Chances are pretty good that if you clicked on this article, you are feeling fairly stressed out right now, or you feel stress on a regular basis and you are looking for some relief.
There are plenty of things in our modern day life that cause us to feel anxious and stressed – a fight with your spouse or teenage kids, that performance review your boss scheduled for you next week, your sick niece, your aging parents, traffic, and the neighborhood yard sale you still haven’t made any plans for. There are many different ways that stress can rear its ugly head in our day to day lives.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways that we can learn to deal with it. Not everything works for everyone, so try one or two suggestions here and if they don’t work for you, try something else.
Keep reading for some of the best ways you can reduce stress and feel happier every single day.
Schedule Me Time
This sounds cliché, but it is true. When you work hard to make everyone else happy except for yourself, no one is really happy. Your boss might be happy that you finished his project on time, but he won’t be happy that you called in sick the following week. Your kids might be happy that you took them to the amusement park, but you won’t be happy that you are exhausted at 8AM on Monday morning. You don’t have to schedule 8 or 12 hours a week for yourself (although if you can pull it off, do it!) but giving yourself just 30 minutes a day to do whatever it is that you want to do: reading a book, taking a bath, or taking mom to lunch are all great ways to relieve stress. When you are sitting in that traffic jam at 5PM, imagine the hot bath you will be soaking in soon.
Laugh at Life
Although sometimes it’s hard to find something to laugh at on certain days, try to find three to five funny memories that always make you laugh. Or a couple of jokes or funny stories. If you must, you can always resort to YouTube videos of people falling down, but when you can’t get to a computer, find ways to make yourself chuckle. When you are upset or angry or are feeling stressed, go to those funny thoughts and feel free to laugh. Unless you are in a meeting. Better to keep that to yourself or wait until you are back in your office.
Go for a Walk
A 10 minute walk can literally do wonders for your mind, as well as boost those feel good endorphins. A walk through a park, the zoo, a beautiful garden, a farmers market, the beach, a lake, or even the woods, the best escapes are out into nature. If you can’t get out to a nature setting, then at least walk to a tree and take a moment to zone out.
Do What You Can Today
Do you put things off until the last minute because they stress you out or because you are already so overwhelmed with work you think you just don’t have time to do it until you are forced to? Many people have gotten into the bad habit of not doing thing until they absolutely have to, or until they cause a problem. This makes things worse than ever! It’s just as stressful to deal with that parking ticket today as it will be tomorrow, or the day after. Do what you can today.
If you have the money to pay that ticket today, then do so and get it out of the way. If you have a big project, break it down into smaller, everyday tasks so that it will be finished by the due date. Waiting until the last minute only makes things worse and greatly increases your stress levels. Do it now or at least start on it, and you will feel so much better!
Crack a Smile
Even a fake smile is better than none at all. Studies show that smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, reduce stress levels. Our brains are constantly analyzing changes in our muscles and posture to judge how you are feeling. So if you act happy and smile, your body will respond by feeling better because if you are smiling, things must be good, right?
Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercises
Research shows that when people do progressive muscle relaxation exercises, even just once a week, that it will significantly reduce blood pressure, pulse, and feelings of anxiety. So sit back, close your eyes, and tighten up your feet. Then relax them. Tighten up your calf muscles. Then release them. Continue until you reach your forehead. If you can add some relaxing music, so much the better.
Constant multi-tasking and over-scheduling are perhaps the most common reasons people today feel stressed out all the time. When you always have a jam packed schedule, you find yourself rushing everywhere and doing everything as fast as possible so you can move on to the next task. This causes you to scream at the most minor of traffic jams, become frustrated at long lines, and literally go berserk when something causes you to be delayed.
Avoid stressful situations to begin with by cutting yourself some slack. Say no to things you simply cannot do or that will only add to your already overwhelming schedule. Look at your to-do list and see if there are some things that you can delegate to your kids, your spouse, or hire someone to do for you. Always plan on delays and schedule them into your calendar. If it takes you 30 minutes to get to work, plan on 45. Better to get to the office with time to spare than to be late and stressed out.
Stop the Should’s
Unfortunately, we are our own worst enemies when it comes to self-talk. How many times have you come home, exhausted, and thought “I should mop the floors, cook dinner from scratch and spend an hour with the kids then an hour at the gym” or find you have yet another invitation to a wedding and think “I should go if they were kind enough to invite me. I’m going to 5 weddings this month, why not 6?” Don’t let those should’s make you feel anxious about making the decisions that you make. Don’t feel guilty for not being able to do more than you can. Television and magazines (not to mention internet pages) tell us that we should have the perfect, high paying job, a spotlessly clean huge house in a great neighborhood, with clean, happy children who have everything they want and go to every activity possible, cook from scratch, have the perfect body, hair, makeup, vegetable garden, flower garden, and still have sex every single night. Keep in mind that fantasy lives like that are for Hollywood movies and that they aren’t real life. Don’t should yourself to death.
Listen to Music
Music is well-known for having restorative and healing power. Music can reduce depression, increase self-esteem, and lower stress levels. Although most people think that only classical music can calm the savage beast, any music that makes you happy and feel good is the type of music that you should listen to.
Imagine the Best Case Scenario
It’s easy to get focused on the negative and look for the worst case scenarios, but when you visualize yourself dealing with a problem head on and solving it easily, you will really reduce your stress levels. Even if you aren’t sure exactly what the best case scenario would be, you can simply visualize yourself solving the problem in a general way, then walking away feeling successful, happy, and accomplished.
Get Your Rest
Although it might sound impossible to get a good night’s sleep when you are worried and stressed over tomorrow’s meeting, if you don’t get your rest, whatever happens tomorrow is going to be a whole lot worse if you can’t keep your eyes open. Fatigue makes any type of stress and anxiety even worse. Make yourself a nice cup of chamomile tea and tell yourself that you can’t do anything more about this tonight. You are going to get your rest and work on it again tomorrow.
Do a few Breathing Exercises
One of the oldest ways to gain control of your mind and your life is through breathing exercises. There are plenty of them to choose from, but studies have shown breathing exercises relieve tension and calm the mind. You can try something called “Equal Breathing” where you inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. Keep a nice thought in your mind while you are doing this, such as breathing in beautiful bright light and breathing out stress.
Keep It in Perspective
A good-sized chunk of the things we worry about are things that we have no control over or that never happen. Worried about being laid off at work? You have no control over that, but you can write out an action plan as to what you will do if it does happen. Start looking over other job possibilities, maybe update your resume, and set aside a little extra cash just in case. Worried that your son is going to break a bone playing football? Although you could take him out of the game, he could just as easily break a bone riding his skateboard. Have your doctor’s phone number programmed into your phone just in case and be certain that your insurance card is current and is in your wallet.
Rather than waste time and effort worrying, not to mention the toll that all the stress you are feeling will take on your body, focus on removing stressful situations as much as possible and find a solution to the problem. Worrying is useless and stressful. Thinking, and finding solutions, that is progress and empowerment.