It’s all very well saying don’t sweat the small stuff. Putting it into action and finding ways to reduce stress is another matter.
Stress is part of everyone’s life. It’s a reaction that keeps you alert, alive and avoiding danger. Our bodies are designed for stress, the fight or flight mechanism. It’s when stress becomes continuous, without relief, that it impacts on our health.
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Here are 16 simple ways to reduce stress and anxiety for healthy living.
I’m sure it’s no surprise to regular readers that exercise is my number one tip. Going for a run or walk won’t cure all ailments but it’s a big help with stress.
Most of our physical responses to stress are based on how we deal with physical danger. It’s a hangover from our caveman days. The choice between fight or flight might get you out of a tricky situation with a wild animal. It isn’t very helpful when it’s work overload or worry about events outside our control.
Making time for daily exercise provides a release. Exercise activates the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins and restores balance to the brain. Often called the runner’s high, any bout of exercise can have the same effect.
The motion of exercise, repetition of movement, often has a calming effect. It can be a form of meditation helping to clear the mind of minor worries and irritations. Try it – you’ll find returning from a walk or run leaves you in a much better mood.
2. Relaxation Techniques
When did you last do absolutely nothing? And no, watching Netflix doesn’t count.
We’re a generation that’s constantly bombarded with information. Our brains are fried from spending so much time looking at a screen.
Ways to reduce stress can be as simple as sitting in a quiet place and being still for 5 to 10 minutes. It’s a good way to stop overthinking. Clearing your mind makes decisions easier.
You can take it further by discovering yoga or making time for mindfulness and mediation. If you can’t quite manage to put down your phone there’s always this relaxing music on YouTube.
This brings us nicely to sleep. Not getting enough of it adds to our stress levels making us – yep you’ve got it – prone to lying awake at night desperate to drop off.
Try and build up a good bedtime routine. That’s cutting out the caffeine, avoiding scary late night films, having a regular bedtime… everything that’s going to make it easier to get those 7-8 hours you need every night.
4. Cutting out or back on the bad stuff
I know it’s always the same story – don’t smoke, don’t drink and cut back on the caffeine. It just happens to be true that these things are bad for your stress levels as well as your general health. Cutting them out is doing yourself a favour and good ways to reduce stress.
Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants. That cigarette only seems to be calming you down but in reality it’s perking up your central nervous system.
Alcohol is a depressant, especially in large quantities. The first few drinks of the night may act as a stimulant, but have a heavy session and next morning it won’t just be a hangover leaving you feeling low. The short term release of having a few drinks won’t help you deal with your stress.
5. Eat A Healthy Diet
A diet full of refined sugars can send your energy levels crashing leaving you tired and irritable.
It’s when we’re at this low point minor worries seem so much bigger. Improving your diet has so many benefits and one of these will be helping to reduce stress.
6. Find A Good Listener
Finding someone you can talk to about your problems can make a huge difference to stress levels. Just talking through your concerns can add a sense of perspective.
Talk to friends, family, someone you can trust who’s a good listener. If you’re feeling over-whelmed there’s always someone on the end of the phone at Lifeline (US) 1-800-273-8255 or Samaritans (UK) 116 123. Whatever you’re going through someone’s there to help.
7. Stress Diary
Keeping a stress diary for a few weeks can help you identify the triggers, those moments that add to your sense of over-whelm and stress levels.
When an event happens write down how long it lasted, what led up to it, how you felt and how you dealt with the situation.
Sometimes it’s the same little or big trigger that sets off our stress levels time and time again. Acknowledging these triggers and finding ways to avoid or cope with situations is a way of reducing your stress levels.
8. Take Action
Often stress won’t go away on it’s own, you need to take action. You need to deal with the situation that causes stress in the first place.
This could be talking to your boss about overwork, seeking advice to deal with debts, acknowledging an unhealthy relationship with a friend or family member and doing something about it.
Take some time and write down the cause of your stress levels.
Stress tends to paralyse us. There’s an over-whelming feeling that the situation is impossible and there’s no solution.
There’s always a solution. It might be painful and it may take time to work through. Accepting you need to take action may be the only way you can move on with your life and finally deal with your stress.
9. Better Time Management
Are you one of those people who always has a massive to-do list? A list that just gets longer and longer?
You need better time management.
That could be working out where you waste time during the day or prioritising tasks so you stop sweating the small stuff and get the important tasks done.
If you’re someone who has one eye on their email list all day and the other one eye constantly on social media, you need to set limits.
Ration yourself to checking emails and social media to set times of the day. The rest of the time block those pop ups and notifications.
Sort your to-do list into order of importance. Most people do the easiest, least important stuff first. Instead tackle the item at the top of your list and work your way down.
You’ll find your stress levels get so much better when you tick off that big report due in two days time. The latest FaceBook challenge your mate’s signed you up for can wait.
10. Learn To Say No
Saying yes to everything may have worked for Danny Wallace but most people have more problems saying no.
Don’t take on things you haven’t got time to do, or agree to do something you know triggers your stress levels in a bad way.
We all need to be more like Danny from time to time and push ourselves out of our comfort levels. We don’t need to repeatedly do something that always has a bad outcome just because we couldn’t say no.
11. Make Space For Me Time
Whatever your situation, no matter how difficult or time consuming, you always need some me time. Even if it’s just soaking in a bath after your child has gone to bed or meditating for 5 minutes in the morning before work.
Carve out a little space for me time. Do something that makes you feel better. Self care is so important.
This is one of my favourite ways to reduce stress. Find the comedy in life. Laugh with your friends and family.
Switch off the news.
13. Listen To Music
Soothing music or just music that makes you feel better.
14. Positive Self Talk
It’s surprising how something so simple can make such a difference. Talking yourself up will make you feel so much better.
When you feel good about yourself, you’re in a much better place to deal with the causes of stress.
Write lists about things you’re good at. Leave positive statements around the house, at your workplace or in your diary.
Start your day with a positive chant and seek out ways to keep yourself upbeat.
It’s easy to spend your time thinking about the stuff that get’s you down. Yet we all have things to be grateful for.
Spend a little time at the start and end of your day feeling grateful. It helps to keep a sense of perspective.
16. Cut Out The Negativity.
There’s the friend who always puts you down, watching the news on a loop and social media groups full of hate.
If it’s not helping you get on with your life, cut it out. Become a more positive person by avoiding the constant stream of negativity pumped out by the news and social media.
Hopefully there’s something on this list of ways to reduce stress that will resonate with you. Often dealing with stress comes from just a change of mindset. Not worrying about the things that haven’t happened and may never happen. Instead making the most of the things you can control in the here and now.
Exercise every day even if it’s just a short walk, take time to relax with mindfulness or meditation techniques, get a good night’s sleep by working on your bedtime routine, cut back on the bad stuff – alcohol, smoking, caffeine and eat a healthy diet, find a good listener.
Go for a walk or run, meditate or relax on your yoga mat, drink a soothing herbal tea, watch your favourite comedy, chat to a good friend.