Life can take its toll on us, and there are many causes of stress in our daily lives that build up and can feel overwhelming. From financial and social pressure to health problems and physical pain, problems at home and problems at work, and even just bad news about the world that we are constantly hearing, sometimes we are just so overwhelmed by everything that we really need a break.
Thankfully, life is better than it appears at our worst moments, and if we can find the right ways to manage our stress levels, we can live happy, fulfilling lives.
Live in the Present
We often let what has happened in the past consume us, just as we obsess over the future to the point that it creates anxiety for us. However, living in the moment is one of the best ways for us to push stress out of our lives. There is no point in devoting our mental resources to things that have already come and gone, and letting the negative energies of the past linger in our lives has no positive outcome.
It is important we take care to prepare for the future, but we should not let our preparation turn into fear and let the uncertainties keep us from enjoying the present moment. Make peace with the past, be mindful of the future, and let the present be your focus.
Plan for the Future With Defensive Pessimism
You do not want to fret too much about the future, but you can work your anxieties into an advantage by using defensive pessimism. This takes a pessimistic outlook about the future to make yourself prepare in a more methodical way. By thinking about what could go wrong in a given situation, you can work on ways to avoid it.
You don’t want your imagination about a worst-case scenario to overwhelm you, but you can also think not just of how to avoid it, but also how to manage bad outcomes and deal with them if they do come. On top of that, think of positive scenarios and what you can do to see those come to life. Mindfulness now can prevent future stress.
The Power of Physical Touch
As we live in disconnected, virtual lives, we forget how powerful touch can be with those you care about. Part of the reason it feels so good to have a big, warm hug or cuddle is that these activities actually release oxytocin, which is a hormone that relieves stress.
It calms you down and it also gives you those warm and fuzzy feelings inside which make you bond with people. To benefit from these kinds of interactions, you don’t need to have a fellow human present. Your pets will do the job just fine, and even if you are truly alone, just closing your eyes and imagining can do wonders.
Give Yourself a Break
As we work long hours and have all sorts of other responsibilities that come as soon as we finish working, we often rarely have time to devote to relaxing. Give yourself a break by taking just a couple of minutes off and mentally excusing yourself from work and any other personal obligations you may have that are causing you stress.
You can take a walk, try some stretching, do some breathing, or even just lay down, and try to free the mind of your concerns during this time. Think of things that make you happy, or think of nothing at all and let your mind be free.
Breathe and Stretch
Even if you don’t have time for a proper break, try to take quick breaks every hour for stretching. You’ll find that getting up and doing some basic stretches will reduce your stress levels both physically and mentally. It’s even better if you take a moment to massage your forehead, shoulders, and neck area as well as your hands.
To relax even further, take a few moments to focus on deep breathing. The more time you can devote to these activities, the better, and you can take the time to learn how to do them more seriously, but even taking these short breaks and doing the basic techniques will help you unwind.
Try Meditative Water Drinking
Meditation does not have to be a long, slow process that requires significant practice with a guru. It is something you can do right now with minimal effort and zero training. The basis of it is to drink water in a mindful way. Pour yourself a glass, and while drinking it, focus on every aspect of what is happening. Notice the glass as you are holding it and how it makes your hand feel, then as the water hits your mouth, goes down your throat, and runs through your body, be attentive to each and every moment and sensation.
Take deep breaths after drinking, and if you can, try to think that the water you are putting in your body is peace, and the air you are breathing out is the negativity that causes you stress. If this works for you, keep doing it with other ordinary activities at home, whether it is washing the dishes or getting dressed.
Stress eating is a real thing, as we try to alleviate our woes by stuffing food into our mouths. However, this can be an unhealthy habit and can cause further stress of its own. Try to find ways to indulge in things you like that are good for you at the same time.
Rather than a chocolate cake, go for some dark chocolate, which will give you the serotonin boost you want without much sugar. Have it along with an herbal tea, and you’ll be calmed down in a natural and healthy way. Look for herbs along the lines of ashwagandha that have destressing properties.
Keep Your Triple Warmer Meridian Calm
Traditional Chinese medicine classifies meridians as systems in our body that energy flows through. There are 12 standard meridians and eight “extraordinary meridians,” and one of the standard meridians is the triple warmer, also known as the triple burner.
You can calm yourself naturally by giving extra care to this meridian. Do this by placing your fingers on the front of your ears and slide your fingers back on your ears, as if you were moving hair back while pushing firmly. Breathe deeply and repeat the words “I am safe” while doing the action three times. This exercise will soothe your body and your mind.
