14 Things I've Learned About Stress Reduction
So you're stressed. Now what? Stress effects us all. It's a normal part of life. But there is a time when stress becomes overbearing and there are signs to watch for. I recently wrote on the 5 signs you're out of balance. Today I want to share the 14 things I've learned about stress reduction. As a life coach who specializes in stress reduction and navigating change, I sit with a lot of people in the midst of stress overwhelm. When stress has hit it's tipping point you might feel flustered, confused, anxious, and frustrated. You might find that you're very sensitive or more emotional than normal. You may also experience headaches, body aches, exhaustion, stomach pains, and other uncomfortable things that can happen when your body can't handle the stress any longer. Let me share this - you don't have to stay in this state!
You can have two reactions - one is to bury your head in the sand and keep going. The other is to reach for comfort things like food or alcohol. Neither is bad. We all cope in the best way we know how. But I have some things I've learned about stress reduction that can help prevent stress. Help in your most stressed out moment. Help you feel more proactive than grabbing for potato chips. Which don't get me wrong, sometimes that's what you need!
1 - Has the stress reached a tipping point?
There are many kinds of stress. The kind that lingers because your day is a big stress-ball. The kind that comes in waves with a looming deadline or big event on the horizon. The kind that builds on itself until you'e borderline having an anxiety attack. Can you gauge where your stress is at? Are you stressed because you're being challenged but you know there's an end in sight? Are you stressed because your work is demanding more than you can give and there is no end in sight? You know your own tipping point.
2 - What's the root of the stress?
What's the real cause of your stress? It's easy to blame it on the dishes in the sink or the pile of laundry when really it's something much bigger. Is this a stressor you have some control over or can change? If not, how can you take care of yourself while in that space?
3 - Where is your self-care toolbox?
Everyone needs a self-care toolbox. It can just be a list of all the things that make you feel really good. My list includes exercise, cooking, journaling, taking a walk, seeing a friend for coffee, among other things. Just write down a list. When you need some 'me time' grab your list and decide which self-care tool is easiest to do right now. You can't always see a friend or go for a long hike. But can you take 5 deep breaths? Can you walk around the block?
4 - Reach out to your support
Do you have support in your life who are there for you when you need to vent or let off some steam? Sometimes it's as simple as a text that just says, "ahhhhh!!" and you feel better. Friends love being leaned on for support! If not a friend then a family member, your spouse or partner, your hair stylist, your life coach, maybe even your barista. Stress gets worse when it festers. Let it out.
5 - What are you eating?
Food makes a big difference. If your stress level is more than a 5/10 I suggest adding extra veggies, healthy fats, fresh fruit, and hearty protein to your diet for a few days. In addition, I also suggest cutting back on anything processed, sugar, and alcohol. These things can have a short term happy effect, and a long term not-happy effect. You also need to restore some energy when you're overly stressed. Eating good, whole foods will help with this big time. When I need an energy re-boot I like cooking from this blog. I do not advocate for or against any one type of diet. I just love a food blogger who can make veggies so yummy!
6 - Write it out
This is where your journal comes in very handy. I hear from students and clients all the time how they were extra-super-duper stressed out. Took to their journal. Wrote for just 5 or 10 minutes. And their stress level dropped, quick. All the things that are stressing you out are building in your head. And sound far worse than they may be. By writing it out you take the power it has away and see the stress for what it really is. You will also find solutions you couldn't think of before. If you need some help, I created a journal course, 14 Days of Balance, which will get all that stress out.
7 - Breath!
I know this sounds like a obvious one, but when was the last time you took a deep, intentional breath? Breathing is a wonderful exercise. I like what's called 'Box Breathing.' Make a box with your breath by counting seconds. Count 1...2...3...4... for your in-breath, hold for 1...2.... exhale for 1...2...3...4..., hold for 1...2...do it again.
8 - Take a walk
Taking a walk gets you out of the environment making your stress worse, plus it just feels great. I find if I am stewing over something, within a block the fog lifts, and I can think clearly again.
9 - Most stress is anticipation
I say most because some stress is very active and in the moment. But most stress is the anticipation of something. Being worried or anxious is you anticipating something before it's even happened. It's hard to predict what will happen next. Try doing your box breaths and see if that takes the anxiousness down a notch.
10 - Get sweaty
If a walk just isn't going to cut it, do something that will get you sweaty! Hiking, running, swimming (yes, you can sweat in a pool and it's very weird), strength training, dance, or jump around. It takes no more than 15 minutes of a strength training session for me to feel grounded and ok again. It's good for your body and your mind, which is where stress begins.
11 - Change your state of mind
Laughter helps when you're stressed. So does looking at cute pictures of baby animals. I'm actually very serious. Just try watching a quick clip of your favorite comedy or looking up puppies and see your state of mind change instantly. When you're stressed out you're not thinking clearly or rationally. Changing your state of mind helps you get back to a place where you can problem solve.
12 - Meditate
Meditation is a stress-prevention tool. One that everyone can do! If you're not sure how or where to begin there are lots of meditation apps today. I like Headspace and Breath for iPhone.
13 - Self-indulge
These can be things on your self-care list. Self-indulge a little! Go to the spa or get a massage. Get a pedicure. Do something restorative you don't normally do.
14 - Take a life balance inventory
This is a great tool if you really don't know where all the stress is coming from. I created one here that's easy to use. Download the .pdf and do the exercise. Find out where you are spending an abundance of energy and where you need to add some life back in. The perspective alone can help with stress reduction.
What tips do you have for stress reduction? Leave me a comment below and share!