We all experience stress from time to time. The release of stress hormones (like adrenaline and cortisol) help you cope with immediate challenges. But when your level of stress becomes chronic or goes beyond what your body can handle, it can compromise your physical, emotional, and mental health—which can make it even harder for you to cope with future stress. Did you know you can control how your body reacts to friendly and not-so-friendly stressors? Finding quick and effective “tension tamers” that turn off the alarm response and turn on the relaxation response–helps your body return to normal functioning following a stressful event. Try several of these techniques and find out what works best for you in times of stress. You’ll feel calmer within minutes!
1. Breathe from your belly. Sit in a comfortable position and take a few deep breaths by expanding your belly (rather than lifting your shoulders). Releasing physical tension and increasing oxygen intake calms you quickly—even if stressful events continue.
2. Take a Short Walk. Change your scenery and change your perspective—indoors or outdoors. Walking gets your blood circulating and helps you “blow off ” steam so you can return to a new frame of mind.
3. Spring into Action. Even a short burst of exercise (like running up several flights of stairs, or several sets of push-ups or abdominal crunches) can reduce stress. Exercise helps deliver more oxygen to your brain and distracts you from stress to give you a fresh perspective on things. Even simple stretching can help bring a little relief.
4. Listen to Music. Softer music can help relax tense muscles or get you “in the zone” when practicing other stress reduction activities—yoga, guided imagery, or soaking in the tub. And upbeat music can help lift your mood or keep you energized.
5. Dance or Sing. Start moving to your favorite tunes— or just sing along. Bursting into song or a silly dance move can transport you to a stress-free zone.
6. Take a Mental Break. Steal a few minutes of peace to gaze out your window or visualize yourself in your favorite space, doing your favorite things, or being with your favorite people. It renews the spirit and breaks the stress response quickly.
7. Laugh. Maintaining a sense of humor reminds us that our stressors may not be as menacing as they seem. Purchase or download a laugh track, cartoons, jokes, or your favorite comedy TV show or movies to enjoy when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
8. Write in Your Journal. If you like to write, journaling clarifies your thoughts and feelings for increased self-knowledge. Putting the experience on paper gets if off your mind and helps you refocus—and teaches you how to cope the next time it happens.
9. Take a Power Nap. Mid-day sleep gives you more patience, better reaction time, increased learning, more efficiency, and better health. If you only have 5 minutes to spare, just close your eyes. Even brief rest reduces stress and helps you relax.
Don’t Change Your Life—Change Your Response to Stress
You don’t have to make big changes in your life to reduce your stress—just lessen the impact that stressful occurrences can have on you. These quick and simple tips make it easy for you to change your response to stressors—and live a more positive, fulfilling life!
For more help with living a lower-stress lifestyle, a FirstLine Therapy Coach for a list of eating habits that can help you break the stress cycle. www.fltchicago.com