to focus on the different melodies, instruments, or singers in the piece,” Benninger says.
You also can blow off steam by rocking out to more upbeat tunes — or singing at the top of your lungs!
9. Get Moving
You don’t have to run in order to get a runner’s high.
All forms of exercise, including yoga and walking, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals and by giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress.
You can go for a quick walk around the block, take the stairs up and down a few flights, or do some stretching exercises head rolls and shoulder shrugs.
10. Be Grateful
Keep a gratitude journal or several (one by your bed, one in your purse, and one at work) to help you remember all the things that are good in your life.
“Being grateful for your blessings cancels out negative thoughts and worries,” says Joni Emmerling, a wellness coach in Greenville, NC.
Use these journals to savor good experiences a child’s smile, a sunshine-filled day, and good health. Don’t forget to celebrate accomplishments mastering a new task at work or a new hobby.
When you start feeling stressed, spend a few minutes looking through your notes to remind yourself what really matters.
American Psychological Association: “Exercise fuels the brain’s stress buffers.”
Bennett, M. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, March 2008.
Bennett, M. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 2003.
Cathy Benninger, RN, CNP, MS, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Joni Emmerling, wellness coach, Greenville, NC.
Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, clinical psychologist, health and wellness coach; founder and owner, Centered Coaching, Chicago.
Harvard Health Publications: “In Brief: Sing along for health.”
Koelsch, S. Frontiers in Psychology, June 2011.
Judith Tutin, PhD, psychologist, life coach, Rome, GA.
Ozbay, F. Psychiatry, May 2007.
© 2013 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. Tai Chi and Qigong
Quick Stress Relief – HelpGuide.org
There are countless techniques for managing stress. Yoga, mindfulness meditation, and exercise are just a few examples of stress-relieving activities that work wonders.
But in the heat of the moment, during a high-pressured job interview, for example, or a disagreement with your spouse, you can’t just excuse yourself to meditate or take a long walk.
In these situations, you need something more immediate and accessible.
One of the speediest and most reliable ways to stamp out stress is to engage one or more of your senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch—or through movement. Since everyone is different, you’ll need to do some experimenting to discover which technique works best for you—but the payoff is huge. You can stay calm, productive, and focused when you know how to quickly relieve stress.
Social interaction is your body’s most evolved and surefire strategy for regulating the nervous system. Talking face-to-face with a relaxed and caring listener can help you quickly calm down and release tension.
Although you can’t always have a pal to lean on in the middle of a stressful situation, maintaining a network of close relationships is vital for your mental health.
Between sensory-based stress relief and good listeners, you’ll have your bases covered.
Tip 1: Recognize when you’re stressed
It might seem obvious that you’d know when you’re stressed, but many of us spend so much time in a frazzled state that we’ve forgotten what it feels when our nervous systems are in balance: when we’re calm yet still alert and focused.
If this is you, you can recognize when you’re stressed by listening to your body. When you’re tired, your eyes feel heavy and you might rest your head on your hand. When you’re happy, you laugh easily. And when you’re stressed, your body lets you know that, too.
Get in the habit of paying attention to your body’s clues.
Observe your muscles and insides. Are your muscles tense or sore? Is your stomach tight, cramped, or aching? Are your hands or jaw clenched?
Observe your breath. Is your breathing shallow? Place one hand on your belly, the other on your chest. Watch your hands rise and fall with each breath. Notice when you breathe fully or when you “forget” to breathe.
Tip 2: Identify your stress response
Internally, we all respond the same way to the “fight-or-flight” stress response: your blood pressure rises, your heart pumps faster, and your muscles constrict. Your body works hard and drains your immune system. Externally, however, people respond to stress in different ways.
The best way to quickly relieve stress often relates to your specific stress response:
Overexcited stress response: If you tend to become angry, agitated, overly emotional, or keyed up under stress, you will respond best to stress relief activities that quiet you down.
Underexcited stress response: If you tend to become depressed, withdrawn, or spaced out under stress, you will respond best to stress relief activities that are stimulating and energizing.
Tip 3: Bring your senses to the rescue
To use your senses to quickly relieve stress, you first need to identify the sensory experiences that work best for you. This can require some experimentation. As you employ different senses, note how quickly your stress levels drop.
And be as precise as possible.
What is the specific kind of sound or type of movement that affects you the most? For example, if you’re a music lover, listen to many different artists and types of music until you find the song that instantly lifts and relaxes you.
Explore a variety of sensory experiences so that no matter where you are, you’ll always have a tool to relieve stress.
The examples listed below are intended to be a jumping-off point. Let your imagination run free and come up with additional things to try. When you find the right sensory technique, you’ll know it!
- Look at a cherished photo or a favorite memento.
- Use a plant or flowers to enliven your work space.
- Enjoy the beauty of nature: a garden, the beach, a park, or your own backyard.
