Stress is our body’s response to pressure. We may experience emotional tension, overwhelm, or feel unable to cope either mentally or physically. Lots of things in our life can cause stress. Stress can often be triggered when we experience new things, unexpected events, threatening circumstances, or feel little control over a situation.  When we are highly stressed, our heart rate and blood pressure can go up, and our adrenal gland begins producing cortisol, also known as “the stress hormone.” When the body is exposed to cortisol for a long period of time it causes states of fight, flight or freeze. Ongoing stress can lead to developing anxiety disorders, depression, or chronic pain. Everyone deals with stress differently, but here are 10 ways you can try to help deal with stress in your life.

  1. Breathe– Stopping and taking a deep breath can help to lower blood pressure and heart rate. You will be surprised how much better you will feel when you take a few deep breaths. Here is a quick exercise you can do:
    • Sit in a comfortable position with your hands in your lap and your feet on the floor, or lie down. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a relaxing place that gives you a peaceful feeling.  Slowly take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth for five minutes
  1. Eat well– Eating a regular, well-balanced diet will help you feel better in general. “Eating a healthy diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body,” said Matthew J. Kuchan, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at Abbott. “A healthy diet builds a solid, more enduring foundation for your body by reducing oxidation and inflammation and by helping to reduce weight gain.” It may also help control your moods (I know I get hangry when I have not eaten in a while and my blood sugar drops). Your meals should be full of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein for energy.
  2. Talk through your problems– You can talk yourself through problems, it’s called self-talk and we all do it. In order to reduce stress, our self talk needs to be positive, not negative. If you are giving yourself negative messages, try to change your thoughts to thoughts that are more positive. Instead of “I give up” think “I can try another way”. You can also talk through your problems with friends, family members, your doctor, or a therapist. You can call (630) 473-3971 or email intake@goodtherapycounseling.com for an appointment with one of our therapists at Good Therapy Counseling.
  3. Slow down– Our lives can be busy and chaotic and sometimes we just need to take a step back, slow down, and chill out. It is important to find small ways throughout your day to slow down, whether it be breaking down large tasks into smaller ones or setting your clock 5 minutes ahead. Take a step back to calm down and focus on the moment, rather than what has been stressing you out.
  4. Make time for hobbies– Doing something daily that you enjoy and makes you feel good will help you relieve stress. It does not need to be a ton of time. 15-20 minutes can make a big difference. Relaxing hobbies include things like: Reading, Knitting, Doing an art project, Playing golf, Watching a movie, Doing puzzles, or Playing cards and board games.
  5. Relax your muscles– Enjoying a massage, taking a hot bath or shower, or rubbing your feet over a golf ball are all ways to relieve muscle tension. By relieving muscle tension, stretching allows your muscles to let go of where you’re carrying stress, helping you to relax and sleep better.
  6. Exercise– “Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators,” according to a Harvard Health study. You need to workout often for it to pay off. How much exercise do you need every week?  Work up to 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise (30 minutes a day for 5 days) like brisk walks or 75 minutes of a more vigorous exercise like swimming laps, jogging or other sports each week. Focus on setting fitness goals you can meet so you don’t give up. Most of all remember that doing any exercise is better than none at all. So take a walk around the block with your dog after dinner. You and your dog will both feel better.
  7. Take a break– Sometimes planning out some real down time will give your mind time off from stress. Penciling in 20-30 minutes a day to take a real break may be hard for you if you are not used to taking rest during your day. Stick with it and you will begin to look forward to these moments. Restful things you can do include: Meditation, Yoga, Tai chi, Prayer, Listening to your favorite music, Spending time in nature
  8. Listen to music–  “Music with a fast tempo has been found to evoke positive emotions, such as happiness, excitement, delight, and liveliness,” (Peretz et al., 1998; Balkwill and Thompson, 1999; Juslin and Sloboda, 2001). Upbeat music can make you feel more optimistic and positive about life. “Feel Good Index (FGI) includes the sum of all positive references in the lyrics, the song’s tempo in beats per minute and its key. The higher a song’s FGI, the more feel-good it is predicted to be. Happy lyrics, a fast tempo of 150 beats per minute (the average pop song has a tempo of 116 beats per minute), and a major third musical key all help create music we perceive as brimming with positive emotion” according to a recent Washington Post article by Meeri Kim. A faster tempo can help release endorphins and improve our sense of well-being. A slower tempo can quiet your mind and relax your muscles, helping to ease the stress of the day and soothe the mind, reducing our heart rate and cortisol levels. Music around 60 BPM can induce alpha brain waves—ideal for relaxation and sleep after listening for 45 minutes or so. Decompress with the right soundtracks to enjoy stress-free slumber. Music is effective for relaxation and stress management and can distract us, reducing physical and emotional stress levels and reducing stress-related symptoms.
  9. Reduce triggers– You cannot control everything in your life no matter how hard you try. So do yourself a favor and stop thinking you can do so much. Figure out what the biggest causes of stress are in your life (i.e. your job, your commute, your schoolwork, etc) and try to identify them and eliminate them from your life- or at least reduce them. If you can’t identify the main causes of your stress, try to write in a stress journal- making note of when you become stressed and try to find patterns. Once a pattern is established, find ways to remove or reduce those triggers.

If you or someone you care about is confronting these types of issues, please get in touch with Good Therapy’s team of licensed professional counselors and therapists today at 630-473-3971.