Few, if any, of us can say that we live stress-free. It’s part of life, and it does have a purpose. The results of stress can help us deal with moments of crisis and stir us to action. But too much stress can negatively impact our health, encouraging problems from heart issues to gastrointestinal concerns. So how do we take control of our health and cut back our stress levels? It can be easier said than done, however, here are some ideas that may help you.
The first step is to figure out what’s causing you the stress. If a particular situation, person, or item on your to-do list is creating your stress, identifying it and dealing with it can be the most effective solution. This means you’re taking care of the cause, not just the symptoms. If the cause cannot be taken care of, however, there are ways to deal with the symptoms that may bring you relief.
Massage is a popular choice, as is any method of pampering: manicures and pedicures, salon and spa treatments such as facials, relaxing in a hot tub. These can help loosen your muscles and get you to breathe easier, leaving your mind free to deal with the stressful situation.
Along the same lines is physical activity. Getting your body active can also let your mind clear. Take a walk, go for a hike, or ride a bike. Go to the gym. Play a sport with friends. Dance. Sing. Do yoga. The more muscles the activity uses, the better. Then, after you’ve exerted yourself, take a warm shower to soothe your muscles and let your body unwind.
You can also try simply taking deep breaths. Sit in a comfortable chair with your hands on your lap. Close your eyes and take deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Focus only on your breathing. Let your shoulders sag, your muscles relax. Roll your neck. The longer you’re able to focus on your breathing, the better. Let the stress melt off you.
Sometimes the best cure for stress is getting your mind off it. Participate in an activity that brings you joy. Do you have a hobby you enjoy? Are there friends you like to socialize with? Is there a food or activity that gets your mind off everything else? Go out to the movies (and pick an upbeat comedy rather than that dramatic downer). Read a book. Listen to music.
To really get your mind off your own problems, try helping others who are less fortunate. Doing volunteer work can make your situation seem a whole lot simpler. Check out VolunteerMatch for ideas and opportunities or call your local social services department to find out where you can help.
Last but not least, don’t forget taking action. I find that if I’m stressed about a situation, taking actions to improve that situation brings me the greatest relief. Then I feel like I’m actually doing something, instead of avoiding it. Even if the solution has not been found, and the cause is not completely dealt with, at least I know I’m getting there. And that can help relieve stress in the long-term, not just the present.