- Surround yourself with colors that lift your spirits.
- Close your eyes and picture a place that feels peaceful and rejuvenating.
- Light a scented candle or burn some incense.
- Experiment with different essential oils.
- Smell the roses or another type of flower.
- Enjoy clean, fresh air in the great outdoors.
- Spritz on your favorite perfume or cologne.
- Wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
- Pet a dog or cat.
- Hold a comforting object (a stuffed animal, a favorite memento).
- Give yourself a hand or neck massage.
- Wear clothing that feels soft against your skin.
Slowly savoring a favorite treat can be very relaxing, but mindless eating will only add to your stress and your waistline. The key is to indulge your sense of taste mindfully and in moderation.
- Chew a piece of sugarless gum.
- Indulge in a small piece of dark chocolate.
- Sip a steaming cup of coffee or tea or a refreshing cold drink.
- Eat a perfectly ripe piece of fruit.
- Enjoy a healthy, crunchy snack (celery, carrots, or trail mix).
If you tend to shut down when you’re under stress or have experienced trauma, stress-relieving activities that get you moving may be particularly helpful.
- Run in place or jump up and down.
- Dance around.
- Stretch or roll your head in circles.
- Go for a short walk.
- Squeeze a rubbery stress ball.
- Sing or play a favorite tune.
- Listen to calming or uplifting music.
- Tune in to the soundtrack of nature—crashing waves, the wind rustling the trees, birds singing.
- Buy a small fountain, so you can enjoy the soothing sound of running water in your home or office.
- Hang wind chimes near an open window.
Tip 4: 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 baby’s face will have the same calming or energizing effects on your brain as seeing her photo. When you can recall a strong sensation, you’ll never be without a quick stress relief tool.
Tip 5: Make quick stress relief a habit
It’s not easy to remember to use your senses in the middle of a mini—or or not so mino—crisis. At first, it will feel easier to just give into pressure and tense up. But with time, calling upon your senses will become second nature.
Think of the process learning to drive or play golf. You don’t master the skill in one lesson; you have to practice until it becomes second nature. Eventually you’ll feel you’re forgetting something if you don’t tune into your body during challenging times.
Here’s how to make it habit:
Start small. Instead of testing your quick stress relief tools on a source of major stress, start with a predictable low-level source of stress, cooking dinner at the end of a long day or sitting down to pay bills.
Identify and target. Think of just one low-level stressor that you know will occur several times a week, such as commuting. Vow to target that stressor with quick stress relief every time. After a few weeks, target a second stressor and so on.
Test-drive sensory input. If you are practicing quick stress relief on your commute to work, bring a scented handkerchief with you one day, try music another day, and try a movement the next day. Keep experimenting until you find a clear winner.
Have fun with the process. If something doesn’t work, don’t force it. Move on until you find what works best for you. It should be pleasurable and noticeably calming.
Talk about it. Telling friends or family members about the stress-relief strategies you’re trying out will help you integrate them into your life. As an added bonus, it’s bound to start an interesting conversation: everyone relates to the topic of stress.
Tip 6: Practice wherever you are
The best part of sensory-based strategies is the awareness that you have control. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, quick stress relief is within arm’s reach.
Quick stress relief at home
Entertaining. Prevent pre-party jitters by playing lively music. Light candles. The flicker and scent will stimulate your senses. Wear clothes that make you feel relaxed and confident.
Kitchen. Ease kitchen stress by breathing in the scent of every ingredient. Delight in the delicate texture of an eggshell. Appreciate the weight of an onion.
Children and relationships. Prevent losing your cool during a spousal spat by squeezing the tips of your thumb and forefinger together. When your toddler has a tantrum, rub lotion into your hands and breathe in the scent.
Sleep. Too stressed to snooze? Try using a white noise machine for background sound or a humidifier with a diffuser for a light scent in the air.
Creating a sanctuary. If clutter is upsetting, spend 10 minutes each day to tidy. Display photos and images that make you feel happy. Throw open the curtains and let in natural light.
Quick stress relief at work
Meetings. During stressful sessions, stay connected to your breath. Massage the tips of your fingers. Wiggle your toes. Sip coffee.
On the phone. Inhale something energizing, lemon, ginger, peppermint. While talking, stand up or pace back and forth to burn off excess energy, or take calls outside when possible.
On the computer. Work standing up. Do knee-bends in 10-minute intervals. Suck on a peppermint. Sip tea.
Lunch breaks. Take a walk around the block or in the parking lot. Listen to soothing music while eating. Chat with a colleague.
Your workspace. Place family photos on your desk or mementos that remind you of your life outside the office.
Quick stress relief on the go
In traffic. Play music or listen to an audiobook. Take a different route to see something new. Do neck-rolls at stoplights. Sing in the car to stay awake and happy.
Public transportation. Take a break from reading, cell conversations, and music to tune into the sights and sounds around you. Try noticing something new, even if you’re on the same old bus ride.
