You know that chronic stress is causing you problems in life. What you might not realise is that it’s affecting your body just as much as your mind. Chronic stress can cause physical pain, affect your ability to relate to others and leave you too exhausted to enjoy the good things in life. Here’s a quick explanation of the different types of stress and then 13 ways that you can reduce it’s impact on your day to day life.
What Is Stress and What Causes It?
Mental stress is a state of worry or tension caused by a difficult situation. It’s normal to feel stress in our daily lives as we’re programmed to feel stress to keep us safe. However, from time to time, we allow stress to get on top of us and when that happens it can have a very negative affect on our quality of life.
The are three types of stress:
- Acute Stress: Believe it not not, this is a good kind of stress which was designed to keep us alert and ready for action. Acute stress is a short term response from a stressful situation such as bumping into your ex, narrowly avoiding a car accident or dropping your morning coffee. The body returns back to normal quickly and you get on with your day.
- Acute Episodic Stress: This kind of stress is repetitive and ongoing, such as having a stressful job or caring for an ill relative in their home. There are gaps between the events, but our bodies don’t have much time to restore back to normal. This kind of stress can accumulate and affect our general well-being.
- Chronic Stress: Constant stress with no let up in between such as living with an abusive spouse, co-parenting with an abusive ex, being stalked or living in a war zone. Typically chronic stress generates a state where the person is unable to feel safe at any time during the day or night.
Under stress people can resort to unhelpful forms of “self medication,” like drinking too much alcohol, eating more and being less active than normal.
We can’t eliminate stress from our lives but you can learn how to downgrade your stress levels from an unhealthy 10/10 to 1/10.
13 Tips To Reduce Stress
Here are 13 different things you can do today, to take control of stress and get yourself back on track. Before you say “I’ve heard about some of this things before,” ask yourself why you’re still so stressed out and give them a try.
Use the list below to jump to the tips you’re interested in, and then use the return button, or read all 13 tips in order.
- Stop Speaking Negatively To Yourself
- Get Up And Move
- Get a Massage
- Laugh More
- Help Other People
- Box Breathing
- Recognise Your Triggers
- Look After Your Body
- Take Up Yoga or Tai Chi
- Spend Time in Nature
- Stop Watching The News & Doom-Scrolling
- Stay Away From Negative People
- Learn Self Hypnosis or Meditation
1: Stop Talking Yourself Down
Catch yourself whenever you say or think something like ” I can’t do this, “Nothing ever works,” or “No one understands…” Being negative is a behaviour that stress thrives upon. I’m not saying become positive 100% of the time – nobody can do that, but try to reduce the number of times you do it per day.
When you find yourself thinking about negative things, imagine that your thoughts are a picture on a dating app and mentally swipe that thought away. If it helps, physically lift your finger and swipe the air in front of you.
Once you start swiping away that negativity, replace it by saying something good. If that’s a stretch, tell yourself that you’re safe where you are right now, or that’s a worry for another day.
2: Get up and move!
Motion creates emotion and encourages new patterns in your brain (neuroplasticity). Jump up and down for a couple of minutes. Dance around your room with your favourite music on headphones. Go for a short walk.
3: Get a massage.
If you have the funds, get a regular massage. A qualified massage therapist will get rid of the tension you store around your body.
You know how painful your shoulders and lower back feel. That can be stress induced tension. If you don’t have the funds, invest in a good quality foam roller or a deep tissue massage tool.
4: Laugh more.
Laughter is a brilliant natural stress buster. It can release chemicals that help you feel better and reduce physical pain. Watch funny movies or YouTube clips. Get out to a comedy club if you can.
5: Help other people.
It’s therapeutic. But a word of warning. Don’t get caught up in other people’s problems so you can forget about your own.
Think about doing some volunteering. Become a good listener. Many folks want someone to listen.
They don’t necessarily want advice, they just want to talk. Look up volunteering opportunities in your area. See if there’s something that interests you.
6: Box Breathing
Box breathing used by Special Forces is brilliant. Simple to learn, and you can do it almost anywhere. It works by taking you out of your anxious brain and focused on your body. Whilst you’re doing it, imagine a square with a dot or a little pac-man munching it’s way clockwise along the perimeter. Start on the lower left corner.
