Has it been one of those days? When you can’t seem to maintain a positive intention for the day no matter how hard you try? When it feels like the whole world is insistent upon making life as difficult for you as possible? We’ve all been there. Though enduring some stress is inevitable, how you handle periods of stress is what’s most important.
Improper stress management can have a devastating effect on your health. Simply put, stress is dangerous. It has been the subject of countless studies, books, blogs, and even highlighted in a recent documentary. Stress: Portrait of a Killer identifies stress as the quiet villain behind cardiovascular disease, high-blood pressure, and a number of ailments related to the compromised functioning of your immune system.
If you don’t learn to live and deal with the stress of everyday life, it could, very well, kill you. But, don’t panic…we can teach you ways to manage your stress that promise immediate results! Destressing does not have to be a time-consuming or inconvenient endeavor; here are five, super-simple things you can do right now to tame your stress before it grows out of control.
1. Deep Breathing
When we experience stress, it’s common for our breathing to become quick and shallow. Because our body needs ample oxygen to pump blood through our veins and power all of our muscles and organs efficiently, it isn’t surprising that ineffective breathing feels bad. If you’re starting to get stressed, employ this deep-breathing exercise:
First things first… unchain yourself from your desk, ignore that constant onslaught of emails, put your phone on momentary “Do Not Disturb,” and close your eyes. (Note: The world will not collapse if you take a few minutes to practice some deep breathing before getting back in the bullpen.)
Place your palm on the section of your stomach over your belly button. Close your eyes, place both feet firmly on the floor, and breathe in slowly through your nose. Visualize your belly like a balloon you are slowly inflating and concentrate on pushing your hand all the way out. Now- just as slowly and controlled- exhale through your mouth. Feeling better yet?
2. Take a Mental Vacation
Sometimes stress hits hardest when we allow ourselves to be completely consumed by the task at hand. Whether you’re working on a project or trying to solve a problem, stress can creep in and inhibit your ability to concentrate. Give your brain a break! Much like an actual vacation can help you relax and regain perspective and motivation, a mental vacation can relieve your brain of some of the stress it’s been recently accumulating.
Thinking of a happy memory or imagining an upcoming event might be enough to get you grounded. Fantasize about going to a favorite restaurant and ordering something delicious off the menu or walking with your friends through a park on a crisp autumn day. Remember that vacation you took to the Caribbean? Or that cabin you rented with your family near the lake? Give yourself permission to mentally escape to any place that’s calm and peaceful.
3. Looking Forward
Much too often, we work to attain certain goals, but the rewards for our hard work, somehow, get lost in the day-to-day grind. A quick trick to taming life’s chaos is to always have something to look forward to. It doesn’t need to be something big or expensive- just a positive, upcoming event that you can focus on when things get tough. Having a positive attitude about your future can cut through your stress while perpetuating a positive perspective.
It could be something as simple as happy hour with friends or trivia night. Maybe it’s a movie coming out this weekend that you really want to see…or a new restaurant opening soon. The point is, keep something on your calendar in the near future that you can get excited about. When you start to get overwhelmed by negativity, think about that event, and shock your mind back into its happy place.
4. Happy Visuals
Think that smiling photo of your nephew at his 5th Birthday Party with cake all over his face or your Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Bobblehead are merely decorations? Much like the theory behind mental vacations and planning for fun in the future, keeping photos or knick-knacks around your workspace can actually keep you grounded. Surround your workspace with happy memories and things you love! When you’re feeling pangs of stress, stop and remind yourself of the good things in your life. Just seeing these images can trigger memories of happy times and launch you into a more positive, grounded headspace.
5. To-Do Lists
In a world of email and virtual calendars, handwritten to-do lists might seem redundant, or dare-we-say, outdated. But, there’s something very cathartic about slashing out a line item and marking it done! The tricky part about stress is that it can amplify the weight of your daily tasks and make you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything all day. A physical to-do list can empower you throughout the day and give you a sense of accomplishment. At the end of a stressful day, you will have a physical illustration of all you’ve accomplished! (Bonus points if you use a whiteboard to save paper!)
What methods do you use to keep yourself safe, sane, and stress-free?