7 Tools to Reduce Stress


7 tools to reduce stress

7 tools to reduce stress

Stress can be a positive motivator in moderation, however, when there is no moderation our health can become compromised. There are a few easy ways to take the stress of a normal day and make it more manageable without spending money or making drastic changes to your daily routine. Even if only two or three fit into your busy lifestyle, the positive impact long term can be a positive proponent for a better future.

1. Metacognition- Think about your thinking
When there is a conflict, look at the situation, but also observe how you think about the conflict. If your observation is that you are hyper-focused on the conflict, it can actually make the stress of the conflict escalate. We have all had days where things continue to go wrong like a painful domino train wreck right before our eyes. If some of those painful issues that arise are not triggered by you, all you can do is try and help and then move forward.

A good habit to practice when you are practicing metacognition and how to manage conflicts is to break it up into two categories: problem you have the power to change, and problems you do not have the power to change because of circumstances out of your control. If the circumstance surrounding the stress is not in your control, find a way to let it go. When you release stress tied to a situation you cannot fix, you keep that energy. That energy given to stress is reserved for you to handle the conflicts that you do have the power to change.

2. Learn your triggers
Very often, situations arise that seem to happen again and again. If there is a situation with a child, or relative, or work colleague and you thought you handled it once; why is it a problem again? If you squashed the conflict before, it doesn’t make sense that it is back and this triggers stress because of the conflict’s recurring nature.

Other triggers could originate with emotional injuries from a bad break up, childhood, a loss, or from another sensitive topic. When something we can directly connect to comes up as a conflict, this adds more stress compared to if you had no background. Being able to recognize these circumstances will reduce stress because you have seen it before, you have handled it before, and you can handle it again. There is a peaceful power familiarity holds even during a situation of duress.


3. Release and let go Once the stress has happened, release it and let go. Do not focus more energy to relive it in your mind, thinking of what you could have said, or done, or will do if it happens again. That keeps the stress present and continues to drain your energy. Mental energy drained to relive events translates into less energy to physically carry out daily tasks. Have you noticed that during stressful moments, after reviewing the conflict in your mind, you feel tired and ready for a nap or mental break? For some people, reliving these events thinking about hypothetical realities can lead to emotional breakdowns and cyclical negative thinking, especially if the outcome was not as positive as you wanted.

The situation could be that you are an avid online shopper trying to plan ahead for the upcoming holidays. You are waiting for a few packages, and every day you check the mailbox, or the front porch in search of the packages. Your apps said they were delivered, you haven’t seen them yet and now you feel immense stress. The packages are important and it was hard-earned money, so of course it is okay to be stressed, right? When the reality could be, it was returned to the post office, because the carrier did not want to leave it on your doorstep unattended and you missed the orange slip in your regular mail.

Taking time to address the situation first, before strong emotional reactions can save extensive amounts of energy because it prevents stress from stacking on your shoulders. Waiting to learn more about a situation does not negate the importance of your concern. Waiting to glean additional insights does not mean you are experiencing conflict avoidance. You are following a process that is self-aware to protect your health long term. This will reduce stress. Once you adapt ways to remain self-aware in various situations, the faster your stress levels will decrease. There is no one size fits all way to become self-aware.

An approach to release and let it go might include asking yourself what has happened that upsets me the most? It might also involve considering what steps led to this conflict? as well as what resources do I have to help fix this issue? Starting with this reflection can help sort through the mess conflicts are known to create.

4. Support systems
In our day to day life, many of us interact with one or more people involved in our support system. These individuals can include parents, other relatives, a best friend, coworkers, a family pet, or a neighbor with a listening ear. One way to relieve stress is to talk about it with people who care for us. The only caveat would be to establish if you are looking for advice, or needing to vent and be heard. If you need to vent, and advice is freely given, this make increase stress when the motivation behind the advice is full of love and concern to help. Setting clear boundaries such as this one can help prevent additional stress.

5. Meditation as a habit
It may come as no surprise that meditation is becoming an increasingly popular tool to implement mindfulness and positive mentalities. This is due in large part because it causes us to become aware of even the smallest things which surround us. If you have never meditated, there are a smorgasbord of ways to get in touch with your inner peace. There are guided meditations, independent meditations with only music, and the timing can be for as little as 3 minute intervals once a day. The structure of meditation is tailored to your lifestyle and the moments in between life where you can sit and be still.

One easy way to try meditation is via the app store on your smartphone. There are tons of free meditation apps. One helpful app I have used is Headspace. It offers 3, 5, or 10 minute sessions and gives a video and a daily reminder and quote slowly explaining the level of importance and long term positive benefits consistent meditation offers. There are other apps that offer this level of support to newbies as well. The key reminder about meditation is that our brains need to be a part of a routine practice exercise with meditation just as our muscles need a routine for exercise. You can only be stronger if you routinely exercise. You can only reduce stress consistently if you meditate consistently-- if this is the primary tool you implement to diffuse stress.

6. Mindfulness
This has also been referred to as being full present in the moment. Meditation is a tool to encourage mindfulness of our surroundings and as we experience life. Have you ever driven home and are not sure how you got there? Driving is done by route memory automatically when we travel to and from home, for example. To go home, your brain remembers and automatically kicks into gear to get you there.

Driving is only one example that we automate so that our minds can be busy sorting out other details like what to cook for dinner or a plot development in the newest Netflix show. When life becomes too automated, it can feel like the day disappears before we know it and this can trigger stress. When you take the time to be full present in each moment as much as possible, time slows down and we decrease stress. To be fully present, it requires us to focus on one thing at a time and slow down. When eating dinner, be unplugged to enjoy the meal and spend time with family or fur babies, not the television or social media. Basking in these little moments keeps life in perspective which is preventative for stress. If life feels like it is speeding by, consider this an indication that mindfulness can be better incorporated into our routine.

7. Find a healthy outlet
Outlets include hobbies, exercise, journaling, laughing baby videos, baby goats on YouTube, or James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke videos. A misconception is that outlets for stress are limited to physical exertion. Laughing is an outlet that also decreases stress. During my undergraduate studies, if my mind was constantly streaming the endless to do list which inevitably waited for me each morning, puppy videos on YouTube were my only reprieve. Without entertaining YouTube videos, I would not have gotten nearly enough restful sleep.

Other modalities of stress relief can be found in hobbies like art or other forms of expression. Outlets are just ways to let out stress. When the pressure from stress pushes someone to a boiling point, the steam must be released. Otherwise, pressurized steam can wreak havoc on our health. Consider what brings you joy and embrace it, especially when you are experiencing high stress. This will cultivate balance so that the sensation of feeling overwhelmed can be kept at bay.

If you can choose two or three of the tools listed above to decrease stress it can easily improve your quality of life. Even if our experiences have temporary stress which has ended, sometimes that residual tension can still cause damage. When balance can be established and built into a routine, challenging situations become easier to manage. Changing behavior patterns to create balance takes time and commitment. It is not an overnight fix, but it is within arm’s reach if you only reach out and catch it.

● Stress Symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-sympto ms/art-20050987 ● The Effects of Stress on Your Body. https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body#1 . ● Stress effects on the body. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body.aspx ● Six relaxation techniques to reduce stress. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/six-relaxation-techniques-to-reduce-stre ss ● Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29723001
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