Stress is a constant companion, and most of us, through lots of practice, have become experts at elevating our stress levels. The ability to relax is an acquired skill too. Luckily, you can teach yourself to handle stress in a manner that minimizes it. However, the more stressed you feel, the more challenging it can be to relax.
Let’s learn some relaxation techniques that you can put into your self-care toolkit to help you identify and manage your stress.
Discover how you can relax your body and mind when your stress levels are out of control:
Identify your stressors. It’s important to know what triggers your stress and causes you anxiety. Knowing these triggers means that you can learn to more effectively manage them or remove yourself from them (when possible).
- Check your body. Acknowledge where in your body you feel stress. For some of us, we carry it in our shoulders and neck, some in our gut, and some in our heads (headaches, migraines, hair loss, etc.).
- Pratice a little yoga/ stretching. Stand up for a few minutes and stretch your body. Release the tension and stress in your muscles. Shake your arms and legs individually and get back to work. Try this. It works!
- Exercise. If you have more time available, 30 minutes of exercise can work wonders. Avoid limiting yourself to the standard walk or jog. Play a match of tennis or attempt to break your personal bench press record. Consider whether you’d prefer to exercise alone or with others and make it happen.
- Listen to music. Music can be very soothing. The theme from Rocky might make you feel great, but might not be the best choice if you’re feeling agitated. Choose music that you find relaxing.
- Meditate. Meditation is simple, but challenging. You can learn to focus your thoughts and relieve your tension. Keep your thoughts focused on your breath and return to these thoughts whenever you get distracted. What could be simpler?
- Reach out to others. Some of us find relaxation in being alone, while others feel better with others. Reach out to your friends and family. You can discuss your feelings and the challenges you’re facing. You could also choose to use the people in your life as a distraction. Go out to dinner or watch a movie. Have a little fun. And when they can’t help you, know that it is ok to seek professional assistance.
- Laugh. Maybe laughter is the best medicine. Pull out your favorite video or spend the evening at a comedy club. Call your funniest friend for a chat. Read a book of jokes. Find something or someone that will make you laugh.
- Feel gratitude. It’s easy to forget about all the wonderful things in your life during challenging times. Make a list of all the blessings in your life. Focus on feeling gratitude. By reminding yourself of all the good things, the bad things won’t seem nearly as bad.
- Get some rest. One of the best ways to reset your nervous system is sleeping. Find a quiet place and lie down for an hour. A nap can be the best stress-buster.
- Think happy thoughts. Remember a happy, past event. Relive it in your mind. Creative visualization can be an excellent way to take a break from your stress. Be creative and enjoy yourself.
- Drop the caffeine from your diet. Caffeine and stress don’t combine well. Give your nervous system a reprieve and avoid caffeinated beverages. Do you really need to be any more stimulated?
- BREATHE BOO! Practice mindful breathing. Inhale and exhale slowly. With each inhale, focus your breathing INTO the place where your stress is in your body. As you exhale, imagine that space filling up with peace, love, and relief.
- Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. You could also cover your ears and focus on what you see. You’ll just look sillier. Block off one of your senses and focus on your environment. This is an excellent way to be more present. Giving your attention to your surroundings will stop your mind from creating more stress.
Stress is a part of daily life. Learning to manage it makes life more enjoyable.
The best time to address stress is the moment it begins. There’s a momentum to stress. Once your stress reaches a high level, it’s far more challenging to reduce. Most stress-reduction techniques provide a small to moderate amount of relief. Use them sooner, rather than later, and prevent a meltdown before it happens.