Stress, worry, unbalanced work-life… The number of people suffering from these is higher than ever. Don’t despair, though. In this blog post, I give you 5 Effective Stress-Management Techniques you can use.
“I bet these effective stress-management techniques are extremely difficult to learn,” you may think now. “And I bet they are time-consuming.”
So before listing effective techniques, let me bring up some misconceptions about stress management:
- All stress-management techniques are difficult. Yes, there may be some techniques which require specific training or even equipment. Still, most stress-management techniques are very easy.
- Stress management takes a lot of time to do it properly. No. Mostly, it does not. There are many techniques available which take only 5 minutes of your time.
- You cannot do anything without proper training. Yes, you can. Most techniques are so common that often you wouldn’t even consider some of them as stress-reducing activities. And still, they are very effective in reducing your stress.
What can you do when your mind is full of dark clouds of stress?
As unbelievable as it may sound, breathing helps you calm down and find inner peace.
You may have noticed that when you’re stressed out, your breathing speeds up and your heart starts to beat quicker. This is a normal reaction. Thousands of years ago, this reaction could save your life. How? Your muscles tense, various chemicals are released to your bloodstream, and your breathing and heartbeat increase. These changes allow your body to either fight with animals or run away.
Our situation has changed and in our normal lives, we have no reason to fight or escape. Still, our bodies react the same way.
One way to control the body’s stress-induced reaction is by doing deep breathing. Deep breathing can help you to lower your blood pressure and heart rate quickly.
How do you do deep breathing the right way?
When doing deep breathing, your stomach should move in and out. So when you practice deep breathing, put your hand just above your belly button to check if it pushes out during inhalation.
There are so many different breathing patterns for you to use. Let me introduce one simple pattern, which helps you to relax very quickly.
When you inhale, count to four and then hold the breath while counting to two. When you exhale, count to six and then hold the exhaled breath counting to two (pattern 4 – 2 – 6 – 2). You count longer during exhalation, as it helps you to relax more.
When you do deep breathing, observe how your body reacts. When you notice that your heart rate is down to normal, your palms don’t sweat anymore, your mind doesn’t race anymore, and your muscles are relaxed, you can stop the exercise.
Too simple? Maybe. But I can tell you that breathing works. And you can do it anytime and anywhere.
Go to nature.
Would you believe me if I’d told you that going to nature helps reduce stress? That is the case, as numerous scientific studies have shown. This stress-relieving activity even has a special name. It is called Nature Therapy. In Japan, they have also a narrower therapy called Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing).
How does this Nature Therapy work? It’s easy! You just go where there is nature (forests, flowers, sea, rivers, lakes) and spend some time there. It has been demonstrated that the natural environment has positive effects on stress reduction.
So how much could even a sort of hike reduce your stress level?
If you cannot go hiking, then, fortunately, we have small patches of nature everywhere. Even if you live in a big city, you have parks, flower beds, and often botanical gardens. And in case you cannot go outside, you can always bring nature inside. You could create a spot in your home where you have various plants according to your preference.
What if hugging a tree and talking to your flowers is everything you need to relieve your stress?
Not surprisingly, exercise and movement in general help to increase mood and even reduce anxiety and depression.
What kind of movements are we talking about? Examples include:
- Fitness exercise
To mention a few.
We are different. So one movement may create big changes while another doesn’t. How do you know what kind of movement could help reduce your stress and better your mood?
Ask your body. Yes… Ask your body, and notice how your body responds. Our body knows better than our mind what is useful for it. And if you ask, then your body responds.
How do you understand your body’s messages? The only thing you have to do is to know how your body says “yes” and how it says “no”. Repeat in your mind, “Yes, yes, yes, yes” and sense all the reactions your body gives you — the location of the answer within your body, color, smell, taste and even how it feels against your skin. Now repeat in your mind, “No, no, no, no” and sense all the reactions your body gives you. Often “yes” feels light and “no” feels heavy.
Now when you know how your body responds, you can ask your body if it would like to go walking. Then listen to what your body tells you. If the answer is “no,” you can ask if it would like to go running. If needed, go through the list above. And yes, you can add other types of movement there as well.
Always ask and never jump to conclusions, as your body’s preference may differ from day to day.
One of the best ways to ease stress, anxiety, and tension is to laugh. I guess you have noticed that after laughing, you have a better mood and you are much happier than before.
The secret of laughter is that it releases endorphins, our happiness hormone.
What can you do to laugh more?
- Watch your favorite comedies.
- Watch funny YouTube videos (pets and kids are a definite resource for a good laugh).
- Read funny stories and jokes.
- Be with people who like to laugh and who are joyful (your friends, colleagues, neighbors). Laughing is contagious. But so is frowning. Which one do you choose?
There is one more trick. Your body responds to any kind of smile or laugh, and it doesn’t matter if it is real or fake. If you do the fake smile, this physical expression activates your brain the same way it would for a real smile. And the result is a better mood.
How much more could you laugh and smile during your day?
You may wonder how listing your blessings can decrease your stress. It’s all about how your brain works. You may have heard that if you repeat some activity (many, many, many times), it starts to become automatic. We often tell ourselves how bad everything is, how many problems we have, and all the things we cannot do. With that repetition, we create new automation — looking for problems. And when you find a problem (as we have practiced a lot, we are good at finding all problems), it causes stress.
What if you look for everything good in your life? Things you’re good at, all the nice memories you have, supporting people in your life, and everything that you own as well. This is called gratitude.
Gratitude is an extensively-studied subject, and practicing gratitude not only reduces stress but also increases your well-being, improves mood, and adds coping capacity and satisfaction to life, to mention only a few benefits.
So how can you practice gratitude?
Test what works for you. We are different, and therefore there is no one solution for everybody. Let me bring a few possibilities for you to test:
- Before going to sleep, write down 1-10 things you were grateful for that particular day (experiences, places, people and also things). I suggest being more descriptive, as it forces you to go deeper.
- Pick one area of life and do a thorough list of everything you are grateful for. The next day, pick another area.
- Concentrate on the subject that is causing you stress, and list what are you grateful for related to this subject.
Use a notebook, a calendar, or even a simple note app. Take five to ten minutes every morning or evening to make your list. If your mornings and evenings are too busy, you can do it during a coffee break or when using public transport.
Which one of these five techniques works best for you?
Ask your body! And remember that on different days, the answer might be different.
About our Guest Writer!
Tuuli Paaksi is Personal Development Coach, LCF Life Coach®, Access Bars Facilitator, Certified Hypnotist and a host of stress management and productivity related virtual summits. She is also a mother of two and entrepreneur with 20 years of experience. After her second burnout some years ago she finally got it. She understood why she was always stressed and depressed, why she had her second burnout, and also realized what she should do to change all that. Now Tuuli helps others to beat the stress.
Playing with crystals and crafting jewelry or home decor is one of the best ways she has found to be in flow and to relax her mind. She likes also going to the nature and taking photos.
Website: Become Happy Stay Happy
For more self-care tips check out some of our other Self Care Blogs.