Unfortunately, stress is part of life. Everyone deals with it, no matter who you are or what stage of life you’re in. Part of growing up and maturing, in fact, is learning to cope with stress.
That said, stress management is a skill that needs to be learned, not something that comes naturally to all people. Luckily, there are some very simple steps that you can take to help you deal with the sources of stress that you have and live your best life. Let’s look at the top five methods to not only deal with stress at the moment but tackle the root of it, too.
You might be sick of hearing this piece of advice, but part of the reason that it’s so common is because it is so darn effective. Focusing on your breathing is a grounding technique recommended by mental health professionals to calm racing thoughts. It can help keep you in the moment and actually make your brain more able to handle what’s being thrown at it.
From a physiological standpoint, deep breathing slows your heart rate and delivers more oxygen to your muscles and brain, making your body and mind better able to cope. This is especially useful if everyday stress has spiked to create anxiety or even panic.
There are lots of breathing techniques and even smartphone applications you can try. Here’s one: triangle breathing. Breathe in for five seconds, breathe out for five seconds, hold for five seconds, and repeat.
More than likely, you can’t address whatever it is that is causing you stress head-on right now. That’s why practicing acceptance and mindfulness can go a long way in managing stressful experiences.
First, let yourself feel whatever it is you’re feeling—anger, resentment, sadness, frustration—and then accept those feelings as valid, rather than trying to resist or deny them.
Try using a mantra that resonates with you to remind yourself that you’re safe and that you have the power to create something better, even if not in this very moment.
Finally, try appreciating and even thanking your brain for stress. After all, stress is our mind’s way of alerting us that something is wrong or uncomfortable and that we need to seek change. Envision yourself receiving the message and then putting it aside for another time when you’re better equipped to handle it.
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This method might seem counterintuitive, but when we try to avoid stress, it only gets worse and worse. That’s why it’s important to set aside time to rationally and calmly problem-solve.
Create a stress journal where you allow your mind to go to those scary, dark places. Since you’re not in a heightened emotional state, you can practice how you might deal with the unpleasant feelings when they do arise.
Shop around for tools to help you—some of the best diary planners available can even walk you through how to write about your worries and fears.
Tracking your stress allows you to gather actual data that can help you develop stress management techniques. If you’ve decided to seek the help of a mental health professional, this is an incredibly valuable tool for them, as well.
Log times when your stress is heightened and try to pin down the exact thoughts that are causing distress. Record physical symptoms as well, such as high heart rate, sweating, restlessness, exhaustion, or anything else.
Decide on set times throughout your day to check in with yourself. Once again, you can purchase a best diary planner that can help you keep track of all of these feelings and experiences.
Now that you have the data and you’ve spent some time reflecting on your stress in writing, it’s time to put it into action. Stress can make you feel ineffective and powerless, but you’re not!
Be realistic about the things that you can control or change and focus on those. Take it in baby steps. Especially if your sources of stress are really big, they’re not going to turn around overnight. Continue to practice breathing and acceptance to get through the challenging moments as you work to make realistic changes. Again, this is a process that a mental health professional can really help you work through.
At the same time, give yourself the peace of accepting the things that are not within your control, especially the actions and behaviors of others. Set healthy boundaries to protect your own well-being.
Remember, there is no magic cure for stress; you’re going to deal with it for the rest of your life. The important thing is learning how to recognize it, manage it, and even harness what it tells you to make positive life changes.
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