Top 5 Ways to Reduce Stress Today

Reduce stress today with 5 great tips for managing your workload and life so that you can feel great.

Stress is a normal physical response to things that leave you feeling upset, off kilter or threatened in some way. Whether it is real or imagined, when your brain and body feels threatened, your body's defenses kick into high gear activating the “fight or flight” response. Our stress response is our body’s way of protecting us.

Our stress response isn’t an unequivocally bad thing. When triggered properly, stress can help us focus and meet the challenges life throws at us. However, at a certain point, stress is no longer helpful but rather begins having a negative impact on your health, your well being, your ability to be productive, your relationships and your overall quality of life.

Feelings of stress can be uncomfortable and overwhelming but beyond that, there is a solid scientific link between stress and health problems. Many things in our lives can leave us feeling frazzled including work, family, home, finances and more and the effects of stress can be physically, emotionally and psychologically hazardous to your health. While we cannot eliminate most of the things that can cause us stress, we can do some things to minimize stress and deal with it when it becomes overwhelming.

1. Unplug

This is a tough one because most of us have become almost dependent upon being constantly connected. We have grown accustomed to our devices and the ability to check-in with friends and family in real time. Employers have themselves become used to getting quick replies even well after business hours. In today’s world, many of us feel like we need to be instantly available.

Setting appropriate expectations and boundaries with your employer, friends, and even family is an important part of carving out some “unplugged” time. So power down the laptop and put away your phone. Make a commitment, even if it is just for the evening, to check your messages, emails and get up to speed on all those Facebook statuses tomorrow.

2. Learn to Say No

To be clear, no one is asking you to adopt the “no” phase of toddler development and say no to everything people ask you to do. If you did that, you might lose your job and your personal relationships could become very difficult. The goal here is to give yourself a moment, a little breathing space when someone asks you to do something or to commit to something that is going to take some of your time.

It can be challenging not to immediately say yes to helping a friend move or volunteering at your child’s school or take on an extra project at work, however, when you say yes to everything, you risk getting overwhelmed and often resentful which at the end of the day, doesn’t benefit anyone. When someone asks you to do something that involves more than a quick favor, take a deep breath and say, “Let me think about that, I’ll let you know by XYZ.” Then give yourself some time to look over your calendar, tally your existing commitments and see if it will work or will put undue stress on your already toppling to do list. If you decide it’s a no go, don’t make up excuses just tell the person in a kind and straight forward way that while you would like to be of help, you are not going to be able to this time.

3. Get Your Zzzzzs

Ahhh, if it were only that easy right? Way too many of us get too little sleep and use Starbucks and Redbull to compensate for real, quality rest. The reality is that getting inadequate sleep can have some profoundly negative effects on your health, well being and stress level. Lack of sleep can elevate stress hormones, which in turn can contribute to weight gain, which in turn may cause you more stress. Not enough sleep can also leave you vulnerable to more infections and viruses as your immune system may not be operating at full steam. Eight hours is ideal but even a twenty minute, mid day power nap can recharge your batteries enough to compensate for an occasional late night.

4. Make a List, Form a Plan

A great deal of stress can come from feeling overwhelmed and not being able to put your finger on exactly what is stressing you out. Or perhaps, you know what it is but you don’t have a plan to deal with it and thus it keeps rearing its ugly head getting you worked up again. So if stress is threatening to get the better of you, make a list. Write down all of the things you have going on right now and read through it. Pay attention to when your physical anxiety gets triggered. Whatever it is that seems to be weighing on you the most, try to tackle it so that you can move forward.

That brings us to forming a plan. Many stressful things like a big work project or financial difficulties are stressful because they are going to require a lot from us and we just don’t know where to begin. Ever heard the saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Try and make a plan that separates all of the different things you have to do and tackle one thing at a time. And face any big problems you may have head on.

When it comes to looming responsibilities like debt for instance, hiding your head under the covers won’t make the real problem or even the accompanying stress go away. Typically the longer you ignore it the worse it gets. So face the problem, remind yourself that as painful as the current situation may be, it won’t be that way forever if you take steps to change it or resolve it.

5. Reconnect Physically

Not ready to sign up for the 5k or triathlon, no worries, reconnecting physically isn’t necessarily about working out, it’s about connecting to your body. The gym can be part of the equation but so can a dance class, yoga, meditation or even a massage. Most of us store stress in our bodies that can be released with some attention to it. Try a mindfulness exercise to identify physical feelings of stress. Feeling anxious? Hit the gym and run it out or take a dance class and have some fun. Sometimes tiring ourselves out physically or trying new physical challenges can quiet our anxious minds.

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