Ten Simple and Effective Ways to Manage Stress

There are many activities and practices available to help us to feel less stressed. In this article I will share with you ten simple and effective ways to manage stress.

Many studies point to the benefits of making better lifestyle choices and intentional daily practices, so we feel better. Stress is complicated but managing it need not be another ordeal to tackle.  

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Often, it’s just about, metacognition, or thinking about what you’re thinking. Simply put, it’s about paying attention to what is troubling us, how we perceive it and making decisions that will improve our stress response.

Here is a list of some common ways we know that can help us dial down some of those stressful sensations and get us on the path of feeling calm, relaxed, and less overwhelmed. 

1. Get that Exercise Going

Topping the list, exercise wins as a means to manage stress. Whether it’s running, walking, weightlifting, or Pilates, physical activities tip the scale for action equaling feeling good.

Movement as a stress reliever tops the list due to its contribution to holistic health. The mind body connection is basically how behaviors change and impact our state and when our state is calm, we have less stress. 

Consistent movement practices deliver an inoculation of sorts to the effects resulting from challenging events. It’s the body’s companion to translate the fight or flight response to rest and digestion-a managed state of calm.

Psychological benefits of even moderate amounts of exercise include improvement in body image, confidence, self-esteem, and mood. Just 10 minutes of low intensity movement boosts the threshold for coping with stress. 

Here’s a few good things to know about the power exercising:

  • If you’re a beginner start slow- walk before you run.
  • Walking in the morning within 2 hours of sunrise is optimal.  Look around and breathe in the fresh air.  Make it a meditation in motion.
  • Research tells us that those who exercise regularly are able to manage stress better.  Think of it as a means to express some of that angst.  Walk it out!!
  • Try a rebounder!! They are energizing and loads of fun.
  • If you are already in an exercise regimen, switch it up and above all enjoy yourself.  Try some Tabata’s, HIIT, weight training, biking, and yoga.  Yoga is a wonderful way to combine your breath practice and your physical fitness needs.
  • Have fun with your routine.  Remember you get to exercise!! 

For those who have made the lifestyle change to commit to regular physical activity, most will admit to enjoying the regimen.  It is not uncommon to be so attached to a workout regimen due to the enormous benefits from the release of endorphins. 

For this reason and the health benefits as well, including exercise at least 5 days a week is an excellent way to combat stress. 

Daily walks first thing in the morning, without your phone, to defrag and refresh can become something you won’t easily give up.  These are the habits that have multiple positive effects on stress reduction and maintain a resilient life-style.

2. Reduce Caffeine Intake

Caffeine has mixed research so continuing your caffeine intake is a personal choice.  What we do know is often, caffeine intake can increase or cause irregular heart rate. 

Because caffeine is a stimulant, it is also a difficult drug to kick. Alternatives to high caffeine beverages include green tea which still delivers that jolt but with less caffeine.

For some, caffeine does little to agitate or create jitters. When your morning coffee does affect you, it may be a clue that caffeine and you, may need to part ways.

  • If you have the caffeine jitters, chances are your anxiety level has increased as well.  It’s a good idea to lessen your intake. Try reducing and if that doesn’t help then eliminate that cup.
  • Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages after 2 pm.
  • Think about caffeine alternatives like green tea which has less than coffee but still gives you a bit of a start for your day.

c. The jury is still out when it comes to whether caffeine is so terrible for you to need to eliminate it entirely.  Here are a few things that caffeine does do.  Studies tell us that those that do indulge in the joe have less likelihood of getting type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and having heart failure. Also, some studies tell us that women who drink coffee are less likely to die of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease as well as diabetes. 

3. Gratitude is so Good for You.

Gratitude helps relieve stress and anxiety by focusing your thoughts on what’s positive in your life.

Studies on the effects of gratitude practice shows that those who partake experience increased self-esteem, better physical health, improved empathy and awareness of others feelings, improved sleep, and helps lower feelings of aggression. 

  • Keeping a gratitude journal where you note what you are grateful for daily.
  • Before bed think on 3-5 things that you are grateful for and have gone well for you. Meditate, focus your awareness on these 3- 5 things. 
  • The most powerful use of a gratitude practice is to take about 2 -3 minutes of recalling people or events that you are grateful for and feel it in your body.  Linger here and enjoy.  Research tells us that when we are grateful it triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine. These neurochemicals when released act as our own innate feel good.

