It seems everyone is juggling a lot these days: family, career, friends, hobbies, you name it. It may seem like the more things we have in our lives, the more opportunities for stress arise. But when too much stress begins to build up, it can really take a toll on your health and sense of wellbeing. For this reason, learning to manage your stress may be one of the best things you can do for yourself. Read on for effective stress management tips you can start today.
What Is Stress?
Stress is a feeling of physical or emotional tension. External events, like confrontation from a friend, and internal events, like a feeling of inadequacy, may cause stress. Stress can make you feel frustrated, angry, and nervous. There are two main types of stress:
- Acute stress: This is short-term, intense stress. Acute stress is typically tied to a specific incident, like swerving to avoid having a car accident. Acute stress is your body’s way of helping you manage dangerous situations. All people experience this type of stress from time to time.
- Ongoing stress: This type of stress can last for weeks or months. It is typically associated with larger, ongoing issues, like an unhappy relationship or money worries. If you don’t learn how to manage stress, it may cause health issues.1
What Happens In Your Body When You Are Stressed
Your body reacts to stress by releasing stress hormones, like cortisol, catecholamines, and vasopressin.2 These hormones cause physiological changes in your body: your breath quickens, your muscles tense, your heart pounds, and you may start to sweat.3
This “fight-or-flight” stress response evolved to help humans survive. In the short term, it may do just that. But if you experience long-term stress, your body can stay alert – even though there is no immediate danger. Over time, this may lead to:
- Low mood
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight gain
- Blood pressure issues4
Potential Causes Of Stress
Different things can cause different levels of stress for people. For example, one person may love nothing more than organizing a trip for 20 friends. For another type of person, that may be the ultimate recipe for stress. Here are common causes of stress:
- Finances: worrying about money and feeling guilty spending money
- Work: feeling undervalued or unbalanced at work
- Personal relationships: lack of communication, intimacy issues, feeling like you are too busy for relationships
- Parenting: working long hours, difficult decision-making, finding time for yourself
- Daily life: difficulty taking time for yourself, saying “no,” and tending to your own needs5
Potential Signs Of Stress
If you are often stressed, you may become so used to it that you don’t even realize it’s a problem. When learning how to help manage stress, it helps to first recognize the potential physical symptoms. These may include:
- Aches in your body
- Chest discomfort
- The feeling that your heart is racing
- Exhaustion or lack of sleep
- Headaches, dizziness, or shaking
- Clenching your jaw
- Tense muscles
- Stomach or digestive issues6
If you find yourself dealing with any of these stress symptoms, it may help to learn some effective stress management tips before they develop into lingering issues.
Stress Management Tips
We all experience some form of stress. And we can all benefit by learning how to manage stress.
You probably know that regular exercise can do wonders for your physical health. Physical activity can be a boon for your mindset, too. When you start to feel stressed, it may help to do some form of physical exercise. Studies show that exercise may help to decrease negative emotions associated with stress.7
Try this: the next time your heart starts racing, go outside for a quick walk, and get your body moving.
Adjust Your Diet
When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones that may make you crave foods high in fat and sugar.8 These poor choices may comfort you in the short term (ahem, it’s called “comfort food” for a reason), but a poor diet will do more damage than good.
Unhealthy foods may spike your blood sugar and then cause it to crash, which may actually lead to more stress. For effective stress management, eat a healthy diet full of lectin-free veggies, dark leafy greens, lectin-free nuts, avocados, and pasture-raised, grass-fed protein. Equally important, you’ll want to ditch the sugar, and other harmful ingredients, and watch your alcohol intake.9
Try this: take a trip to the farmer’s market and make yourself a big, fresh salad full of leafy greens, antioxidant-rich berries, avocados, and wild-caught salmon.
Examine Your Relationship To Alcohol
When you’re feeling stressed, you may be tempted to reach for alcohol as a way to cope. Unfortunately, this coping mechanism might actually add unnecessary stress and negatively impact your sleep. In short, it may end up making you feel worse.10
Try this: instead of pouring yourself a glass of wine to de-stress, make yourself a warm cup of chamomile or mint tea. Both types of tea can have stress-relieving properties.11
Try A Natural, Herbal Remedy
Stress can take a toll on your body. One effective strategy is to try a natural product, such as Herbal Mood Support. This particular blend of herbs contains high-quality antioxidants, adaptogens, and amino acids. This may support:
- An increased feeling of relaxation
- A calm, balanced mood
- Reduced fatigue
Just make sure to get your doctor’s approval before beginning any new supplement regimen.
