By Victoria Fantom
8 minute read
What is stress?
Stress is a state of being overwhelmed physically, mentally, or psychologically. Stress is a way in which your body is responding to discomfort or perceived threatening situations.
Just like any other significant thing, it is important to bring awareness to stress because it is a reminder for us to pay attention to our mental and physical health.
Stress awareness began in April 1992 and 30 years later we continue to bring awareness to stress management and the dangers of stress, so that we can incorporate healthy ways to cope with it. It is important to note that there is healthy and unhealthy stress. Good stress is the kind that inspires you and enhances motivation. Bad stress is the kind that causes harm to your health. Being able to distinguish the difference is the key to living a happy and healthy life.
What works for some, may not work for others. There is no one size fits all when it comes to stress management tools. For this reason, you can utilize these 30 tips to prevent or reduce stress.
- Physical Exercise
Physical exercise has been proven to have benefits on coping with and managing stress due to its production of feelings of calmness, lowering cortisol levels, and mood improvement, which lowers depression and anxiety.
- Relaxation techniques
- Deep breathing
Relaxation techniques are beneficial tools in managing symptoms of stress because of the simple fact that they relax you.
Yoga allows individuals to practice poses that strengthen flexibility and balance with a focus on meditation and breathing.
Massage therapy activates the body’s system by releasing muscle tension and pain, increasing circulation, and significantly reduces physical and psychological levels of stress. You can even add a massage roller ball to your self care box!
Meditation is the act of focused concentration. Research has proven that the practice of meditation reduces stress levels and improves physical and mental health.
Deep breathing is when oxygen in the blood is increased, which expands the diaphragm and naturally lowers stress levels.
- Maintain a sense of Humor
Maintaining a sense of humor and laughter reduces stress because it produces positive feelings, which lowers stress levels and reduces blood pressure. Individuals who maintain a sense of humor are more likely to be optimistic, which allows for cognitive restructuring and overall better mental and physical health.
- Spend time with family and friends
Studies show that having a support system such as spending quality time with family, friends, and people who lift you up, relieves feelings of stress because it adds meaning to one’s life.
- Develop healthy hobbies such as
- Listening to music
- Take a cooking class
Individuals who develop healthy hobbies experience fewer negative emotions and are less likely to be stressed. Developing healthy hobbies improves your overall health and helps you to manage your stress.
- Take a social media hiatus
Social media can be a great way to socialize, but social media use is linked to depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that frequent use of social media causes stress due to feelings of inadequacy, self-esteem issues, fear of missing out (FOMO), and addiction. Taking a hiatus from social media will allow for more positive feelings, better self-worth, and a better sense of reality.
- Buy a plant
Buying a plant can have strong effects on stress management because plants are soothing. Studies have shown that people who have plants in their home are more likely to have reduced tension and stress in their life.
- Go to sleep earlier than usual
Sleep plays a significant role in mental and physical health. Poor sleep negatively affects mood, memory, cognition, and increases feelings of anxiety and stress. Developing a sleep routine and getting an adequate 7-9 hours of sleep a night calms the body, regulates mood, and produces a stronger ability to process, cope with and manage stress.
- Practice gratitude
Gratitude practice is when you express thankfulness or appreciation. Practicing gratitude reduces cortisol levels by 23% and increases life satisfaction. Daily practice of gratitude increases resilience due to strengthening of neural pathways in the brain. Studies have shown that being grateful can lead to a longer-lived life. Adding a gratitude jar to your self-care box can be a beneficial way to keep track of your daily gratitude.
- Practice forgiveness
Practicing forgiveness reduces stress because it allows for a release of negative emotions such as anger or resentment. It allows you to accept what is and move on from something you were holding onto. Studies have shown that people who practice forgiveness have lower blood pressure, better heart health, stronger relationships, reduced anxiety and depression, and a stronger ability to manage their stress.
- Overcome procrastination
Procrastination causes an increase in stress because individuals are delaying what needs to be done. Stress causes procrastination and vice versa because people tend to put things off when they are stressed, which can lead to more stress, thinking about what is undone – this is called the procrastination accumulation effect.
- Set firm boundaries
Setting boundaries with all individuals in your life is critical. When you set boundaries, you are practicing self-care and self-respect. Setting boundaries strengthens relationships and decreases stress. Having boundaries in place allows for clear communication and awareness of what behaviors we accept from individuals around us and how they treat us, which allows us to manage the stress in our lives.
- Improve time management
Time management decreases stress because it allows for organization, structure and direction. Managing your time can help you identify what you prioritize, and increases more productivity, which ultimately reduces feelings of stress. Try adding a Datexx Cube Timer to your self-care box to help improve your time management!
- Become aware of your triggers
Being able to identify what your triggers are helps you learn how to manage your emotional reaction to them, which in turn lowers stress levels. A good way to become aware of your triggers is by taking a step back, thinking about what happened in that moment, and the reaction it activated in you.