4. Benefits of Journaling

We know that the many benefits of daily journaling can motivate one to get their pens out and write their hearts out.  Journaling can help to solve problems, clarify thoughts, improves memory, and improves immune functioning. 

” While journaling can be an exceptional stress reliever, making demands about how and when you journal is a trap for perfectionists. Steer clear of this trap by taking a deep dive in without thinking about it. The challenge will be to resist the urge to make it about the process of journaling. Decide to make the process as simple as you want it.”  

Before you get started, pick your journal, choose one that suits you best.  For example, if you want the practice to be marked by specialness, then by all means, go for a journal that speaks to your desire to mark this as a sacred practice. On the contrary if you’re about easy and simple, pick up a marble notebook, add the date and get writing. 

Next, think about when you will be writing regularly. If you set out to do daily at noon, you may want to use linking to help you remember to  journal. So, you might link lunch with when you add an entry.

Another thing to consider is which method of the journaling appeals to you.  You might want to do a line a day journal, brain dump which is just as it sounds, vision journal, a journal with prompts, or a classic journal which is much like a diary. 

You may decide to be flexible and go with the flow of what your needs for that day. What’s important is to commit to the practice, allow for flexibility so you don’t get hung up on everything needing to be just so. Journaling can be extremely rewarding and stress reducing. Here are some benefits you will enjoy from this practice.

  • Journaling allows for mindfulness
  • Journaling allows for emotional release
  • Journaling opens the door to self-reflection
  • Journaling allows for self-acceptance
  • Journaling is an excellent problem-solving tool.

5. Spend time with Friends and Family

Research suggests that humans had likely learned language so there was an easy way to share ideas. We are a species that wants to communicate and congregate.  In fact, seeing the human face triggers oxytocin that serves to protect us much like our immune response against stressors now and later.  

Being social is an integral part of our humanness.  Anyone that has struggled with stress or overwhelm will admit they go for the old hibernating trick where they fall off the face of the earth until they “feel better.”  The problem here is that we need to act before we feel to have some change happen.  Studies have shown that when we are socially connected, we have a natural stress buffer so when things happen, we are better able to handle the blow. 

These are obvious tips that are worth repeating:

  • Go make that call to your friend that you love and have fun with them
  • Make Zoom Dates if seeing them in person is impossible
  • Make the decision to Reach Out
  • Call that Friend Already

6. Learn to Ditch the Habit of Procrastination

Another way to take control of your stress is to stay on top of your priorities and stop procrastinating. Procrastination is a habit to avoid something you have negative perceptions about doing.  The good news is habits can be broken. 

Here are a few tips to get you on the other side of that bad, useless, and annoying habit.

  1. Make a decision and do it!!  Give yourself a reasonable deadline, decide to start and then go for it.  Then decide if it’s doable in your available time.
  2. Major projects that need a lot of time may require you to take it in pieces, divide it to smaller time slots and schedule it in your calendar.
  3. You know what is most important.  Go for that first.  You may decide you want to take the entire day or weekend to tackle this task.  When you do decide, and you’re not in the mood you hear that voice reminding you that you’d rather binge watch Grey’s Anatomy, try this instead.  
  4. You may notice you are annoyed or agitated.  This is normal just continue to. Move towards the task you are avoiding. 
  5. Move your butt into gear toward your goal to quit the habit and begin. If you are game, dance that distraction away and go for it. Moving towards the goal with something fun triggers dopamine.  When you get started, keep telling yourself “this is good, I am on my way to complete this thing I’ve been avoiding.”
  6. Keep telling yourself at marked intervals, “this is good, I am on my way towards getting this thing done!!”  
  7. Remember, you get to decide if your mood dictates your behaviors or You Decide. 

Your body won’t always cooperate by feeling like it. You need to reign that stallion into shape. It’s that simple.

7. Begin Breathing Exercises

The research on breathing techniques is exploding lately as science is learning that what the ancients knew is really true. Breathwork or breathing techniques can alter our stress response dramatically.  

There are many practices, the 4-7-8 one is easy to remember and highly effective.