A – Breathe in slowly (count 1,2,3,4)
B – Hold your breath (count 1,2,3,4)
C – Breath out (count 1,2,3,4)
D – Hold again (count 1,2,3,4)
E – Start again from “A.”
After a minute or so of Box Breathing, you will find yourself feeling calm and relaxed. Your mind and body will be back in balance.
7: Understand your triggers
What are your Top 10 most frequent stressful situations?
Once you’ve made your list. Ask yourself what you can do to mentally prepare for each situation and are there any that you can avoid?
Meaning what action can you take to eliminate or reduce the stress associated with each item on your list. Do you need to learn new skills?Could you use extra resources, do you need to drink less coffee?
Often certain situations can trigger unwanted emotions or feelings, and just knowing that in advance and mentally preparing for them can reduce their impact.
8: Look after your Body
Lack of sleep, poor diet and no exercise wreaks havoc on our body and mind. I know you’ve heard this before, but it’s so important and often ignored. It’s a huge stress management technique. Don’t burn the candle at both ends!
Getting an adequate amount of sleep is absolutely essential for our ongoing happiness. The happy hormone Serotonin can only be manufactured within our bodies whilst we are asleep. Worse still, stress can actually cause insomnia, which creates a vicious cycle of sleep and serotonin deficiency.
Avoid using unhelpful methods to deal with your stress. Don’t automatically pour a glass of wine and or don’t light up a cigarette. For some people this is a entry point to addiction.
Booze, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and drugs make the problem worse and will interfere with your sleep cycle.
A better idea is to work your way through the problem first. Then, once you’re relaxed, you can have that glass of wine if you want.
Eat healthy foods. If possible, avoid processed foods completely. Did you know that refined sugars can destroy the good bacteria in your stomach that you rely on to create serotonin?
Try to think as your mind and body as a single machine, totally dependent on each other to function correctly. If your brain isn’t working then your body starts to malfunction in tandem. Processed foods are not the diet we evolved to consume – expecting our bodies to thrive on second best food, just like you wouldn’t expect a petrol car to run on diesel.
9: Take up yoga or Tai Chi.
These two arts are by their very nature, calming stress busters. In a study published in 2018, researchers found that Yoga was extremely beneficial to perceived stress and heart rate variability. They recommended at least 60 minutes a week for reduction of perceived stress and 90 minutes per week for reduction of Heart Rate Variability.
10: Go forest bathing.
Nope don’t go looking for a lake in a forest. Get into a forest. Walk slowly, smell, listen, touch the trees and breathe. If there’s no forests nearby, just get out into nature.
Even big cities have beautiful open spaces you can wander in. If you can’t leave your home, spend time in your garden. If you don’t have a garden, buy a few house plants. Nurture them.
11: Stop watching/Listening to the news.
The news paints an unpleasant picture of the world – they focus on the headline grabbing worst things that have happened today. Focusing on the negative will only stress you out and reinforce your view that the world is not a safe place to be. In reality, nice things happen to people every day, but none of these things are going to hit the news cycle.
If you need to be kept up to date on the news then consider finding a publication that summarises the headlines without the drama so you can be selective about what you let into your world view.
12: Stay away from toxic, negative people.
We all have people in our lives that cause us stress. Whether it’s a family member, and ex spouse / friend or a grade A narcissist – you already know who I’m talking about.
If they’re having a negative effect on you, unfollow them on social media. If they’re in your physical world, avoid them as much as you can or remove them from your life if that’s practical.
13: Learn self hypnosis or meditation
Self hypnosis and meditation are excellent tools to reduce stress, especially if you practice them regularly. Both are capable of reducing your fight / flight response, calming your nervous system and leaving you better able to deal with the normal stresses of day to day life.
If you’ve tried all of the above and you still need help, then it’s possible that there’s a root cause buried deep in your unconscious mind. Work with a hypnotherapist like me – I can drop your stress levels from 10 down to 1 in less than 90 minutes and eliminate the root cause that’s stressing you out.