Do you need to relieve stress? I’d be surprised if you don’t. Between the growing demands of jobs, raising a family while working full-time, and the increasing need to stay connected all day every day, most of us feel stressed out more often than we like to admit.
Add to it insomnia and not enough exercise, and you have created a recipe for disaster. Stress kills.
Let’s look at the negative side effects of stress and what you can do to relieve stress and relax.
The Negative Side of Stress
Stress causes increased blood pressure. You may remember those times when you found yourself overheated or had a raging headache when you were in a stressful situation.
Feeling that way once in a while is okay. The real danger is in the lower-level stress we all feel on a daily basis. It can lead to hypertension and a higher risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke.
How Do You Relieve Stress?
Since stress is so hard on the body and mind. So what can you do to reduce it? Quite a bit!
The most obvious solution is to go to the source of the stress and cut it out of your life. Obviously, for most of us, that isn’t very practical.
Instead, let’s look at some things to try instead.
Stop Trying to Do Everything
One of the main reasons why we are so much more stressed than our grandparents were, is because we take too much. Often times we are working a full-time job and possibly a side hustle as well to make ends meet financially.
That leaves all the everyday work of keeping house and raising a family for after our main jobs are completed for the day. Most people do not mentally clock out at the end of the workday. Instead, we take our work home with us.
We continue to be available by cell phone, email, and text message. Add to that the stress that social media creates for us and it’s no surprise we’re more stressed than ever.
Review and Log Your Day
Start reviewing everything you do on a given day. A great tool for this is a time log.
Keep a small notebook with you at all times. Set a reminder on your phone to go off every 30 minutes during the day. When the reminder goes off, simply write down what you’re doing.
Be brutally honest. No one else will see this log. After even a few days of logging your activities, you will have a pretty good idea of where you spend your time and mental energy.
Now comes the fun part. Look through what you wrote. Decide what you can let go of. What can you stop doing? Open up some time for yourself to exercise, meditate, or take a nap.
Let Those Worries Go
Next, it’s time to review and release all those worries, questions, and “should-dos” that stress you. Using the same notebook, write down anything and everything on your mind. List everything you’ve been thinking about doing. List the things that worry you.
Get it all out of your head and on paper. Then, walk away for a few hours. Next, come back to your list. Cross out the things that are out of your control. These are the things you cannot do anything about.
These are the stressful things for you to mentally release. Tasks that you feel like you should do, that you really don’t need to do. Then rewrite what’s left on two different lists.
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One list will be things you can do, or have someone else do for you. This will become your master to-do list for the next few months. These are the things you have control over.
What’s left on your original list is a list of worries or concerns. Notice how much smaller and shorter those lists are. How much lighter do you feel just from getting it all out of your head and on paper?.
Last but not least, throw away that original brain dump list. Doesn’t it feel good?
Relieve Stress With Better Sleep
As mentioned above, sleep is one of the most effective ways to de-stress. The best thing you can do to relieve stress on a regular basis is to get a goodnight’s sleep.
Think about how much harder your job and your life seem to be after a night when you were up too late or did not sleep well. You feel crabby, it’s harder to focus, and every little problem suddenly becomes insurmountable. You feel a lot more stressed throughout the day too.
The average person doesn’t get the optimal amount of sleep at night. And often, our sleep quality isn’t great. Our sleep may be disrupted throughout the night. Most people struggle with falling asleep.
Improving the Quality and Quantity of Your Sleep
Thankfully there are things you can do to improve both the quantity and quality of sleep you get. Before you tell yourself that you can’t afford to sleep more, realize that not focusing on sleep will cause you to be less focused and productive. You’ll actually get more done by investing time into a good-night sleep.
- Start by establishing a bedtime routine. Start by going to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends. It helps your body get into a rhythm that makes falling asleep and staying asleep easier.
- Cut distractions from your bedroom. Maybe that means leaving your phone in another room.. If you need an alarm, buy an alarm clock. The alerts and notifications can stop you from getting into those all-important deep sleep zones.
- Turn off the lights. Check for other small indicator lights or blinking lights. Try to remove them if possible. Remove any sounds from electronics. Make your bedroom a calm, quiet, and dark place of rest.
- Watch your screen time at night. Our eyes and the way they process light, including the light waves from our screens have a big impact on how alert the body is. One of the worst habits is looking at your phone while trying to go to sleep.
- Focus on calming activities. Try reading, talking with your partner softly, or meditating for an hour before going to sleep. Reduce screen time for a few hours before bed. You can also invest in blue light filtered glasses or install an app that changes your display at night.
Meditation, Journaling and Other Ways to Relieve Stress
Once you have any sleep issues under control, it is time to add other actions to relieve stress in your life. The following suggestions may help you. Try one or all of these activities to see what works best for you.
