When you’re stressed, do you deal with it in a healthy way? If not, you’re not alone. I’ve compiled a list of some new and healthy ways to cope with stress!
In our pursuit of wellness, we tend to focus mostly on nutrition and exercise. While food and activity are crucial parts of achieving our health goals, there is something we tend to ignore; reducing stress.
Imagine the most stressful time in your week. You’re juggling a million important things at work, so by the time five o’clock rolls around, all you want to do is pick up something quick to eat and flop down on your couch. I know I’ve done this, and I’m guessing you have too. This is certainly one way to manage stress, but is it the healthiest way?
We’re all unique, which requires us to approach stress from different angles. What works for someone else might not work for you, and that’s okay. I’m a big believer in trying a variety of strategies until something sticks. That’s why I decided to put together a list of my favorite healthy ways to de-stress. All of these stress-busting tricks are deserving of a full blog post, but I’d like to give a quick overview of each method, so you can find one that works for you and learn more if you’d like
Stress Management Ideas
1. Acknowledge what’s stressing you out
Little stressors have a way of accumulating. You may be only slightly stressed about a handful of things, but thinking about all of them at once can make your head spin. Before you can reduce your overall stress, you need to confront what’s on your mind. Naming your stressors not only improves your mental clarity, it helps you figure out how you should move forward in addressing your stress.
2. Make a list
This tip goes hand in hand with #1. Once you’ve identified what’s stressing you out, write stuff down. Anything. It can be a list of your stressors, things you’re grateful for, or tasks to be completed. Getting the thoughts swirling around in your head down on paper makes it easier to think and plan how you’ll actively handle problems. Maybe it’s because I’m on the type A personality side, but I find that making lists really calms me down. (This post is even in list form… *sigh*)
3. Set timers to complete tasks
Poor productivity can make stress a lot worse. Here’s a handy tip I learned while struggling through hours of chemistry homework in college: work on tough tasks in intervals. This concept is based on a strategy from the Pomodoro Technique, which traditionally features 25 minutes of work, followed by a 5-minute break. If you have a task that’s really weighing on you, set a timer, work on it, and then reward yourself with a bit of rest. Here’s my go-to routine: 1) Set a timer for 30 minutes. Work nonstop on a task without distractions. 2) Set a 10-minute timer. Enjoy something mindless like social media, a game or coloring. 3) Repeat.
4. Ditch the social media
A Pew Research Center study of 2,003 working adults shed some light on the complex relationship we have with social media. 56% of workers surveyed agreed that social media use (even for work-related tasks) distracts them, but interestingly, 56% of workers said that social media use helps their overall performance at work. This overlap shows that social media can be a helpful tool, but it can also be a productivity-killer. To decrease stress that is related to lost productivity while still reaping the rewards of social media, it’s important to be mindful of how you use it. Set limits on how, when, and how long you’ll be using social media and hold yourself accountable. I’ve found that apps like StayFocusd and Freedom work really well for helping me monitor and limit my social media use.
5. Give yourself a bedtime
Getting older is weird. You start to enjoy all of the things you hated as a kid; going to bed, vegetables, getting socks for Christmas, etc. Use this to your advantage! Setting a bedtime will ensure that you get all of the beauty sleep needed to refresh and de-stress.
6. Listen to music
Music can help you clear your mind, get energized or chill out. Listening to music has even been shown to help you respond to stressors more effectively.
7. Read a book
Doing some pleasure reading is a great way to take your mind off of stressors for a while. Get lost!
8. Watch a funny video (or 5)
Have you heard laughter is the best medicine? There’s actually some truth to that claim. Laughing not only helps you feel more positive, but it can also stimulate your body directly to reduce stress.
I love coloring. It’s just creative enough that I feel as though I’m doing something but just simple enough so that I don’t have to use too much brainpower. Pick up a coloring book at the store or try my favorite e-version, Recolor.
10. Find an animal friend and pet them
‘Nuff said. Can’t find one? Here’s a bunch of corgis. You’re welcome.
11. Call your mom
…or your dad, or whoever will let you vent when you need it. Hearing from you will probably brighten their day too.
