7 Practical Steps to Reduce Stress
Stress is unavoidable in modern life. A certain amount of stress can be beneficial and can even make us perform to our best ability. However, when that stress is relentless and starts to affect our happiness and well-being it is time to act. There are many ways in which our bodies tell us that we are too stressed, from sleeping problems to full blown panic attacks. Luckily, there are 7 easy ways by which we can combat this problem.
1. Breathe deeply
We all breathe – but are we breathing in the best way to feel less stressed? When we breathe we take vital oxygen into our lungs which is then distributed throughout our body by the bloodstream. When we are stressed we tend to take a lot of small, shallow breaths and this can lead to hyperventilation. We may even start to feel dizzy and lightheaded from the lack of oxygen reaching our brains. Believe it or not, many of us need to learn how to breath correctly again!
You can do this by placing your hand on your abdomen and noticing how it moves as you breathe in and out. Focus on your breathing and picture the air full of oxygen as it enters your lungs. Think about allowing that air time to deliver the oxygen to your body before you breath out. Make a conscious effort to take slow, deep, breaths, pause for a short while, then exhale gradually before taking another deep breath. Many people find that just the simple act of thinking carefully about breathing can make them feel less stressed and more in control again.
2. Relax your muscles
When we are stressed there are many physical effects and one of these is tense muscles. Some people clench their jaws whilst others hunch their shoulders or tense their lower back. Think about your body and become aware of any muscles that you are tightening. Work through your entire body slowly clenching each muscle group and then relaxing it. This will ease away any tension in the tight muscles. It has the dual effect of calming your mind. As you are focusing on various parts of your body, your mind stops racing through the hundreds of jobs that you have left to do!
3. Connect with nature
If possible, get yourself to a park or garden where you can feel the tranquility of nature. Feel the earth under your feet and the wind blowing in your hair. If this is not possible, busy yourself with physical jobs around the house. Even if it is just the act of putting the washing in the washing machine – notice the feel of the objects that you are touching. Making a connection with physical objects can help to alleviate stress.
4. Replace your thoughts
This method has been around for a long time but it can take a little bit of practice to perfect it. Negative thoughts are at the root of a lot of stress and so this method starts with you learning to recognize a negative thought. Stressed people have a lot of negative thoughts! For example, you may be stressed about giving a presentation at work. Stop and write this down – acknowledge that this thought is causing you stress. Then replace the thought with another, more positive, thought. The positive thought could be: what is the worse thing that can happen if I mess up the presentation? I will still be safe, my family will still be safe, people may laugh but they will all have messed up a presentation themselves at some point, so they will know how I feel. Acknowledge that you only have limited control over what will happen and learn to accept that what will be will be.
5. Guided imagery
Twice a day, take yourself to a quiet place. Close your eyes and imagine that you are on a beach or in a forest glade. Concentrate on what you might hear, smell and see.
Learn to accept anxiety for the feeling that it is. Acknowledge that you are anxious but that this does not necessarily mean that something terrible is actually going to happen.
The best stress buster around. Get on your bike, get in the pool or go for a brisk walk and let those endorphins do their job – feel your stress levels plummet!