Stress is one of the most common conditions of today. It can be triggered by anything, from a heavy workload in the office to issues in one’s personal life. Over 70% of US adults feel stressed or anxious daily, and 82% of students at UK universities suffer from these same complications each day. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to relieve stress and achieve a more productive and enjoyable lifestyle. The first Tip Tuesday will outline my top five favorite ways to soothe daily stress.
Please keep in mind that I am not an expert, and the ‘stress’ to which I am referring is short-term. If the stress or anxiety you are experiencing is serious or overwhelming, please seek help immediately. Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863
Exercise is one of the most common solutions to stress for one simple reason - it works! When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which naturally improve mood. Working out also improves the length and quality of sleep, and increases confidence and body-image. Being active on a regular basis combats many of the symptoms of stress, and contributes to a healthier lifestyle. A great way to encourage yourself to exercise more is to find an activity you truly enjoy. You’ll feel much more motivated to rock climb or dance through a lively zumba class than lift at your local gym!
Oftentimes when we feel stress, we bottle up our emotions in fear of burdening others with our problems. Holding on to pent-up feelings is dangerous and unhealthy, and it is essential to find a release. Writing is an excellent way to get out your thoughts while preserving your privacy. There are a number of ways to use writing as a technique to soothe stress. A personal practice of mine is writing down a list of things I am grateful for each night. As cheesy as it may sound, doing this allows me to remember what is important and appreciate my privileges. I can place emphasis on the positivity that exists in my life and will continue to be in my life long-term rather than focusing on the fleeting stress. Alternatively, you can journal the stressors in your life. As counter-intuitive as it may seem to focus on the negative, I find it very satisfying to let my pen fly over the paper as I let everything out. This is also effective for me because oftentimes, my problems seem much smaller on paper. I am able to physically see the issues in a logical way rather than emotionally in my head.
3) SAY NO
As simple as this solution may seem, it is sometimes difficult to turn things down because of the innate desire to “people-please”. Making a conscious effort to decline invitations, requests, etc. that cause you stress will help you avoid letting more stressors into your life. It can be very hard to handle a number of endeavors at one time, so being selective about who or what you chose to say ‘yes’ to will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. If you need to take time for yourself, do not feel bad about saying no to plans - your friends will understand (and if they don’t - drop them!). Self-care is important, and there is nothing wrong with skipping a night out for a one-person-party complete with blankets and Netflix!
When you are stressed, your body responds with an evolved survival mechanism - the“fight-or-flight” response. As stress hormones are released, the heartbeat becomes more rapid, breathing becomes quicker, and the hands and feet become colder and more sweaty. Luckily, deep breathing exercises can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn, controls the relaxation response. These exercises vary, and include abdominal breathing, paced respiration, and diaphragmatic breathing. When deep breathing, you focus on your breath. Slowing your breath slows the heart rate, which helps relieve stress with a calmer feeling.
Watch this video to enjoy three minutes of guided breathing exercises:
As many times as you’ve heard it before, there is truth to the cliche “laughter is the best medicine”. In this case, letting out a laugh lowers cortisol (a stress hormone) levels. Doing so also releases endorphins, which, as previously stated, significantly improves mood. Turn on your favorite comedy, go out with your most hilarious friend, or read a comic! No matter how you chose to stimulate your sense of humor, I promise you won’t be thinking about your stress as you release a big belly laugh!
At the end of the day, life can be overwhelming and intense. It is completely normal to experience stress at one point or another. Hopefully, the next time it comes your way, you will be able to diminish the symptoms with these tips in combination with a positive attitude. Remember to look at your problems with a big-picture lens - if it won’t affect you in the long run, it’s not worth torturing yourself over. There is nothing bad enough in the world to overshadow the great things in life, and this is something to always keep in mind.
Again, if your stress becomes chronic and uncontrollable, this post does not apply to you. Please seek professional help as soon as possible.
By: Jessica Hutt