Give Your Collar Bone Point a Good Rub
The acupressure point K27 is basically a button that gives you an excellent way to relieve yourself of stress and turn your mood around. Go down your collar bone from your throat to near your sternum and you will find a soft spot that is over your first rib. Once you find it, give it a rub or a tap to stimulate it.
Once you do this, you will feel a boost of energy as your systems get aligned, you’ll be more in tune, and you will feel your stress leaving your body. Try watching a video or have someone show you where it is, and you’ll have an easy way to unwind.
Practice Emotional Release
A lot of our stress can come from pent up emotions, so by practicing emotional release we can clear our minds of the things that trouble us and not be afflicted by them in stress-causing ways. We have to let go of our baggage, and with it, the anxieties it gives us will be gone as well.
Whatever negative feelings we hold about other people, bad memories we have of the past, distressing experiences we have never forgotten about, we can let all of these things go. When we do so, we will be happy, open, and ready to see the world from a new, stress-free perspective.
Limit Your Time on Social Media
This can feel just about impossible, but getting off social media is a great benefit to our mental health. You don’t have to leave it entirely, you can just cut down, and by doing so you will find that not only you will have more time to do the things you want to do, but you will also be less stressed and more relaxed. It is not good for us to spend too much time on screens, for both physical and mental reasons, and we especially do not want to live our social lives through them.
Try to meet people personally more often, or even talk to people on the phone like we all used to do. Find out directly from people how things are going in their lives, rather than just finding things out through an endless stream of content from everyone you know that never gives you any time to yourself.
Go for a Nice Hot Bath
We may clean ourselves every day, but we rarely indulge in the process. Take the time out now and then to truly luxuriate in the shower or bathtub. Your body will feel good with the warm water releasing the tension that has built up in your muscles, and you can relax and enjoy the process without worrying about having to run out of the door and get to work.
Find ways to make the process more peaceful for you, like treating yourself with a nice bar of soap, some bath oils, and whatever else that will enhance your experience. As you do so, you won’t just wash your body clean of dirt, but you can also wash off your stress.
Don’t Burn Yourself Out Caring for Others
It is important that we care for the people around us, but we cannot let ourselves get too stressed over what other people are going through. Compassion fatigue is a real thing, and it can break us down as we devote our energy to helping others. It is not selfish to want to devote time to yourself, it is normal and healthy, and it will make you better when it comes to helping others if you give yourself a break.
If you end up feeling burnt out over how much you give to everyone else, you will not be able to be there for them in the same way, so it is best for everybody to focus on yourself as well.
Turn Your Frown Upside Down
It may not sound right to fake happiness, but making yourself smile regardless of how you are feeling can actually be a huge plus for your attitude. Just as you smile when you are happy, you can be happy just by smiling. If you hold a smile on your face for an entire minute, your brain will interpret this as real happiness, and you will begin to actually feel that way.
While you are doing that, you can think of things that make you happy, and your fake smile will soon be a real one. You will also find that smiling more increases friendliness among those around you, and that can make you happier as well.
Big Laughs and Big Tears
Laughing can really make your mood better, and even if things are feeling dark, the world will seem brighter after a big laugh. Go on Youtube or anywhere else you know of to find something that makes you laugh, and if nothing is working on you, put your thoughts aside and just start laughing as hard as you can, no matter how ridiculous it feels.
This is how laughter yoga works, and it can make you feel great physically as it reduces your inflammation and tension and sends mood-boosting signals to your brain. Crying also has positive benefits, so don’t be afraid to indulge in your tears every so often. You’ll feel so good after you get it all out, and our bodies are designed to make us feel better after we cry.
Work Your Imagination
Don’t think that there is something wrong with daydreaming and that you should be working instead of imaging. Using your imagination is a great way to get out of whatever funk you are in. When stressed, use your head to take you somewhere where you aren’t stressed, and try to get as vivid as possible in your imagination.
If the beach is your happy place, think of the sound the waves make, the smell of the ocean air, the texture of sand on your feet, the warm feeling of the sun or the cool feeling of the wind, or whatever you may wish for. There is nothing wrong with this, and when you snap back to reality, you will find that your stress has vanished and you can move forward with a clearer mind.
Think of Things You Are Thankful For
No matter how bad your situation is, there are always elements in your life that you know you are grateful for. When things get tough, think of these. Your friends, your family, your pets, the fact that you have a roof over your head and aren’t going hungry, these are all things that can make you feel better about where you are.