Running errands. Wear a special perfume or lotion so you can enjoy it while you rush from place to place. Carry a stress ball in your pocket. Take a mental “snapshot” or “postcard” at each destination.
Waiting in lines. Instead of worrying about time slipping away, focus on your breathing. People watch. Chat with the person ahead of you. Chew a stick of minty gum.
Authors: Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., and Lawrence Robinson. Last updated: March 2020.
7 Thoughtful Ways to Stress Less
How many of you want to grow old faster? What, no takers?!
Well, did you know you accelerate your aging when you regularly experience stress or anxiety? Seriously, if you’re too tired or too wired, take note of the seven strategies here to help you stress a little less:
Related: 11 Strategies for Managing Stress
1. Give up the daily guilt.
Let’s get some perspective. Too many of us waste time feeling guilty that our life is balance, but you’ll never feel balanced as long as you have goals and dreams. Why? There’s always way too much to do, to learn, to accomplish.
If you’re me and have passion for your work, it’s easy to lose yourself in your tasks and projects since they bring you joy. At a certain point, however, I have to consciously ditch work to spend time with friends and family (minus my phone).
Quit thinking you need to “touch” everything each day and look at how “balanced” your life is over a period of time, not a specific day of the week. Take this one step farther and realize that it’s about being balanced over your lifetime. It all evens out.
2. Realize good is good enough.
Any other recovering perfectionists out there? Stop wasting time creating the “perfect” proposal, letter or marketing brochure, seeking the ideal gift for your nephew, the best comforter for your bedroom, or the supremely clean house. Stop at 80 percent and move on to the next task. Otherwise, hours of your life are wasted and nobody notices the difference but you. Get over yourself and take a step closer to acceptance.
3. Snooze, or lose.
Yeah, I can hear you stress puppies already: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” But the point is you will be dead sooner as a result. Exhaustion is not a badge of honor. Without sleep, you are worthless to yourself and those around you.
Staying up even one hour later to finish a task or watch Grey’s Anatomy costs you more than your health.
Try irritability, trouble retaining information, minor illness, poor judgment, increased mistakes and even weight gain.
A Harvard Business Review study of 975 global managers determined that 45 percent of high-earning managers are too pooped to even speak to their spouse or partner after work. This is your wake-up call to get your ZZZ’s.
4. Scale back on drive time.
When choosing a new doctor, dentist, hairdresser, whatever, find one as close to home as possible.
Bonus: with gas so expensive, think of the savings! The same holds true when finding activities for any family members—stay local.
Sure the ideal preschool, soccer club or SAT study group may be a longer commute, but add up all the drive time in advance and ask if it’s really worth it before committing to rush-hour jams and early alarm clocks.
Still determined? Set up carpools and recognize you don’t have to be at every activity. Sure it’s fun to participate, but your child will not turn into a serial killer if you miss a few games or performances.
5. Say no to others so you can say yes to you.
Are you turning down distractions disguised as opportunities? Are you being asked to join social sites that are leaving you no time to network with the people under your roof? Are you still knocking yourself out to host the annual Labor Day party when all you see is the labor ahead?
It’s not selfish to say no to others when the intent is to clear some space to say yes to you. Life does go on even if you aren’t involved in every activity, party or event. Look at it this way: Being missed makes you more interesting and appreciated when you do show up.
6. Power off.
The quickest way to gain downtime is to turn off the phone, TV and computer and enjoy the lack of distractions. I’ve spoken to people who feel anxious when their DVR is overloaded with recordings and they don’t have the time to watch their shows. C’mon, do you really need to know who’s getting kicked off the island or what has-been star can dance?
Some people say TV relaxes them, but I believe it’s more of a habit than a way to lower stress. TV just numbs you, and when the show’s over, your pressures resurface. Same with the computer. Sure, it’s great to connect with old friends on , but do you really need to know what someone ate for dinner?
Rather than screen sucking, grab that unopened book from your shelf, call a good friend or grab a cup of your favorite beverage and reflect on your day.
7. Embrace the messiness.
Having been raised by not one but two neat freaks, my old mantra was: There is a place for everything and everything belongs in its place. When I was single, the television remote stayed in the same spot, my pillows were strategically placed, and the countertops were void of dishes.
Now that I share my life with a family, the opposite is true. My new mantra: A clean house doesn’t define you; it confines you. Even with twice-monthly help, my house is usually messy—not dirty, but messy… big difference and one I’m learning to live with if I want to have a life outside of cleaning.
Embrace the messiness. It comes with the territory and means you’re leading a busy, fulfilling life—not a Stepford existence.
And if all else fails, remember you’re too blessed to be stressed! It’s impossible to feel stress and be grateful at the same time. When you’re on overwhelm, simply take a deep breath and count your blessings—works every time.
Related: How Successful People Beat Stress