- Accept what is
Accepting things for what they are plays a significant role in reducing stress levels. When you are accepting what is, you are coming to terms with reality. According to many studies, types of therapy such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are tailored to help individuals manage stress in their life when it cannot be avoided nor changed.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
It is easy to feel like taking drugs or alcohol can relieve stress in the moment, because physiologically they do, but believe it or not, drugs and alcohol make stress levels higher and harder to manage. This is due to alcohol being a depressant, that has a significant effect on the central nervous system, and drugs triggering abuse and dependency, which increases stress levels. Benefits to avoiding drugs and alcohol include better stress management, more mood stability, better focus, better sleep, and better overall wellbeing.
- Set time aside for yourself daily
When you take the time out to care for yourself and your needs, you are creating positive feelings that increase overall life satisfaction and help with stress management. Don’t forget to set time aside for you.
One of the most effective ways in decreasing stress is by talking about your thoughts, concerns or worries. This could mean talking to a friend, family member, mental health professional, etc. Studies show that venting lowers stress levels and alleviates tension because it allows individuals to talk about their feelings and process them.
- Take breaks
It is easy to go throughout your day with a heavy workload without forgetting to give yourself a second to just stop, take a breath and sit with yourself. Taking small breaks throughout the day, even for 5 minutes, has proven to reduce or prevent stress. Remember to take breaks throughout the day to help prevent burnout, increase your productivity and manage the stress in your life.
- Spend time in nature
Being in nature stimulates a physiological response in the body that naturally reduces stress levels. If you’re feeling stressed, studies show that even just 10 minutes in a nature setting will reduce your stress response. Finding a garden, trees, plants, water, or even viewing pictures or scenes of nature will reduce stressful feelings and soothe pain you are feeling.
- Take a vacation
Just as it is important to take breaks, it is important to take vacations. A vacation can mean booking a trip, or it can mean taking time off of things such as work or school. A major benefit of taking a vacation is managing stress levels, decreased risk of burnout, and promoting better mental and physical health and well-being.
The positive effect that problem-solving has on reducing stress is significant. Having the ability to work through understanding a problem allows you to identify triggers and stressors, in an effort to find a solution, which makes managing stress a lot easier.
- Chew gum
Chewing gum can be stress-relieving because it reduces muscle tension, improves short-term memory, and relieves anxiety. This is why individuals who play sports, attempt to quit smoking, or study for a test, chew gum.
- Count backwards
Counting backwards helps calm people down by keeping them present and mindful. Whether it is quietly in your mind, or saying it out loud, counting backwards is a helpful tool in managing your stress.
- Have a good cry
Crying releases endorphins, such as oxytocin, because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system and alleviates stress. Crying causes feelings of relaxation and is said to remove toxins from the body because of the amount of stress it relieves. Everybody needs a good cry to help them bounce back and restore.
- Reappraise negative thoughts
For many years, studies have proven how reappraising negative thoughts reduces stress because it allows us to reinterpret, or replace negative, irrational thoughts with positive ones, which increases feelings of happiness and resilience. Reappraisals can help you challenge negative thoughts and change thought patterns which help you better manage your stress.
- Schedule worry time
Worry is a normal part of life. However, when worry becomes a chore in your daily life, this can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health and cause high stress levels. Try scheduling ‘worry time’ once a day, where you set about 30 minutes for yourself a day to think and worry about whatever you want, and then once those 30 minutes are up, resume your day without worry. This will allow you to be able to tell yourself that when negative or worrisome thoughts appear throughout the day, that you have already worried for the day.
- Boost vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a significant role in immune system function. Therefore, it is crucial for mental and physical health. Low vitamin D levels are linked to anxiety, depression, and high stress levels. Increasing your vitamin D absorption will have a positive effect on mood regulation and stress management.
- Avoid multitasking
Many people associate multitasking with being a good thing, but studies show that multitasking actually hurts your attention span and increases your stress levels. When taking on too many tasks at once, the brain is trying to process this by increasing cortisol and adrenaline levels and it winds up taking the brain longer to process and do the tasks, which also leads to increased stress levels. Avoiding multitasking will help you manage your stress levels.
- Take action
Take action in your life! Saying you will do something and actually doing something makes a huge difference. Take the time to do the things you don’t feel like doing, when you don’t feel like doing them. Afterwards, you will feel much better that you took action. Getting into the habit of this allows for decreased levels of stress and changing behaviors.
Victoria Fantom, MS in Clinical Psychology
Victoria Fantom is a mental health advocate and recently obtained a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology degree. Due to her own personal struggles, she has always been passionate about bringing change to a world where stigma is surrounding mental health. She is passionate about helping others who are struggling with their mental health by promoting psychoeducation and resources.