From minor challenges to major crises, stress is part of our daily life. And a study by the American Stress Association found that we’re 15X more stressed today than in 2001 - so while we can't always control our circumstances, we can figure out ways to control how we respond to and cope with them.
There isn't a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to stress relief, however. What works for one person might not work for another, and what works for you at home might not be an option when you're at work or out in public (dancing around your living room might be helpful but dancing in the grocery store might not be). So it's important to have a few ways that can help releive stress for different moments in our life.
Finding the best stress relief strategies for each of us may take some experimenting and in some cases, a little bit of practice too. Here are a few ways to start testing stress management in your daily life.
1. Be Present
Slow down. Take 5 minutes and focus on only one behavior with awareness. Notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground. Or when eating, enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food. When we spend time in the moment and focus on our senses, it can often help relax our minds, calm our thoughts, and lower our blood pressure.
2. Reach Out
Your social network is one of your best tools for handling stress. Let it out by talking to others - preferably face to face, or at least on a live phone call...text is quite what stress releif calls for unfortunately.
Share what's going on can get a fresh perspective which is always great, but sharing our stories and our emotions while it can often feel hard to start, ends up leaving us feeling way more relieved after the conversation wraps up.
Having supportive people in your life is the key to stress management. If you lack emotional support and friendship, it's important to get it. In many cases that might mean reaching out to your existing network of friends and family, or an organization/club, or even a professional - it’s really just about talking out loud with someone to help release and think through our stress.
Try putting a warm heat wrap around your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes. Dim some lights if ou can and just close your eyes. Then try thinking about relaxing your neck. Then your upper chest. Finally, try to relax your back starting with your top shoulders down to your lower back.
You can also try using a tennis ball to roll out tension in your back or under your feet. Place the ball between your back and the wall. Lean into the ball lightly and hold gentle pressure for up to 15 seconds. Then move the ball to another spot, and apply pressure again. You can even roll around on the ball to slowly move it across your back or shoulders.
4. Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation involves relaxing all the muscles in your body focusing on one group at a time. To practice, you can start with a few deep breaths. Then, practice tightening and relaxing each muscle group, starting with your forehead and moving down to your toes.
Don’t think about relaxing your entire head, instead do it slowly in tiny parts. For example, think about relaxing your eyes. Then think about relaxing your cheeks. Then your jaw. Then your lips. Then the area around your ears. Little bits of relaxation from head to toe - it takes some practice and needs a bit of time, but is super worth a try.
5. Focus on Breathing
Focusing on your breath or changing the way you breathe can make a big difference to your overall stress level. Breathing techniques can calm your body and your brain in just a few minutes.
Take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Breathe in through your nose and watch your belly fill with air. Count slowly from one to three as you inhale. Hold for one second and then slowly breathe out through your nose as you count to three again. As you breathe in through your nose, imagine that you're inhaling peaceful, calm air. Imagine that air spreading throughout your body. As you exhale, imagine that you're breathing out stress and tension.
6. Take a Walk
Taking a walk allows you to enjoy a change of scenery, which can get you into a different frame of mind, and brings the benefits of exercise as well.
So whether you just need to take a stroll around the office to get a break from a frustrating task or you decide to go for a long walk in the park after work, walking is a simple but effective way to rejuvenate your mind and body.