12. Spend time with someone who makes you happy
Hang out with your family, your friends, or your SO. Surrounding yourself with great people can bring your energy up and help you forget about your stress.
13. Hug & snuggle
Sometimes all you need is a hug to boost your mood and to keep stress at bay.
14. Go outside
I’ve found that taking a second to look at the world around me really shifts my perspective. Our problems can feel like the only thing going on in the world when we’re cooped up inside, alone with our thoughts. Step outside, find somewhere quiet to sit, look up at the sky, and your problems will seem a lot smaller.
15. Make time for a workout
It might seem counterintuitive to add in one more thing to do when you’re already stressed out, but adding in exercise is worth the time it takes. Elle Woods said it best, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” She was actually on-the-money. In addition to decreasing levels of stress hormones in our bodies, exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which boost your mood and act as painkillers.
16. Go for a walk
You don’t always need to sweat your butt off to reduce stress. Try going for a quick walk for 20 minutes every day to get the benefits of moderate exercise. Even if you don’t have 20 minutes to give at once, you can split up your daily walks into 5 or 10-minute chunks throughout your day.
17. Try yoga
Practicing yoga is great for soothing the mind and soul. Although more well-controlled studies are needed to determine the exact science behind the benefits of yoga, findings so far have been promising. Some studies suggest that yoga decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormone levels. I believe it. Yoga is one of my favorite ways to clear my mind. Check out a yoga studio near you, or browse YouTube videos if you feel like having a home session! Here’s one of my favorites.
Not feeling like launching into yoga just yet? Gentle stretching is a nice alternative that will allow you to relax your body and quiet your mind. Try this quick routine when you’re stressing at work.
19. Progressively relax your muscles
Have you ever felt like you’re holding a lot of tension in your muscles? A mindfulness technique called progressive muscle relaxation can help you turn your attention to this stress and release it. Here’s a quick written tutorial. I’d also suggest browsing YouTube to find a progressive muscle relaxation video that speaks to you.
Meditation has been shown to be a powerful tool for managing a variety of conditions, including pain, stress, and anxiety. Concentrating on achieving a sense of stillness, focused attention, and open-mindedness can help strengthen the mind-body connection and reduce stress. For beginners to meditation, achieving true stillness can be frustrating. Luckily, there are a variety of meditation types and resources available for guidance. Search for meditation classes in your area or try an app like Calm, Headspace, or Omvana to get started.
21. Breathe deeply
When you’re stressed, your breathing becomes faster and more shallow. Breathing slower and more deeply can combat stress by simulating the feeling of calmness. You can practice deep breathing anywhere, which makes it a valuable tool. Try taking a few deep breaths right now, or try an app to guide you. Apple Watches have a nice little app called Breathe that reminds you to take deep breaths every few hours. Not an Apple Watch person? Here are some other great apps to help you breathe easy.
Just like list-writing, getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper can make them seem a lot more manageable. Journaling works, but you can also furiously scribble on a cocktail napkin. Whatever floats your boat!
23. Name 3 things you’re grateful for
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to practice gratitude. It’s easy to play the victim when we feel like the weight of the whole world rests on our shoulders. Instead of dwelling on the negatives in your life, try listing a few things you’re grateful for. This will do wonders for shifting your perspective and reducing stress.
24. Eat a healthy snack
Have you ever felt like reaching for junk food when you’re feeling stressed? I’m definitely guilty of sometimes eating my feelings. There’s a better way! Choosing the right healthy foods gives you the proper fuel to handle your stress, and some of these foods can even boost your mood. Some smart choices include vitamin-rich nuts, bell peppers, spinach, and oatmeal.
25. Drink tea
Both green and black teas have been associated with lower stress levels in those who consume them. Researchers believe that compounds in tea called catechins and theaflavins are responsible for tea’s health benefits. Tea can also serve as a replacement for more caffeinated coffee and reduce anxious jitters. An average 6oz coffee contains roughly 91mg of caffeine, while the same amount of black tea contains 45mg and green tea contains 21mg. Try tea instead of a midday coffee, or drink decaffeinated tea at night.