The other day, when catching up over coffee with a friend, I casually asked, “How are things going with you?” “I’m totally stressed out,” she said, and then proceeded to rattle off a line list of things that were causing her to feel pressured—finances, family issues, work deadlines, relationships.
As it turns out, my friend’s concerns represent the top sources of stress that trouble Americans today. Juggling what life throws at you has become increasingly harder to manage. It also doesn’t help that we live in a fast-paced world, where we are constantly engaging with texts, calls and the “ping” of social media alerts. Is there no end to the stressors that divert our attention and keep us from living a balanced life?
According to The American Institute of Stress, 77 percent of people experience physical symptoms of stress on a regular basis, while 73 percent report psychological symptoms as well. That’s nearly 3 in 4 people affected by mental or emotional strain!
So, it is highly likely that you are stressed out too.
While it may seem overwhelming when stress occurs, there are constructive ways to face it, control it and keep it from negatively interfering with your life. Over the years, I’ve found ways to keep my own anxious feelings at bay, and I hope the following tips will help you, too, in managing stress in an anxious world.
Take a good, deep breath. Deep breathing may sound like too simple a solution when your heart is racing, but it really does work. Breathe in through your nose for five seconds, hold it for five seconds, and exhale through your mouth for five seconds. Deep breathing sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body, which responds. It’s one of the best ways to alleviate physical symptoms of stress, and you can do it whenever you want, wherever you may be.
Go outside. Exposure to sunlight is believed to increase the brain’s release of serotonin, a hormone that boosts your mood and helps you feel calm and focused. If you’re feeling off kilter, step outside and catch a few rays. Take a walk, ride a bike, practice yoga, or simply sit on your porch and listen to the birds’ chirp. While the environment around you may seem chaotic at times, the outside world can be calm and comforting. It’s always there to ground you.
Create a checklist. Days can quickly get off course when you have a lot going on. When you don’t know where to begin, make a checklist of what you need to do. A colleague of mine makes a to-do list every day. She says it keeps her focused, helps her manage her time and provides a sense of accomplishment with each little task she checks off her list.
Keep a journal. Journaling is recommended more and more as a therapeutic way to help alleviate stress. It’s also been known to strengthen your immune system, help you sleep better and improve your health. Stressful feelings can often turn into negative thoughts when left unchecked. By transferring your thoughts to paper or pad, you can acknowledge those feelings, reflect upon them and think about ways to resolve them. Take about 10 or 15 minutes before bedtime and find a still, quiet place to write about the day’s thoughts and events. You’ll go to bed with a calmer mind, and you can revisit your writings the next day with a clearer head.
Don’t feel bad about saying “no.” It is easy to overload yourself by agreeing to more than you can handle. But, guess what? It’s not selfish to say, “No.” In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, saying no is healthy way to combat stress. If you’ve always said yes to organize the same community fundraiser year after year, saying no may free you up to help another cause that interests you. When a friend asks for a favor that you would truly inconvenience you, take the guilt out of the equation and explain why it won’t work. Saying no isn’t selfish; it’s simply a healthy form of self-care. There’s nothing wrong with caring for you in order to manage stress.
Stressful situations will happen. When they do, just remember that tips such as these will help to see you though. Whoever came up with the tagline, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” really knew a thing or two about it! Here’s to calm, cool and collected days ahead for us all.