Stress got you in a stranglehold?
It’s probably small comfort that you’re not alone… These days, most people are stressed out. No problem in small doses, right? We can all handle things one at a time with a little relaxation in-between. It’s that constant barrage of annoyances and difficulties, and not enough stress relief, that drags us down.
Stress Reduction Techniques
Here are some proven techniques to relieve excess stress and get you feeling happy and in control again.
1. Start a meditation practice.
Meditation is the #1 best stress reduction technique.
No, you don’t have to sit in Lotus, chant mantras or wear saffron robes. Anyone can meditate with no previous experience, no uncomfortable positions, and in blissful silence. All it takes is a quiet place, some time for yourself and an audio system with headphones.
Meditation has been studied for over 30 years by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University. Dr. Benson has studied the “relaxation response” created by meditation in the brain and the body. Not to get too heavy into the physiological effects of meditation, the short story is:
- Stressed out = “fight or flight”
- Meditating = “rest and digest”
These are opposing functions. You can’t be ready to flee if you’re relaxed and you can’t be digesting when you’re fleeing. One of the points of meditation is to get your body to go into “rest and digest” mode where it releases calming and healing substances. Unreleased stress weakens the body, making it even harder to manage stress. Meditation helps heal the effects of stress.
Meditation is also the perfect time to shut down your mind. If you can shut down the worry, you release stress. If you can shut down the negative mental chatter, you release stress.
Make meditation a part of your daily routine: 15-30 minutes is all it takes. Anyone can carve out that time from the busiest schedule. Start today!
2. Exercise regularly.
Your body is designed to release stress. It doesn’t matter if the stress is physical, emotional, or mental. Exercise releases it. If you can’t find time for a good workout, go for a walk. A 10-20 minute brisk walk twice a will make you feel significantly better.
If you can find a way to move your body that also engages your brain, you won’t be able to focus on stressful topics because you’re focused on your sport. Great ones are racquetball, tennis, salsa dancing, mountain biking, and climbing.
3. Do what you LOVE to do.
Find a purpose, find a passion, and DIVE IN. You spend a lot of your time doing things for other people so do something that lights the fire inside you.
4. Find balance between work and play.
Play is not just for kids! Whatever play means to you (going outside and playing sports, dancing, playing board games or video games, painting or any other creative outlet), go play. You work enough. Balance your work with a healthy dose of play. You aren’t in this world to work all the time, you’re here to express yourself and have fun.
5. Smile and laugh.
It can be tempting and even addictive to want to stay depressed or angry when you’re stressed, but you’re not going to release stress by holding on to it for dear life. Let it go by smiling.
Did you know that it’s physiologically impossible to feel bad when you’re smiling?
It’s true! Try it right now, if you’re feeling bad. Look in the mirror and put on the biggest, goofiest smile you have. Hold it. Keep smiling and looking at yourself until you laugh. Guaranteed, you will laugh. Seriously, there is truth to the old saying that laughter is the best medicine!
Smile when you’re stressed. Smile when you’re worried. Smile when you’re afraid and when you feel your worst.
And no, you don’t have to go around with a goofy smile all day long if you’re afraid people will think you’ve gone insane. You can smile in private (but why hide a smile from the world?).
If you can stop negative emotions and thoughts in their tracks with a smile, why not? It’s free, it works your facial muscles in a good way, and it is guaranteed to lift your mood. You’ll be blown away by the power of your smile. A small action by a bunch of facial muscles has the power to completely alter your mood.
6. Improve your nutrition.
Yes, nutrition. If you’re stressed, your adrenal glands are working 24/7. After a while, these mighty little powerhouses will become overwhelmed and they will not be able to function.
This can lead to a serious condition called adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue (in some cases, failure) causes serious hormonal imbalances, severe physical exhaustion, mental fogginess and more rapid aging. So take care of those adrenals! Minimize or eliminate the use of stimulants. Yes, that means coffee… but also all caffeinated soft drinks and sugar! Also avoid processed food and minimize alcohol consumption.
Your adrenals need fresh vegetables and fruit, healthy protein, and plenty of water. They don’t need to be stressed out even more with chemicals, stimulants, and depressants. If you support your body with good nutrition, it will be strong enough to handle constant stress.
7. Change your attitude.
It’s easy to get annoyed by the little things. But why let the little things bother you?
Why give the person who cuts you off in traffic the power to ruin your mood?
Why give the weather the power to stress you out?
Why give anything the power to make you feel bad?
Take back your power! Let the little things go. They just don’t matter. You get to choose your response to any situation. Focus on what is important and meaningful to you. The less mental energy you spend on things that don’t make a difference in your life, the less stressed out you will be. Guaranteed!
Stress reduction means finding balance in your life, letting go of the little annoyances, and taking care of your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual needs.
Which of these techniques are you going to use to reduce stress in your life? Share in the comments below!
If you want to become more compassionate and productive, Emily Fletcher's Masterclass on Meditation for Super Performance is absolutely FREE and plays on Mindvalley Academy.