In a fast-paced world, especially these days with viruses and a crappy economy, stress can be overwhelming. Finding easy ways to reduce stress can help you feel better, be more productive, and feel more peaceful.
According to the American Psychological Association, more than half of America is stressed out all or most of the time. The current state of the world has caused a 25 % increase in stress, depression, and anxiety.
There is no way to completely remove stress from your life, but implementing simple strategies to reduce stress in the moment can make a huge difference.
While excessive stress is unhealthy and can often ruin our motivation, a little bit of stress can be useful, so we don’t want to try to completely avoid all stress. Stress can motivate us to reach our goals and it helps to build up our resilience in the face of adversity.
The important thing is to not let it get out of control so that it is unmanageable. Chronic stress can lead to health problems and make us more susceptible to illness.
Rather than attempting to avoid stress, learn how to manage it using a variety of strategies.
5 Ways to Reduce Stress
Many stress management techniques are not only easy to use, but they are also quick. You don’t need to block out a chunk of time. These are ways to reduce stress in the moment when you feel overwhelmed by stress or anxiety.
I know people tend to make jokes about “take a deep breath” but it’s often the go-to piece of advice because it does in fact work. When you’re stressed or anxious, your body will begin to breathe rapidly and sometimes too shallowly. The lack of air can then trigger feelings of panic.
Teaching yourself to take a few deep breaths in those moments can offer immediate benefits. Once you are able to catch your breath and think clearly, doing a more formal breathing exercise can help reduce the feelings that cause the problem in the first place.
There are a number of different types of breathing exercises, so I suggest you try a few and see which ones feel natural for you.
The simplest and most common breathing technique is to close your eyes and start taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose. Focus on completely filling your lungs.
Hold for a few seconds and then slowly exhale through your mouth. It should take longer for you to exhale than to inhale. It sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to relax.
Repeat this a few times until you feel calmer.
Visualization is a technique where you conjure an image of something peaceful or serene. This does require a little prep work in that you should figure out the place or situation during a time when you aren’t stressed. That way, in the moment, you just have to remember it.
When stress strikes, close your eyes and take a couple of breaths. Visualize your peaceful place. Maybe you imagine sitting on the beach, floating in a pool, or walking through a forest.
Focus on the details. Use your senses to experience this place. What do you hear? What do you smell? What can you see? What can you feel?
Continue deep breathing as you put yourself in that situation in your mind until you are calm.
This technique involves tensing and relaxing your muscles intentionally one (or a group) at a time. Doing this can help you recognize when you are holding tension in your muscles even when you don’t necessarily feel stressed out. Your body might compensate without you realizing it.
Find a comfortable position to sit or lay. Start at your head or your feet and work your way through your body. Tense the muscles in your feet and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Then relax those muscles. Repeat the process for every muscle group: your calves, your thighs, your abdomen, your back, your arms, your hands, your neck, and your face.
By the time you complete the process for your whole body, you should feel more relaxed.
Mindful meditation is a process that makes you focus on the present moment. This technique has been shown to reduce stress hormones in your body and improve your mood.
To begin a meditation exercise, find a comfortable place to sit or lay, preferably in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Think about how it feels to inhale and exhale.
As you breathe, clear your mind. Your brain needs to be focused on nothing but the air moving into and out of your body. If a thought enters your head, acknowledge it and push it aside.
Clearing your mind of all thought is probably the most difficult part of mediation. If you have ADHD, your brain is usually firing in a million different directions, and learning to turn that off can be challenging. If that’s the case, you might want to consider a guided meditation where a person will talk you through the meditation.
Exercise has a multitude of benefits. It not only reduces stress, but it also improves your overall health.
Since I said I was going to offer ways to reduce stress in 5 minutes, telling you to exercise might not seem right. But you don’t need to join a fitness class or complete a whole workout routine.
Spending 5 minutes dancing to a favorite song is exercise. Jumping up and down or stretching in yoga poses can give you a similar effect. Walk up and down the stairs or take a stroll around the block.
Moving your body in this sense is not about the health benefits or losing weight or building muscle. It’s about releasing the tension and stress your body is holding. Exercise, even in small amounts, can release good chemicals and decrease stress hormones.
Stress Management Shouldn’t Stress You Out
While it’s important to get your stress under control, it’s not something that should add more stress to your life. Managing your stress is easiest when you find tools, techniques, and strategies when you’re not stressed.
Learn ways to reduce stress and practice them so they are comfortable for you to implement. That way, when stress does strike, and you’re feeling overwhelmed, you will know what to do to get it under control.
Create a toolbox of techniques that you enjoy and pull them out when necessary. Even just 5 minutes a day of relaxation can make a huge difference in how you feel.