This is how it works:

  • Be prepared to relax so get comfortable where you can land and enjoy for a while.
  • Begin by inhaling through the nose to the count of 4
  • Holding for 7 seconds
  • Release through the mouth for 8 seconds making a whoosh sound.
  • Repeat at first for 4 cycles gradually increasing to 8 cycles.
  • Notice how you feel before and after
  • Memorize this relaxed feeling so when you are stressed again, you can remember to do this exercise and get back to relaxation with the 4-7-8 practice

RELATED: CLICK HERE to read Three Signs of Stress Overload and The Breathing Practice That Softens Stress Responses

8.  Practice Mindfulness 

Mindfulness is everywhere lately and rightfully so.  What we know from this ancient practice of it’s amazing benefits.  Thankfully modern religious and secular avenues have demystified the gift so everyone who chooses can feel the benefits.  Simply, it is the practice of keeping something in mind.  

  • Mindfulness is not a mysterious state.  It is just about getting into the moment.  It is normal to have thoughts carry on while we attempt to remain in the moment. Try keeping track of your breath for a minute of two. Notice the temperature of the air, the sensations in your nose, and your belly as you inhale and exhale. 
  • Getting distracted is normal. 
  • Be kind to yourself and notice your breath again
  • You get better the more you practice.
  • The more you do it the better your focus mindfulness muscles develop
  • There is no perfect practice.

RELATED: CLICK HERE to read How to Meditate For Beginners: 5 EASY STEPS To Clear Your Mind

9.  Enjoy Your Pet

Pets can help improve your mood, when you play, pet, or sit with your pet, you release the “feel good” brain chemical called oxytocin. We feel purposeful from our relationship and companionship.  They are a great stress reliever so fun to have around.

  • It’s true Pets are our best friends. They don’t make demands and they don’t argue
  • Pets provide companionship and routine. We know they need us and it gives us a daily reminder of how we care for them.
  • Caring and hanging out with our pets, help us to feel good and express out some of that stressful stuff we go through.
  • Pets can do double duty because they make us laugh!!

10.  Laugh Your Way to Health

Research tells us that laughing is like a good medicine. The physical benefits include lowered blood pressure, better heart health, and increased immune response. Laughter increases your mood and endorphins.  When was the last time you had a good belly laugh? Laughter is definitely good medicine and a great way to spend any evening after a difficult day.  

  • It relieves stress by lowering your stress response. 
  • It relaxes your nervous muscles.
  • It can improve your immune system
  • It’s so available, watch a funny movie or a favorite comedian
  • Make the decision to see yourself as funny.  We are funny. 
  • Laughing is more fun than being upset.

10 Ways To Start Managing Stress Effectively

Laughter, exercising, journaling, practicing gratitude, doing breathing techniques, practicing mindfulness, hanging with your pet, and remaining social have been studied to indicate not only are they enjoyable they are also helpful in stress reducers.

Being mindful to notice the effects of caffeine and adjusting accordingly, if necessary, is also helpful. 

Likewise, taking a hard look at your habit of procrastinating may be key to turning the stress engine to where you are guiding its direction.  In that vein, taking a look at whether you want to make stress management a priority or not may deserve a good stare.

Your particular approach to stress management needs to be tailored to your preferences, needs, and desire for change. As in other points of change, the decision process and your dedication to adhere to the process comes down to one simple idea.  Decide to stick with the new behaviors despite your feelings to not do it.  Take charge of your actions rather than having stress take charge of you.

 More to the point, when stress management becomes an integral part of your day, as in eating, drinking and sleeping, its level of importance ranks to gain attention. Stress reduction strategies will fall by the wayside if they fail to make the cut of what must draw our focus. The insidious nature of stress will catch up to you.  A less intentional strategy to handle and buffer stress might lead one to being reactive rather than ready, having buffers and tools to be armed for the challenge.

What areas can you prepare for the inevitable onslaught of stress? 

The ability to create lasting change begins by taking one step at a time.  Ideally, it is best to follow a daily personal plan that leads to a lessened stress response and confidence in your mastery skill.  It feels good to know you are prepared and armed for the challenges ahead.

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 DISCLAIMER: This video does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only. As always, please consult your physician before beginning any new physical exercise, these are suggestions and not a substitute for medical care. 

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