Stress | Stress Reduction | Psychology
It’s not even the “triad” of holidays (Thanksgiving Day, Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanza, or New Year’s Day), and the signs of stress already abound. Twitter has turned into a squawking citizen’s megaphone, a way to complain to the faceless masses out there on the Internets about a personal offense, poor customer service, or social injustice, all at equal volume.
Social Media feeds are exploding and imploding, with some taking to their feeds to tell their friends and family that they are overwhelmed, discouraged, or angry, while others slink away quietly, all but shuttering their accounts.
While therapists are not advice givers, I thought that it might be helpful to share just a few stress-reducing behaviors that can help you if you’re feeling frazzled and exhausted.
Five Stress-Reducing Behaviors
1. Name it. Yes, that is correct. Just naming how you feel helps to acknowledge what is happening for you. You match the thing you are feeling with the remedy or course of action that addresses it, rather than mismatch it to unhelpful or simply distracting behaviors that do little to address the real issues.
So, if you are feeling stressed out, say so. Just naming it gives you space to actually do something about it, rather than continue to push through it absentmindedly.
2. Breathe. Ever wonder why people who meditate often use the simple action of breathing slowly and steadily in and out, while doing nothing else but apparently staring at a point a foot in front of them? Breathing – or rather, focusing on the breath while slowing one’s breathing helps the mind latch on to a simple action (the act of breathing, of which you cannot fail), bringing a sense of calm.
Even people who don’t know how to meditate but take a moment to breathe and slow down their breath before returning to tasks report that they feel more present, centered, and more relaxed. This sensation can be achieved in as little as five minutes, costs no money, and does not require expensive equipment or a special room.
3. Develop a practice of physical relaxation. What if you knew that every morning or every evening you would have ten to fifteen minutes to devote solely to your physical relaxation, instead of grumpily tossing and turning in bed?
Whether that is a soothing, warm bath, or a guided head-to-toe relaxation routine, finding and sticking to a physical relaxation practice can help in the alleviation of stress. On this link, I’ve provided you my SoundCloud recording of a guided relaxation practice I developed five year’s ago. After you have memorized the progression, you won’t need to listen to it. Just set a gentle alarm for about 10 minutes to help you know when to wrap it up. Tip: don’t fall asleep during this practice!
I’ve personally added one to two massages a month through my chiropractor’s office, and I use that time to relax and let stressful thoughts fade.
4. Sleep well. Good sleep is essential to recovery from activity, even if your activity is primarily sedentary, as it may be at your place of work. Make your bed comfortable, use supportive pillows, play quiet sounds or music to promote sleep, and don’t look at digital devices or the television in the final hour before it’s time for bed.
5. Blow stress off with movement, preferably outside. Walking, running, hiking, climbing, cycling, and swimming are all ways to help alleviate stress, especially if you can break a sweat. If you are disabled or have limits of mobility, circling the arms, easy leg lifts, seated yoga, or a flotation belt while pool walking are all ways that can help decrease or manage stress as the body releases endorphins, the “feel good” hormone your nervous system releases which activate your opiate receptors.
Having sex*, moving as vigorously for at least 20 minutes, and certain foods are known to trigger an endorphin rush, and the body experiences a mild analgesic effect. Pressure point therapy can also release this, though I find that if you can move, the endorphin effect seems to last longer, plus movement has other benefits such as improved circulation that makes being active a much more efficacious and pleasant choice.
In winter, walking and hiking outside might not seem like much fun if you’re not an outdoorsy person, but imagine carrying a small thermos of something warm to drink, and walking outside with someone who’s company you enjoy. A little rain won’t spoil the experience, and the view of trees, colors, hearing leaves in the wind, or watching geese fly are far more relaxing and extraordinary than lying on your couch while watching another Netflix episode to try to decompress.
Do you have a favorite tip for stress reduction? Please feel free to share in a comment. Our comments are moderated, so if you wish to make your comment anonymous, just say so in the comment, and your name and email address will be removed before your comment is posted.
As always, we’re here to help if it’s time to talk to someone about dealing with stress. If you find that your coping mechanisms just aren’t working for you, let us help you develop new strategies and insight.
Disclaimer; While I have many more tips on stress reduction, this post is not meant to be an exhaustive list. If you are having stress-induced medical symptoms such as insomnia, major anxiety or panic attacks, debilitating depression, suicidal thoughts, episodic anorexia, or heart pain (angina), please talk to your medical practitioner to receive advice.
* In the case of having sex, I’m not implying that you should have sex outside, nor use sex as a demand from your loved one to help you relieve stress! As always, practice safe and consensual sex, preferably indoors.