In moments of stress, take a little break, think about these things, breathe in and out, and do something to cheer yourself up, such as putting on your favorite song or looking at photos of happy moments.
Forgive People, Including Yourself
We have all had times when people have disappointed us, and it is natural to have grudges and negative feelings that linger, even about people we love. Try to forgive them, though. Everybody makes mistakes and is worthy of another chance, and forgiving people will allow things to heal for everybody. Do not forget to forgive yourself, too.
Whatever you may have done that you regret or feel embarrassed by, you can move past that and not be too hard on yourself. Nobody is as bad as their lowest moments, and we can all work toward becoming our best selves if we are given the chance.
Find Ways to Channel Your Emotional Needs
If all we want to do is scream and shout and fume all about, we can call up the person that makes us feel that way and give them an earful, but we can also find an outlet for these feelings that will make us feel good afterward. A hard workout is a good way to get it all out of you, and even if you don’t feel like getting up, you can turn on a sports match and yell at the TV.
Some hard-hitting dance moves can also help you channel your anger, and throwing a punch at anything that doesn’t induce pain, including the air, will definitely help. Even if you are feeling more sensitive and want to have a good cry, put on a sad song or an emotional film to get your tears flowing.
Put Your Feelings on Paper
Keeping a diary is an effective way to let your feelings out, and while there are definitely benefits to doing it in a slow, contemplative manner, it is a great stress reliever to just write everything you are feeling as fast as you can. As an exercise, try going for 20 minutes straight, never stopping and never censoring yourself.
Just let it all out and don’t be afraid to be embarrassed by what you write. You can shred what you wrote when you finish or burn it if that helps provide some additional emotional satisfaction. Do this for a few days in a row and you may feel like your stress is getting shredded or burnt up along with the paper.
Do Something for Somebody Else Out of the Blue
Performing a random act of kindness can make somebody feel so happy in a contagious way, make you feel so much better about yourself, and turn your mood around. Look for opportunities to make someone happy when they don't expect it. Reconnect with an old friend, especially one you had a falling out with.
Play with your dog and give them a treat, just because. Let somebody who is in a hurry take your place in line. Bake some cookies and offer them to the neighbors you have never spoken to. There are always ways to make people happy, and that can be the best way to make yourself happy.
Embrace Childhood Creative Activities
Who says coloring is just for kids? There has been a recent trend of coloring books for adults, and they are the real deal. Revert back to your childhood days when you would spend time coloring, and you will see that it is an activity we never should have given up as we grew older. They are a great way for us to forget about our worries, focus on staying in the lines, and make pretty images.
We don’t even need a coloring book, we can just take a paper and something to write with and draw freestyle. It is surprisingly soothing for our soul, and not only does it make us feel relaxed and take our stress away, but we even feel accomplished at the end of it when we have all of these new pictures to show off.
Connect With Nature
One thing about the modern world that is bad for us is how disconnected from nature we have become. Try to get back in touch with it. Even if you don’t have time to go to the forest, ocean, mountains, or wherever else you would be fully immersed in the beauty of nature, you can just go to a park or a walk around your neighborhood and pay attention to what is around you.
Look at the plants and the trees and take the time to really appreciate them. Look at all of the animals around you, listen to the beautiful songs of the birds. Think about how magical each sunset is, and get lost in the beauty and wonder of the natural world.
Stay Physically Active
Exercise is an important way to get rid of stress. A good workout will channel your stress hormones into a healthy activity, and as you get the endorphin rush as you push yourself, your stress will be totally relieved. You’ll feel great from the natural chemicals that are getting pumped through you, and you will also have your physical activity to focus on which will distract you from whatever it is that is stressing you out.
There are other exercises you can do that are less intense but will still help you reduce stress in a different way. Activities such as yoga and tai chi are perfect for those who want something that is less strenuous and more relaxing.
Use Techniques That Reduce Muscle Tension and Headaches
Many of us have lifestyles that can cause stress to our bodies, with lots of time sitting at a computer, driving, cooking, cleaning, and other activities, not to mention that we don’t get enough sleep and spend too much time on our phones. As our muscles tense up and we get headaches, we need to find ways to work on these problems.
You can do easy exercises that will help, including rolling your shoulder, slowly rolling your head to your sides, stretching, and taking frequent breaks where you stand up and take a quick walk. You will find this has huge benefits on your body and your mood.