13 Ways to Successfully Manage Stress

July 10, 2024

First Stop Health

Everyone has stress, because life isn’t something we totally control. The question is: Are you managing your stress, or has it mastered you? The answer matters a lot for your health. If you’re stressed often over time, it puts your health at risk.

It's time to solve stressful problems when you can! And when you can’t, connect with other people and get active.

 

How does stress affect health?

Stress that continues without relief can lead to headaches, an upset stomach, high blood pressure, problems with sleeping or sex, depression or panic attacks and other forms of anxiety. On top of that, if you handle stress with food, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, gambling or other things that don’t solve the problem, you’re going to end up with more stress.

 

How to manage your stress.


  1. Get enough rest and sleep.
    A good night’s sleep makes you able to tackle the day’s stress more easily. When you are tired, you are less patient and more easily agitated, which can increase stress. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Practicing good sleep hygiene along with stress-lowering tactics can help improve your quality of sleep.

  2. Break out the bubble gum.
    Next time you’re at the end of your rope, unwrap a stick of gum. According to studies, chewing gum lowers anxiety and eases stress. Some researchers think the rhythmic act of chewing may improve blood flow to your brain, while others believe the smell and taste help you relax. 

  3. Get outside!
    Spending time outdoors, even at work or close to home, is linked to better wellbeing. You’re in a natural setting, and you’re usually doing something active, like walking or hiking. Even a few minutes can make a difference in how you feel.

  4. Smile like you mean it!
    In times of tension, keeping a smile on your face (especially a genuine smile that’s formed by the muscles around your eyes as well as your mouth) reduces your body’s stress responses, even if you don’t feel happy. Smiling also helps lower heart rates faster once your stressful situation ends.

  5. Sniff some lavender.
    Certain scents like lavender may soothe. In one study, nurses who pinned small vials of lavender oil to their clothes felt their stress ease, while nurses who didn’t felt more stressed. Lavender may intensify the effect of some painkillers and anti-anxiety medications, so if you’re taking either, check with your doctor before use.

  6. Tune in.
    Heading into a stressful situation? Music can help you calm down. In one study, people had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol when they listened to choral music before doing something stressful (like giving a speech) than when they listened to a recording of rippling water.

  7. Reboot your breath.
    Feeling less stressed is as close as your next breath. Focusing on your breath curbs your body’s “fight or flight” reaction to pressure or fear, and it pulls your attention away from negative thoughts. Sit comfortably in a quiet place. Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting your chest and lower belly rise and your abdomen expand. Breathe out just as slowly, repeating a word or phrase that helps you relax. To reap the most benefit, repeat for at least 10 minutes.

  8. Be kind to yourself.
    We all have a constant stream of thoughts running through our heads, and sometimes what we tell ourselves isn’t so nice. Staying positive and using compassionate self-talk will help you calm down and get a better grip on the situation. Talk to yourself in the same gentle, encouraging way you’d help a friend in need. “Everything will be OK,” for instance, or “I’ll figure out how to handle this.” Keep a positive, realistic attitude. Accept that although you can’t control certain things, you’re in charge of how you respond.

  9. Write your stress away.
    Jotting down your thoughts can be a great emotional outlet. Once they’re written down, you can start working out a plan to resolve them. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer pen and notebook, a file on your laptop, or a phone app. The important thing is that you’re honest about your feelings.

  10. Try to manage your time wisely.
    Say no, where you can, to things that would add more stress to your life. Set priorities and use “to do” lists to help you focus, then work through your list in order of importance.

  11. Practice giving back.
    Volunteer your time or spend time helping out a friend. Helping others helps you!

  12. Tell a friend!
    When you’re feeling overwhelmed, seek out the company of a friend or loved one. Have a friend who’s dealing with the same worries as you? Even more reason to open up. You’ll both feel less alone. 

  13. Get moving!
    When you work up a sweat, you improve your mood, clear your head, and take a break from whatever is stressing you out. Whether you like a long walk or an intense workout at the gym, you’ll feel uplifted afterward.

 

What are the signs of warning stress?

Chronic, ongoing stress can wear down the body’s natural defenses, leading to symptoms including:

  • Dizziness or feeling of “being out of it”
  • Inability to focus
  • General aches
  • Grinding teeth, clenched jaw
  • Headaches
  • Indigestion, acid reflux
  • Increase in, or loss of, appetite
  • Muscle tension in neck, face or shoulders
  • Problems sleeping
  • Racing heart
  • Cold and sweaty palms
  • Tiredness, exhaustion
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Upset stomach, diarrhea
  • Sexual problems
  • Being irritable, impatient or forgetful

Care you will love.

Originally published Jul 10, 2024 3:47:13 PM.