Stress—we have all felt it at one time or another. However, many people feel stress often. Some even feel it as a part of their daily lives. Stress can contribute to many health issue such as heart disease, stroke, immune disorders, stomach and digestion problems, eating problems, poor sleep, and sexual problems. Learning to reduce your stress can help you live happier, healthier, and maybe even longer.
Here are some tips for reducing or controlling stress:
Learn Your Triggers
You can't cope with your stress without knowing what causes it. While it is true there are things in your life you cannot control, there are many others you can. Take a minute and think about the causes of stress in your life. Carry a notebook and track when stress occurs and what started it. You may be able to identify areas where you can change your habits, such as how you approach a project at work, or how your children push your buttons. Write down how you resolve stress. Is it healthy or unhealthy? Over time, unhealthy stress management will compound your problems.
Set Realistic Goals
Do not take on everything; learn to say no. Set realistic goals for yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed, try eliminating an activity that is not really needed. Ask yourself, "What really needs to be done? Is the deadline realistic?" No one is perfect, so do not expect perfection from yourself or others. Delegate or ask for help if you need it.
Set Aside Time to Meditate or Relax
It only takes about 10 to 20 minutes to get a benefit from meditating. These few moments of quiet reflection may bring relief from stress as well as increase your tolerance to it. And it is simple to do. Find a method that works best for you. It may simply be sitting quietly, listening to peaceful music, or just trying to think of pleasant things. Look for tools like phone apps to help guide you to meditation options.
Take a moment to picture how you can manage an upcoming stressor. This can work with just about anything, important meeting at work, a big move, or a final exam. Knowing what you are going into can relieve some stress.
When you start to feel overwhelmed, try to take one task at a time. Make a list of things you need to do, and prioritize these list items. Once you have tackled something, mark it off your list. This can bring about feelings of accomplishment and boost confidence.
Regular exercise can ease tension in the body and calm your mind. Choose activities you enjoy. It can be as easy as taking a 30 minute walk most days or joining exercise classes. A quick burst of activity can also help if your stress levels are climbing. A 10 minute walk can be very helpful to clear your mind and ease stress.
Get Involved in Hobbies
What do you love to do? By setting aside time for your favorite hobby, you will remove yourself from life's stressors. Give your brain a welcome break by sinking into your hobby whether it is trying out a new recipe, planting in your garden, or playing pool.
Consider doing some volunteer work. It may be helpful to step outside of your stressors for a time. Volunteering is also known to give volunteers a mental health boost.
Practice a Healthy Lifestyle
Fighting fatigue does not help stress. A balanced diet can improve energy levels and help you feel better. If you need guidelines on changing your diet, visit the US Department of Agriculture's ChooseMyPlate website. Even small changes may help.
Smoking and alcohol on the other hand can make you feel less healthy. If you smoke, look for tools to help you quit. Limit alcohol to two drinks or less per day for men, and one drink or less per day for women.
Coffee, tea, and other drinks with caffeine can also make stress feel worse. Substitute water when you can.
Talking about things can help you feel better. A conversation with someone can help you relax. And listening to someone else can take the focus off of yourself which may also help. Stay in touch with your family and friends.
Learn to Be More Flexible
You do not always have to be right. By being flexible when issues come up, it will be easier to find the middle ground. If you feel strongly that you have the best solution, discuss your point of view in a respectful way, and take the time to listen to other people's perspectives.
Let Go of Perfection
Remember, nobody's perfect. Not even you. Step back and resist the urge to do it all, or worse, fix what you perceive to be everyone else's errors. It is not an easy task to master, so let go slowly. In the end, your levels of frustration and disappointment will diminish. When things get rough, remember to ask for help.
Mental Health America
National Institute of Mental Health
Canadian Mental Health Association
Mental Health Canada
How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm. Accessed October 3, 2020.
Risk factors for stroke or transient ischemic attack. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T361037/Risk-factors-for-stroke-or-transient-ischemic-attack. Accessed October 3, 2020.
Stress. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.nmha.org/conditions/stress. Accessed October 3, 2020.
Stress management: How to reduce, prevent, and cope with stress. Helpguide website. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm. Accessed October 3, 2020.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 11/4/2020