One of the best tools for reducing stress is meditation. You can start with a simple breathing meditation. Find a comfortable, quiet spot. Focus on relaxing and thinking about nothing but your breath.
Why not give some of the free guided meditations a try. There are even some wonderful apps out there that turn your smartphone into your favorite new meditation device. I personally use Balance, which can be found on the App Store for iPhones. I’m sure android has an app also.
Set aside a few minutes each day to meditate and see if it helps relieve stress for you.
A journal is an effective tool to help you worry less and even and relieve stress. The simple act of writing about what’s on your mind can be incredibly freeing.
A journal is also a great tool to help you reflect and figure out what’s triggering or causing those periods of high stress. This is valuable information to have towards reducing or eliminating a trigger for stress.
Have you considered starting a gratitude journal? By taking the time each day to write what you are grateful for, you will see the better in things. This can eliminate some of the stress you are feeling.
Go for A Walk
Another simple, powerful technique is to go for a walk. Go outside and walk! If that’s not an option, hop on a treadmill or pace around your house. It doesn’t take a lot of walking to see the benefits.
Even if you only have ten minutes, walk. If you have an hour lunch break, walk for 20 minutes and spend the rest of the time relaxing and eating. Just get in the habit of walking regularly.
Believe it or not, something as simple as a hug can help you relax and relieve stress. Pick someone to hug and simply hold the embrace for about least twenty seconds. You’ll start to feel calm. Endorphins will flood your system.
There are measurable effects on your heart and on the stress level of your brain activity when you hug someone. Your body will release oxytocin, a feel-good hormone. It’s no wonder your whole outlook starts to change after a good hug.
Clean Up Your Diet
Be sure to look at what you’re putting into your mouth. A clean diet of mostly whole foods that’s low in sugars and preservatives will nourish your body. It will also fight much of the damage stress causes.
It will help you feel calmer and more in control of your thoughts. Start making some small changes in what you eat from here forward. See if you don’t start to feel better soon.
Exercise is one of the best ways to beat stress. It works in a variety of different ways. This includes the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormones.
Moderate exercise is also great for your heart and helps reduce blood pressure. Exercise helps you directly combat some of the worst effects of stress.
It also helps you sleep better at night. Getting a good workout in or doing a few yoga exercises before bed can help you get to sleep sooner and stay asleep longer.
It doesn’t take a lot of exercising to start seeing the benefits. A simple ten-minute walk will help tremendously. Get a pedometer that beeps when you’ve been sitting for too long and strive to walk 4,000 steps per day.
Walking isn’t your only option. Any type of physical activity helps relieve stress. If you enjoy swimming, join a local pool and take a swim before dinner, or first thing in the morning.
You may want to try dancing. You can join a club, take lessons, or just crank up the music and dance around the house. Keep it fun and enjoy the additional mood-lifting benefits of the music. If you’re ready for a more intense workout, sign up for a Zumba class.
Laughter Can Relieve Stress
When all else fails, give laughing a try. It relieves tension and reduces stress. When you laugh, you draw more air into your lungs. This results in more oxygen being delivered to your heart, brain, and other important organs. Laughing often can even improve your immune system.
Put on a funny movie, watch a funny sitcom, call a friend who makes you laugh, or just start laughing and fake it until you start to feel it. Laughter is great medicine and great for both your body and your mind.
Use Breathing Exercises
Breathing is something most people do not think about. After all, it comes naturally. But deep breathing or guided breathing is a great way to relieve stress from your body.
Breathing exercises are usually learned when you start meditating, especially if you use guided meditation. Yoga focuses on breathing also.
Taking a big breath in through your nose and exhaling completely through your mouth will certainly slow your heart rate and allow you to relax. When you learn to control and guide your breathing, you will also relieve any stress in the body.
Get Creative to Relieve Stress
Do you have a particular craft you enjoy doing? Participating in an activity that involves you being creative can be a real stress-buster. Paint a picture, make a clay bowl, do a papercraft.
The idea of using your mind to be creative can help focus your attention on the details of the craft at hand. This will allow your mind to forget about the stress it is currently under.
Use Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations are positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them often and believe in them, you can start to make positive changes.
Saying and repeating these affirmations can help relieve stress by adjusting your mindset to one of positivity. Try using some positive affirmations daily and see if you don’t recognize the difference in your thinking and mindset.
Try Guided Imagery
According to the Cleveland Clinic, guided imagery is a form of focused relaxation that helps create harmony between the mind and body. It is a way of focusing your imagination to create calm, peaceful images in your mind, thereby providing a “mental escape.”
Often times soothing music or nature sounds are played in the background. While these sounds are played you are allowing your mind to go to a peaceful place that makes you feel happy and content.