Most people in the western world are looking for ways to reduce stress. It’s something we all experience, and often feels unescapable. It often leads to divorce, disease, and even death.
Stress is Unavoidable and Natural
From the beginning of human presence on Earth, we’ve been experiencing stress. Our ancestors had to deal with predators, drought, extreme cold and starvation. These are all incredibly stressful situations. But, the difference between that stress and today’s stress is that those were temporary.
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Today’s stress is constant. Between caring for loved-ones, meeting career demands, keeping a house and the never-ending list of errands, it’s no wonder we’re always stressed. Throw in there’s a sudden trauma like an illness, accident or loss of a job, and we’re really in trouble. We find ourselves in overwhelm, with no strength or energy reserves to pull from.
10 Ways to Reduce Stress
- Be aware of warning signs.
Pay attention to your body’s signals that you are getting stressed, so that you can take action before things get worse. Potential symptoms are headache, dizziness, racing heart, difficulty concentrating, repetitive thoughts, flushing or sweating, and cravings.
- Set priorities.
Take some time to identify what is most important in your life right now, as well as what are the most important tasks to get done in each day. Keeping your focus on the things that are important to you will help keep out the stressful busy-work.
- Schedule wiggle room.
When planning your day or week, give yourself more time than you think you will need for activities and appointments. This way, getting a little behind needn’t be a setback. And if you find yourself with extra time, you can use it to relax with some deep breathing, go for a walk, or another activity you enjoy.
- Schedule time for yourself.
Don’t forget to put time on your calendar for whatever rejuvenates you. Whether it’s time with friends, a workout, spa day, or something else, be sure to get it on your schedule and commit to following through. Consider it an appointment that you can’t miss. And be sure to turn off your devices during that time!
- Come up with ways to say no.
Plan ahead for how you can say no to something you’d rather not add to your to-do list right now. Consider different responses for various situations. For example, you might tell your child’s school, “I’d love to take that on but I just don’t think I can give it the attention it deserves.” Or you can say to your boss, “I’m happy to do that, but have this other project I’m working on. Which would you like done first?”
- Spend time in nature.
Going camping for a weekend or a day at the beach can be a great way to reduce stress overall. But, a day hike or even just 5 minutes on a park bench can help lower blood pressure, quiet thoughts, and have a generally calming effect.
- Get moving.
Moving your body helps process stuck or repetitive thoughts. Make it a point to get up every 30 minutes or so and move around. Do a quick chore, get a glass of water, do a couple push-ups, anything that feels good. Consider setting a timer or wearing a step counter for motivation.
- Laugh and play.
Go to the park with some children. Watch something funny. Joke with friends. Play a board game or cards. Doodle, color, do a puzzle, or knit. Join a recreational sports league. As long as it’s not competitive, any of these will lighten the mood and give you a break from your stressors.
- Help someone else.
Lending a hand to a friend or neighbor in need or volunteering for a favorite organization not only gets the attention off issues plaguing you, but it also raises self-esteem and gives a new perspective on our current situations.
Take some time to organize your environment and get rid of old items that no longer serve you. The very process of sorting and organizing can be calming, and when you’re done you will likely find your home or workplace more comfortable to be in. Bonus points if you donate old items to a person or charity that can really use it.
Choosing a few of these lifestyle changes will not only help you reduce stress, but will add to your overall health and well-being. We all live busy lives, often feeling like there just isn’t enough time in the day. But, by taking gradual steps, we can learn to slow down, stop time, and enjoy life.
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