Best Ways To Relieve Stress Quickly
Real talk: Stress is inevitable. But it’s especially poignant during uncertain times like these. With your normal routine interrupted due to the new coronavirus, you might be in need of some quick stress relief more than usual. Maybe you’re sharing a small space with your not-so-silent toddlers or feeling overwhelmed about your work-from-home situation.
And you probably could have guessed this, but chronic stress isn't kind to your body. It can leave you feeling exhausted, cause breakouts, and even make your hair fall out. Plus, women bear more of day-to-day stress than men, according to Maureen Sayres Van Niel, MD, president of the American Psychiatric Association’s Women's Caucus.
Why? “Because [women] continue to shoulder most of the responsibility for nurturing, whether it be of children or elderly relatives, and they continue to have most of the responsibility for caring for the home as well,” she says. Think about it: When your daily routine is to wake up, get yourself (and possibly several other people) ready, start work, make dinner, clean, and do it all again the next day, you can easily get stressed. (Stressful just reading that, no?)
Stress is a sneaky thing. It can curl up inside you and grow like a Chia Pet until all the sprouts have grown out of control. Sometimes stress can manifest into physical symptoms, like temporary hives, one-day headaches, or long-term weight gain.
One simple way to deal is to let your body and mind reset. Take a nap — yep, even 10 minutes of napping can help. If you were sleepy in the first place, the lack of sleep can make it harder to manage stress.
But when the stress boilover happens during work, at a party, or in public, dropping everything to take a nap is definitely not a good look. And in these situations, stress can also join teams with anxiety, leaving you figuring out how to rein in both emotions.
From minor challenges to major crises, stress is part of life. And while you can't always control your circumstances, you can control how you respond to them.
When stress becomes overwhelming, or it's chronic, it can take a toll on your well-being. That's why it's important to have effective stress relievers that can calm your mind and your body.
And what works for you at home might not be an option when you're at work or in the community (dancing around your living room might be helpful but dancing in the grocery store might not be).
So it's important to have a variety of stress relief tools at your disposal. Then, you'll be able to pick a strategy that works best for your current circumstances.
Hide In Plain Sight
You've probably heard the expression “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Well, if you want to handle stress, you don't have to go the literal route. If you get caught up in your day-to-day frustrations, you can easily feel like you're alone on a desert island.
The reality is, there are tons of other people around you who are dealing with similar problems. Just because you aren't experiencing your circumstances on the same level as another person doesn't mean you shouldn't help him or her. People who feel alone in their frustrations and stress can take comfort in your compassion.
We've all had those days when you can't stop thinking about that deadline, that annual report, or that challenge you're supposed to tackle. When you really, truly have to accomplish something, your energy runs low.
Stress affects everyone differently, and everyone reacts to stress in a different way. If you can't control what happens around you, you can control how you react to it.
When you avoid the stress you don't need, you're trying to hide from it. But try not to hide — sometimes all you need is to cry it out or exercise to feel better. But just because you don't want to feel stress, it doesn't mean you don't have to face it when it hits. So put yourself in situations where you have to.
What Is Stress?
You're probably familiar with the basic causes of stress — the person in the office next to you who's getting frustrated with their colleagues, your kid at school, your parents struggling to make ends meet, whatever — but what's the difference between a minor setback and a major crisis?
A minor setback is basically a hiccup in your day. You feel rushed, have to get to an appointment, and can't think of what to make for dinner. Most people will get through this, but if it's a regular occurrence, it can cause anxiety and chronic stress.
A major crisis is something that threatens your physical health or your emotional well-being. You're at your wits' end, you're scared of the future, or your friends or family think you're a giant screw-up.
What Are The Sources Of Stress?
Stress is a complicated state of mind that changes as your circumstances change. When you go out with friends, eat a delicious meal, or catch a football game, you may suddenly find yourself to be more stressed out than usual. It's normal to feel a spike of stress when you encounter challenging situations like this. It's also normal to feel stress when you're doing something over which you have no control, like waiting for medical test results.
It's also normal to feel this way sometimes, even in mundane situations. Being in the moment is important. When you enter a stressful situation, take time to gather yourself and focus on your breathing.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is a “physiological response to a perceived threat.” The article goes on to say that stress is a physical response “to a cue that triggers the fight-or-flight response, which is a change in blood pressure, blood flow to the muscles, increased breathing, and other autonomic nervous system responses.”
For some people, a mild amount of stress is actually a pleasant physical sensation, but for others, stress is more of a mental or emotional feeling. The question is, how bad is your level of stress? Take a moment to take stock of how stressed out you are.
The Mayo Clinic defines stress as “an emotional response to perceived danger, uncertainty, or vulnerability.”
