What Are Some Stress Relief Tips?
Saying that a little stress is a good thing is like saying that sodium is an essential nutrient: you don’t have to worry about getting the little that benefits you because you will have no problem getting more than you need — and more than is good for you.
Stress can come from so many areas of life, and can have so many detrimental effects on your mental and physical health, that it’s extremely important to have strategies you can use to effectively diminish your stress tension.
Stress and Carbs
It’s no coincidence that some people crave a hero sandwich or huge plate of pasta when they’re stressed: “comfort foods” are often high in carbohydrates, which produce a calming effect by indirectly facilitating the production of serotonin in the brain.
Effective Stress Relief Techniques
Fortunately, for as many causes of stress as there are, there are just as many ways to relieve stress. Here are some simple stress relievers that have proven useful for many people.
Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practiced way of thinking in which you consciously focus on the present moment and try to accept its positive and negative aspects without obsessing over how to change the latter, and without becoming distracted by your worries about the future or your regrets about the past.
Deep breathing. With deep breathing, the act of expelling is both literal (breath) and metaphorical (tension). One common deep-breathing technique is to close your eyes, be still, slowly inhale to the count of four, then exhale equally slowly to the count of eight, and repeat several times. Sometimes deep breathing is accompanied by the meditative strategy of picturing yourself in a quiet, relaxing environment, such as a lakeshore or empty beach at sunset.
Yoga. Mindfulness and deep breathing are at the heart of relaxation-based yoga, but the practice combines these techniques with gentle stretching that strengthens and releases tension from the muscles. Some people swear by their daily yoga (or, others, by their tai chi) regimen as a means of managing their stress and helping them to stay mentally grounded and emotionally balanced when faced with particularly stressful situations.
Massage therapy. Getting a massage is generally a relaxing and/or tension-relieving experience, and some massage techniques are even specifically targeted at stress relief. To get the most personalized health benefits from your massage sessions and to minimize the risk of injury, be sure to see a certified and registered massage therapist.
Writing. Keeping a private journal in which you can openly express your thoughts and feelings can relieve an enormous amount of stress — you might feel a strong sense of release, as though you are emptying your stress onto the page.
Sharing. Talking with a trusted friend of family memberabout the stress you’re feeling can make its load feel lighter.
Aerobic exercise. A run, bike ride or brisk walk is a good way to take your mind off your stress and, perhaps more importantly, releases endorphins.
Sex. The endorphins and feel-good hormones that are released during sex can bring a definite reduction in feelings of stress, and one study found they might even partially insulate you against the effects of stress the next day.
If you have tried without success to reduce the stress you’re feeling to a manageable level, you may need some additional help from a therapist specializing in stress counseling. Talking in itself can help to reduce your stress — you may be more comfortable opening up to your therapist than you are to family or friends about the triggers that elevate your stress level and how stress makes you feel. And as a mental health care professional, your therapist can offer you informed insight about how you can best approach the short-term relief and long-term management of your stress.
Make Managing Stress a Priority
Stress management is essential for good health, and the less stress you have in the first place, the less you’ll have to work to get rid of. It is naive to think that you can just avoid stress, period, but if you can identify the triggers that make you most vulnerable to high levels of stress, then you might also be able to identify ways to minimize your exposure to them as much as possible; for example, leave for work 15 minutes earlier in the morning if it means avoiding the stress trigger of rush-hour traffic.
Participating in some of the stress relief techniques listed above, such as keeping a journal, practicing yoga or working out, on a regular and ongoing basis and not just when you feel stressed out can also do wonders for keeping your stress at a manageable level.