Stress is not always a negative thing. In moderate amounts, it can motivate us and increase our concentration and clarity. But when life or workplace stress becomes chronic, the symptoms can be incredibly detrimental to our wellbeing. Stress management becomes essential. Here are ten techniques that will help your stress management, keeping you mentally and physically healthy even when pressure hits.
Exercise at least three times per week. Exercise releases endorphins, which help you relax and feel better. Many fitness activities, including yoga, also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of your nervous system which resets and calms your stress response). And if that wasn't enough, regular exercise also improves sleep.
Practicing meditation has been shown to decrease symptoms of stress and anxiety while facilitating calmness and overall mental wellbeing. Meditation is also good cognitive training — it retrains us to observe and release negative thought patterns. And the benefits of meditation accumulate over time. So find a method you enjoy, and add it to your stress management regimen.
Try progressive muscle relaxation (deep muscle relaxation). Progressively tense each muscle group, breathe deeply, and then release. It's particularly helpful to do this before going to sleep.
Make a list of important work and personal tasks you need to accomplish each day. Working through your daily list will help you feel organized and on top of things, giving you a sense of mastery over your schedule and workload.
Make time to sit, rest, and eat your meals mindfully. Try to avoid letting your mealtime be disturbed. Avoid stressful or upsetting conversation while eating. Allow yourself both nourishment and some separation from the daily grind.
Practice good sleep hygiene. Structure your sleep schedule so that you are going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Lower the lights and turn off your phone and devices at least one hour before bedtime, and sleep in a well-darkened room.
Try diaphragmatic breathing. When under stress, our breathing tends to be shallow and centered in the chest. Diaphragmatic breathing (deep breathing) helps to regulate the body’s stress response and increases feelings of calm.
Laugh more. Make a point of watching funny movies or stand-up comedy. Regular laughter is one of the easiest and most effective stress management devices. It lowers stress hormones in the body, relaxes your muscles to release tension, and helps put things in perspective.
Learn to say no. Set boundaries around your life demands as much as possible to avoid becoming overloaded. Delegate responsibilities when you can, and give yourself permission to implement limits on how much you can take on at a given time. You might encounter some friction in your relationships as others adjust to these new boundaries, but you are ensuring better mental and physical health (and relationships) in the long run by learning to say no.
Cultivating stress management is a key component good mental health hygiene. Unchecked stress is a major contributing factor to illness. Making time for self-care is crucial to staying well in the long term. While it takes vigilance and effort to ensure you are properly moderating stress, it's well worth the investment.