7 Ways to Decrease Stress
These strategies kick stress out of your life... without stressing you out!
I'm not a doctor, but whilst reading this I hope you take comfort in the fact that I have personally done each of the following things found on this list, and they have helped me tremendously!
1. Reduce Stressors
You have to do this part, or everything else will be a waste! That sounds kind of harsh, but I mean it. If you were to ignore this portion, and do everything else on the list to a T for the rest of your life you would still be majorly stressed. Why? Because the stressors are still there! That's like working out everyday, and then eating terrible food everyday. You'll never be able to catch up and actually be healthy.
So. Take some time to sit back and really think about the specific things and or people that give you anxiety. Typically these things are family and friends, and our jobs. We can't usually just up and quit our jobs, and stop talking to our family. The best way I've found to reduce the stress you receive from these things is to create boundaries.
Don't let your family members take advantage of you, or dictate your every move. If your coworkers are driving you crazy, set boundaries with them too. If your workload is getting to be too much, try creating a very detailed schedule to stick to, and a checklist so you don't forget anything. If at all possible, don't bring your work home with you, mentally or physically!
Reducing your stressors will be the most difficult thing you can do, but it's the most worth it in the long run!
Drink more water! I cannot STRESS this point to you enough. Water is the source of all life. We must have it. We literally cannot live without it. This is definitely the first thing I would try to change if I were you. First, just add more water to your daily liquid intake. If you're a caffeine drinker, don't quit cold turkey. Just swap a 20 ounce soda for a bottle of water every so often.
Try not to get caught up in the madness that is fad dieting. You're better than that. Just add a green to your meal every now and then. Swap frying your food for grilling it or even sautéing it. If you typically eat out for lunch every day, try bringing leftovers to work once or twice a week.
I'm begging you not to make huge changes all at once. You will burn yourself out, and be right back at step one, only to find yourself with even more stress and guilt. Change just one or two small things at a time, and stick to them for a few weeks before adding anything new.
These simple changes will give you so much more confidence to deal with your stress.
You don't need a gym membership, just get off the couch! Literally, get off the couch. If you're anything like me, you spend entirely too much time on the couch. Get up and do something... anything! When people hear the word exercise, they assume they should go to the gym, and that's just not the case.
I have to get exercise in steps. Usually I start by kind of pacing around the house slowly (please don't pace a short distance quickly, you might have a panic attack, and that's the last thing we want when we're trying to stress out less). So just meander about your house every so often. Hopefully that will lead you to meander outside. And getting in some of that good old vitamin C might lead you to ride your bike around the neighborhood. If you normally sit at work, try to stand and work a little. If weather permits, go swimming... not with the intention to swim laps, maybe just doggy paddle a bit.
The point is pushing yourself to start out with a "big" task like going to the gym, or doing a workout video will start to stress you out, and you might run out of steam after the first few times. So, start out slow and build up to it. I know scrolling through social media or binge watching a show seem like the best solutions to your problems, but ignoring things only make them more difficult on you when you're forced to deal with them.
So. Go outside, walk around, and get some fresh air. You never know, it may just help you get a better perspective.
I know. I know. Just hear me out.
Therapy has a stigma, yes. Fortunately that stigma is falling away more and more everyday. I went to therapy for nearly eight years, and it worked wonders, if for no other reason than I knew that everything I said was confidential. I could vent to my little heart's content, and didn't have to worry one bit that someone would find out.
A licensed therapist is there lend a listening ear, and offer advice only when it's needed. You don't have to lie down on the couch unless you want to. You aren't forced to do or say anything you don't want to. It's a truly safe space to work out your feelings, and learn how to deal with them without causing you so much undue anxiety. Therapists are also a wonderful alternative to taking medication if you're not interested in taking pills.
The only real con is that it's potentially expensive, but I highly recommend looking into getting a referral from your primary care doctor, and just going to an initial visit before ruling out the idea completely.
5. Sit on the floor and breathe
There's a reason I didn't say meditate. Meditation might be a great way to decrease stress for some people, but all it's ever done for me is stress me out. I remember the last time I tried. I sat down on a yoga mat and got into position. All I could think about was if I was doing it right. Are my hands in the right place? Should my feet be more tucked in? Am I supposed to hum? I felt so inadequate that I was trying to do this in my living room as opposed to a cliff overlooking the ocean.
Now, was I overreacting? Absolutely. But could there be a simple way to achieve the same results? I think so.
It's important for me to sit on the floor anyways when I'm feeling overly anxious because of my seizures. This is mostly to keep me safe in the case that I were to have a seizure. Amazingly though, I've found it to be extremely relaxing. Don't worry about your posture, just sit. There's something special about being closer to the floor that helps the world fade away. Just sit on the floor and focus on your breathing. Simple as that.
*If you feel a panic attack coming on, this is also a great way to help!*
6. Breathing and Relaxation Exercises
There are an obscene amount of these all over the internet, and in books, and magazines, and on television. They're just everywhere. So give them a try! Not all of them of course, but one or two. I was a skeptic too, but my wonderful therapist was right to recommend them.
Simplest exercise ever: Inhale while counting to five in your head and exhale while counting to five in your head. Yes, just breathe. Do this over and over again, and you will start to feel the tension built up in your body begin to fade away. Your shoulders that are super tight from stress will start to fall down. It's amazing! This can be done anytime anywhere, but the best way I've found is sitting quietly in a room with a ticking clock. This will help you keep rhythm, and not get ahead of yourself. This is by far my favorite.
My other go-to is a tensing exercise. When you're stressed out, your body holds tension in places that you don't even realize. The pressure becomes second nature. To combat this, tense up or clench different random areas of your body one at a time. Hold the tension for five Mississippi's, and let it go slowly as you count down to five Mississippi's. Clench your fists, lift your feet six inches while in a seated position, smile a really big, and super weird feeling, smile, close your eyes really tight, hold your shoulders up as high as you can, etc... there are a ton of things you can do. You'll look unbelievably silly, but it's totally worth it.
These exercises are geared towards making you aware of the tension that your body holds from stress, so you are better prepared to get rid of it.
7. Forgive yourself.
No one is perfect. NO ONE. Seriously, no one. I used to love to sit around and make myself feel bad. I didn't really do it on purpose, but I kind of did. "I really should've done the dishes today. It's not like I was that busy... it's the least I could do." "I said I would go to the gym today, but I went out to eat instead." You get the gist.
It's easy to spiral into a self-loathing pity party. Just forgive yourself. Realize that everyone does it, and everyone stresses about it. If you take that realization and combine it with forgiveness for yourself, I have faith that you can live a much less stressful life, and you will be able to better handle stressors when they come your way.
Live long and prosper... and don't stress.