When people experience stress, their bodies release stress hormones and adrenaline. These hormones are designed to help us respond quickly to dangerous situations.
If you're not in a life-threatening situation, your stress hormones may be released without cause. But, if you're faced with a situation that's threatening your sense of security or safety, your body will react accordingly.
At this point, the physiological impact of stress doesn't really matter — what does matter is how we respond to it.
How Does Stress Affect Our Bodies?
A little stress can make you more alert and more productive. If you've been on a deadline, you probably haven't been able to get a full night of sleep, but now it's almost midnight, you're bone-tired and you still need to make a car payment.
But when you're under pressure, the stress hormones are also pumping through your body — including adrenaline, cortisol, and epinephrine. When stress increases, it can cause people to behave in different ways, like getting jittery, depressed, and angry.
“These hormones travel around in the body and determine your emotions, how you perceive things, and how you respond to stressful situations,” said registered dietitian and TV host Chelsey Amer.
Stress causes different changes in the body. Some of those changes are mild, like cramping in the legs when you're too hungry or gassy when you're full. Others can be more serious, like a heart attack or an irregular heartbeat.
How does stress interact with anxiety and depression? “People usually experience anxiety and depression in conjunction with stress, or related to stress,” Dr. Stanley Coren, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, told Business Insider.
That means that if you have anxiety, stress can make you feel more depressed, even if your anxiety was the trigger that set you off.
Why Is It Important To Manage Stress?
Being under too much stress is dangerous — but staying calm in times of anxiety or crisis doesn't always work, either. For example, imagine this:
You're at work, and you're handling a tricky customer. Suddenly, the customer calls you and threatens you with legal action.
Or perhaps you're in an unrequited relationship, and you feel completely misunderstood. On top of that, your friend says she's falling in love with you.
These are the types of situations that cause stress. When you're stressed, your body reacts by raising cortisol levels, which causes you to clam up, distract yourself, or prepare to fight. In a perfect world, you would respond calmly and tactfully to these situations. But when the circumstances are unexpected, you may panic. That's why you need a calming response plan.
Respect for your body's stress reactions will ensure that you get the most out of your day and life. It also will help you handle whatever challenge or complication happens next — whether that's working through a dead battery in a city taxi or keeping a kennel of high-energy, potentially dangerous pups from going bonkers during a power outage.
That's why I think it's important to manage stress. It's a skill you can use to make the rest of your life better and more pleasant. It helps to relieve stress, improve your mental health, and lower your blood pressure. If you were in a constant state of stress and anxiety, you'd also be less productive and prone to mistakes.
The connection between stress and mental and physical health is the reason that companies like Google, NASA, and even Subway have formal programs for stress management. But in order to gain more insight into how to manage your feelings of stress, you first need to figure out why you're stressing in the first place.
Having no clear understanding of why you're feeling stressed can cause unnecessary tension between you and your employer.
You can't control everything, especially when you're taking care of yourself and your loved ones. But you can change how you react to stressors.
And when it comes to stress, your brain is powerful. It's the reason we go to the gym, practice meditation, or go for a run when we're feeling out of shape.
It's also why some people can flip a switch and become hyper-productive, and others can find themselves lost in a hurricane of negativity and frustration.
Stress can make you physically ill, keep you up at night, and take your whole body down with it. But, according to experts, it also has benefits, like keeping your brain healthy and sharp, preventing illnesses, reducing your risk for heart disease, and reducing stress in your life.
How To Manage Stress
So how can you stay calm when you are dealing with a slew of stressors? Here are tips on how to relax, cool down, and reset when you're too busy to catch your breath.
- Exercise. Research shows that a 30-minute workout can help decrease cortisol levels and your heart rate. Find a time to do an exercise that fits into your schedule, but make sure to check in with your body and schedule sessions based on your body's needs.
- Meditate. Meditating is an ancient stress reliever, and it's one of the best and easiest ways to refresh yourself when you are working hard. Try to do it at least five times a week, to create the mind-body connection.
- Take a break. Take some time off. Do something you enjoy. It doesn't have to be a vacation. Take a walk. Bake cookies. Eat ice cream. Take a nap. Soak in a bubble bath. Catch up on your favourite show.
- Get moving. When was the last time you did some basic yoga or even tried a quick walk around your neighbourhood? It's a great way to let your mind and body rest after you've exercised — or to relieve stress if your desk job doesn't allow for physical movement.
- Breathe. Inhale the air you're breathing. That's right, you can take a shallow breath to slow your heart rate. There are many ways to breathe, but there are three ways — conscious breathing, controlled breathing, and recessed breathing. They all involve regulating your airways and creating pressure in your lungs.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Stress?