If you’re feeling particularly stressed out, a short meditation session may help bring quick stress relief.
When you meditate, you focus your attention on your breath and temporarily banish thoughts that may be causing stress. A mindfulness practice like meditation may help support physical and emotional well-being.13
Try this: Set a timer for 10 minutes. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and temporarily release all thoughts from your mind. Focus on deep breathing. If stressful thoughts creep into your mind, gently focus them back on your breathing.14
Practice Deep Breathing Exercises
Relaxation techniques, like deep breathing exercises, may help ease stress. When you try breathing exercises like belly breathing and diaphragmatic breathing, you may actually lower cortisol levels and reduce your heart rate. These are physical signals of a relaxation response.15
Try this: Sit in a comfortable position. Place one hand on your upper belly and one hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose and feel as your belly expands with the in-breath.
Exhale through pursed lips and feel as the air leaves your belly. Repeat this slowly up to 10 more times.16
Stressful situations can take you to a “fight or flight” mental state categorized by a quickening heart rate, dilated pupils, and the feeling of being on edge. When stressful times feel overwhelming, one effective stress management technique is to s-l-o-w down. Take a beat, and check-in with yourself before you react. Slowing down may help you relax when you need it most.17
Try this: If you find that your emotions are running on overdrive – slow down, literally. Slow down your breath, do your activities at a slower pace, and try to avoid multitasking. This may help give you a feeling of calm and stress relief that you need at the moment.18
Write Down Your Worries
Another way to potentially break the cycle of stress is to take a moment and write down what is bothering you. Writing about thoughts and feelings of stress has been shown to help some people cope with difficult emotions.19
Try this: Take a moment and jot down your thoughts about tough situations in a stress journal. You may find that you can better cope with sources of stress when you can see them in black and white.
While you’re at it, take a minute and write a few things you’re grateful for. Expressing gratitude has also been shown to help promote a sense of well-being.20
Try To Avoid Procrastination
Stress is an inevitable part of the human experience. But forms of avoidable stress, like scrambling to turn something in or rushing through a project need not have a place in your life. Poor time management can lead to stress, negative energy, and psychological distress.21
Try this: Make a to-do list, and be realistic about how much time you need to do things. Playing the “catch-up game” can be a completely avoidable source of stress.
Yoga can be a great escape from stress – whether you do it on your own or with a class. Research shows that yoga may help enhance your mood, promote a sense of relaxation, and ease stress.22
Try this: If you’re having a stressful week, sign up for a yoga class or simply look up a yoga video online. By the time you reach savasana, you may have a renewed sense of relaxation.
Reach Out To Others
When you’re caught up in the bustle of life, it can be easy to hyper-focus on your professional life or school over your personal life. But if you’re feeling stressed, spending some social time with loved ones may help support your quality of life. Here are some ideas for reaching out:
- Ask your coworkers about their lives and things other than work.
- Reach out to friends who have a sense of humor, and try to limit time with negative people.
- Connect with a cause or group that is meaningful to you.
- Try to develop new friendships, especially if you are feeling lonely.
- Help other people to forget about their own stress for a while.23
Get More Sleep
Stress may affect sleep quality. If you’re under extreme stress, it can be hard to doze off at night. However, skipping out on adequate sleep might actually cause more stress to the body. Research shows that most Americans would feel happier and healthier if they got 60 to 90 minutes more sleep a night.24
Try this: Create a calm, predictable sleep routine with time for fun, relaxing activities – like reading a book and taking a bath. Take your sleep seriously, and you may find it easier to unwind.
Make Time For Fun And Relaxation
When you’re feeling stressed, one of the first things you may drop from your schedule is leisure time. But living a balanced life with enough time for leisure activities can be an important stress management strategy. Here are some ideas for fun relaxation practices:
- Spend time with your pet if you have one. Interacting with pets can boost oxytocin, which may help put you in a good mood.25
- Spend some time in nature. Spending as little as 10 minutes in nature may help decrease the effects of physical and mental stress.26
- Listen to your favorite music. It may help relax the body and ease stress.27
Banish Stress For A Happier Life
If you find yourself sweating over the small things in life, it may be time to take control of your stress levels. Everyone experiences stress at one time or another, but continuous stress is best avoided. Here’s the good news: effective stress management techniques are fun, and you can likely find something to do that you already enjoy. Think of that one thing you love to do, and do more of that.