Living in this fast-paced, modern world, chances are, you know very well what it feels like to be overwhelmed, stressed and anxious.
But you are not alone. A recent study showed that half of the working population has experienced some kind of stress this year and 10% feel depressed and anxious. If you are looking to change things for the better and want to prioritize your mental health and well-being, there is no time like the present.
While it may seem like a lofty, gigantic goal to live stress-free from now on, breaking it down into smaller, actionable steps is within reach. Keep in mind, getting all worked up over a mixed message from your partner or a lecture from your moody boss isn’t going to get you anywhere.
We’ve put together our TOP 10 simply tips to manage bouts of stress and instantly feel calmer and happier.
Your body has a built-in calming system and breathing slow, rhythmic, deep breaths is one of the most effective and fasted ways to de-stress. Breathe through your nose as deeply as you can, filling up your belly, your ribcage and lastly your chest on the count of four, hold the breath for the count of four and then let the breath out in reverse order at a much slower pace to the count of eight. Breathing this way activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which will instantly calm you down and melt away stress.
#2 Distract yourself
When you are in a stressful situation, don’t engage in anxious or stressful thoughts and feelings, because focusing continually on the sense of being stressed out and feeling overwhelmed, will only exacerbate the situation by feeding the feeling with more energy and validating it. Whenever you feel stress and anxiety creeping up, tell yourself to stop and immediately engage in something else. Take at least 5 minutes to get out of the situation you are in. Exercising can be an excellent distraction technique because it doesn’t just get you out of the stressful situation, it also produces feel good hormones, which will set you up to be able to deal with the stressor in a much calmer state of mind. Remove yourself from the situation, go for a brisk walk, call a friend, listen to your favorite song, focus on your breath. Do whatever makes you feel good until your anxiety is forgotten and you have the mental space to handle the stressful situation more rationally.
#3 Fake a Smile
The power of a smile is invaluable in calming you down in a stressful situation and even if you don’t feel like smiling, fake it ’til you make it. Put a smile on your face no matter what because multiple studies show that a smile is linked to lowering your heart rate and can calm a stressful situation or task. Additionally, if the situation involves other people, the smile will at the same time have a positive effect on everybody around you, making an unbearable situation bearable.
#4 Chew Gum
It may seem silly to you, but popping a piece of gum into your mouth can chew away the stress. Studies from Japan showed that chewing gum for several minutes can lead to a drop in cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone that is to blame for feeling stressed out. So always have a gum handy so you can calm yourself down whenever you feel like you are getting overwhelmed with stress.
#5 Get Moving
We mentioned exercise a little bit earlier. While you may want to skip your workout when you have a full plate and are stressed out, keep in mind that exercising is one of the best ways to balance your hormones, reduce cortisol and increase the feel good hormones like endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. Make working out part of your daily routine, take a yoga class before work, go spinning in your lunch break or hit the gym after work. And then create a soothing playlist to cool down, because the power of music will sync up your brain waves with the slow rhythm, getting you in a meditative state.
#6 Call a Friend
Spending time with people you love helps your body to release the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which makes you feel more connected to the other person and melt away stress immediately. Whenever you have a stressful day at work, meet some friends for lunch or have a nice dinner with your family after a crazy, busy day. Even calling a friend can make you feel better, just make sure you keep your venting to a minimum and don’t turn it into a bitchfest that only gets you worked up again.
#7 Snack Right
It is in our human nature to want to treat ourselves with a cookie or piece of cake when we are stressed out, but in stressful situations it is more important than ever to stick to healthy eating habits because sugary treats spike your blood-glucose levels, making you feel even more jittery. An amazing stress-relieving treat are chocolate covered strawberries. The vitamin C from strawberries lowers the stress-induced free radicals and dark chocolate has the power to lower the stress hormones. Another great option is to snack on celery sticks or carrots, because just like chewing a gum, this healthy snack will help you to release tension and frustration.
#8 Get Outside
When you are stressed out, no amount of ‘don’t worry’ is going to make you feel any better. Instead of being stuck at your desk with the feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed out, get up and go outside for a few minutes. Simply getting a bout of fresh air can help you to improve your perspective and help you deal with a stressful situation in a much calmer manner. Forget what needs to be done, get outside and indulge in a head-clearing moment. Stop and smell the roses and give yourself time to relax. Studies show that smelling certain scents – for example lavender – can reset your stress levels to normal.
#9 Compliment Someone
Whenever we feel connected to other people, we feel instantly calmer. This connection dates back to evolutionary times, when it could mean the difference between life or death to have a positive connection to your tribe, rather than being isolated. Create a positive micro-connection to someone else by complimenting another person, even a stranger and you will feel instantly less stressed.
#10 Drink a Cup of Tea
Putting on the kettle and making yourself a cup of tea is a win-win situation. For one, the act of actually making the tea is removing you from the stressful situation and gives you the time to calm down and on the other hand, it has been proven in several studies that the amino acid L-theanine, which is found in tea, can have the ability to alter the patterns in your brain, giving you a relaxed feeling and instant calm.
Feeling stressed out and anxious is only going away when we learn how to gain perspective and reclaim control over our own life. Yes, juggling work, private life, chores and obligations as well as personal development all at once can be a lot to deal with at times, but punching a wall is rarely the answer.
BANISH STRESS IN AN INSTANT AND BECOME CALMER AND HAPPIER
Joschi & Monika