As stress takes hold, our body responds with a variety of bodily reactions. There are four major categories of stress, each of which is triggered by different triggers and circumstances.
The simplest and most common triggers of stress are routine, inescapable events that occur on a regular basis: fear of death, work deadlines, and school tests, just to name a few.
When these circumstances come to pass, your body releases hormones and proteins that can interfere with your normal daily processes. Hormones like cortisol, which prevents you from losing your sh*t, actually prevent your body from coping effectively when faced with stress, and this same process causes inflammation and sleep disturbances.
Coping With Stress In The Long Term
Just like most of life's challenges, stress is a part of life, but it doesn't have to define you.
Just because life doesn't always work out exactly as we want it to doesn't mean it's time to worry.
Unfortunately, if you are living with chronic stress, it could mean you're just not addressing the root of your stress problem. Rehearse your personal victory. Identify your biggest stressor. Make a list of the most intense stressors that are currently affecting you. Then, celebrate that you are handling your current stressors.
If you've ever asked someone how they deal with stress, you might have been surprised by their response: “I try not to let it get to me.” These words alone were not what I wanted to hear, as I was looking for concrete tips and tricks for managing my stress. What I heard was, “I put all my effort into avoiding the thing that scares me the most.”
Yet all that avoidance sounds attractive in a black and white fashion. It's comforting, especially when you're an overworked parent juggling time for all the things that stress you out. You can turn away from an unpleasant task and try to forget that it exists altogether. But avoidance rarely leads to the best possible outcome.
Over time, if you avoid your stress triggers, you may forget about what they really are.
Develop A Mindfulness Meditation Technique
Mindfulness meditation is a meditative practice that involves quieting the mind and focusing on the present. The aim of mindfulness meditation is to bring awareness to the body and to the present.
It sounds pretty simple, but if you've ever done a zen or yoga meditation class, you know how difficult it can be to slow down and fully focus on your breath.
When you feel stressed, learn to tune in to your body. When you're feeling low or overwhelmed, try taking a few moments to sit down and examine your body. This means slowly looking at your hands, the tops of your feet, the soles of your feet, your face, and so on. Then try relaxing your body and the way you look at your body. When you're done, take a deep breath and continue breathing calmly.
To help relieve stress, you can make a meditation habit. Meditation is a helpful tool for mindfulness, which is the cultivation of awareness and acceptance. Meditation helps you reset your mind and take time to focus your attention on the present moment.
Practicing mindfulness means feeling the sun on your skin in the morning, feeling the warm breeze against your face as you stand outside, breathing the fresh air, and staring at the beautiful creatures who walk in your backyard.
Meditation also promotes awareness. When you are aware, you feel less stress. Meditation helps you feel grounded so you don't spin out of control. When you feel grounded, you can handle bigger challenges with more calm and composure.
Shift Your Perspective
“People get really caught up in the scale of things,” said therapist Tasha Eurich. Instead of focusing on what's going wrong, pay attention to what's going right in your life.
“It's the human tendency to overthink,” she said. “But when you can break down big issues into little pieces that you can manage, it gives you some level of control. It helps you manage your life.”
Taking one little step, like putting the key in the door, can make a big difference in keeping your stress levels down.
For instance, what if you set an alarm for 30 minutes before an important meeting? You won't feel like you're going to miss the deadline, because you'll get a head start.
The best antidote to stress is to breathe. An ancient practice known as Qi Gong, which combines meditation, breathing, and exercise, may help you calm down.
By slowing your breath and moving into a calm and mindful state, you give your body time to react and respond in a rational, thoughtful way. Research suggests that it takes 2-3 minutes for your nervous system to become fully relaxed.
One study compared a group of students learning the ability to slow down their breathing to another group, who practiced meditation. The group that learned the breathing technique came away calmer, less anxious, and more in control than those who spent more time meditating.
You don't need to create your own checklist, create a hierarchy, or even choose the “best” activity to do to stay healthy. You can make small, even minute changes in your daily routine to make a significant difference. Some activities and steps may be more important than others, but every single step has the potential to improve your health and help you live a better life.
So don't let stress win. By training your mind to notice when your heart starts pounding and your limbs start trembling, you can start to see a pattern of your emotions throughout the day.
I trust you enjoyed this article about the Best Ways To Relieve Stress Quickly. Please stay tuned for more blog posts to come shortly.
Your Opinion Is Important To Me
Thoughts? Ideas? Questions? I would love to hear from you. Please leave me your questions, experience, and remarks about the Best Ways To Relieve Stress Quickly in the comments section below. You can also reach me by email at Jeannette@Close-To-Nature.org.