Stress Relief Strategies by Betty Mahalik
So it’s beneficial to have a set of proven stress reduction and coping strategies to turn to when our stress levels rise, or to use before we become over-stressed as a way to build our emotional resilience. Here are 10 simple, but powerful ways to develop your stress-reducing capacity and in the process increase your joy, health and energy levels.
- Breathe. Of all the stress management techniques I’ve ever read about or used, this is the simplest, most readily accessible and beneficial. Take a few minutes to sit, inhale deeply, hold for two counts and exhale to a count of four. Repeat as needed to re-oxygenate and restore calm.
- Smile. That’s right smile. The bigger and cheesier the better. Look at yourself in a mirror smiling. You simply cannot remain stressed while smiling. Not only has it been shown to release endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers, it also shifts you from a negative emotional state to a positive one.
- Practice alternate muscle tension and release. Starting at the top of the head, intentionally tense and release muscles moving down through the body in muscle groups. Hold the tension for 2-3 seconds, release and move on to the next part of the body. Repeat twice, head-to-toe and toe-to-head.
- Identify a centering word and repeat it silently to yourself to calm down and re-center. A short 1-2 syllable word like peace, joy, release or relax works best. Combine with the breathing technique and double your stress-relief.
- Pay attention to your self talk. Notice if you are silently saying things like: “This is terrible!” “I can’t handle this!” Such thoughts trigger a cascade of negative, stress-filled emotions. Instead use your calming word or the breathing technique.
- Exercise. Taking even a five-minute walk around your office building or practicing some simple stretches at your desk will release the tension produced by stress and shift your energy to a more positive state. Better yet is a regular exercise regimen to release muscle tension and create endorphins.
- Keep a list of happiness-inducing activities you like to do and make time for them. A hobby, spending time with pets, attending a concert or sporting event, getting out in nature, gardening or self-care activities such as massage are excellent ways to break the stress cycle.
- Learn and practice meditation or contemplation. Dr. Herbert Benson’s classic work The Relaxation Response (recently updated) teaches a simple non-religious meditation method. Research has shown that consistent meditation is not only a great stress-reliever but may actually help your brain grow new cells!
- Drink a cup of tea or glass of water and really sip, savor, and experience it. Mindfully drinking a cup of tea or a cool glass of water brings you back to the present moment. You may then decide to use one of the other simple techniques to further de-stress.
- Set boundaries and enforce them. Many of the things that cause us on-going stress are the result of others’ behaviors that violate our boundaries. For example, if someone yells at you, only you can inform them that their behavior is unacceptable and then follow-through if it continues. First get clear about what your boundaries are, then begin to state them, make requests and enforce them with those around you.
There are many other ways to manage the day-to-day stress that bombards us. The real keys are becoming aware of your stressors, changing your attitude where possible and taking action by following one or more of the techniques listed above. You have nothing to lose and a whole new level of peace, joy and productivity to gain, so start today!
© Betty Mahalik. Betty is a business and personal coach who has been coaching others to achieve goals, communicate more powerfully, and manage stress for more than 20 years. She writes a weekly motivational e-newsletter called Monday Morning Coach. To subscribe send an email to email@example.com.
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