Abundant Optimism

Helping people regain and keep an optimistic outlook in challenging circumstances and improve their creativity, mind, and skills.

How To Reduce Stress

By Tamara Martfeld

Excessive stress is recognized as a cause of many health issues. It is beneficial to reduce the level of stress to something manageable and maintain a low stress level. I think it is very unusual for anyone to be 100% stress-free. As a matter of fact, I have read that it is not healthy to be 100% stress-free, that a little bit of stress is good for you. Emphasis on the “little”. Regardless of your stress level there are a few simple things you can do to reduce the stress and improve your health. Some coping strategies can be turned into good habits which will help maintain a low stress level without trying!

If you have no significant stress now I recommend reading this article anyway. Stress is part of the average person’s life at some point in time. Getting into some of these habits before the stress occurs can help you better deal with stress when it comes along, frequently without even realizing that you are dealing well with the stress.

The easiest stress reducer is deep breathing. Some people instruct you to breathe deep as you count to 5, hold the breath as you count to 5, then release the breath as you count to five. Others have different numbers, but the same method. This is great if you are under a lot of stress and are trying to relax or are meditating. It is better to get into the habit of breathing deep, period. As you inhale breathe so that the air expands the stomach. Exhale normally. Remember to do this every time you breathe. Make it a habit. I have been doing this for so long that it is now natural – I never breathe where my chest expands unless I am doing it on purpose. This habit brings more air into your body on a regular basis and is healthier than chest breathing. Expect the habit to take a few months to take hold.

Another stress reliever is to take breaks. I cannot speak for other countries, but in the United States there are laws requiring your employer to give you breaks after certain periods of time. Take them. If you are due a coffee break walk away from your desk for a few minutes. If you are due a lunch break, do not work while you are eating lunch. Get up and go to the restroom once an hour regardless of whether you need to use the facilities. Many studies have indicated that even 5 minutes will make you more productive by refreshing your mind and getting your blood flowing, so it is beneficial to your employer as well as your health. It also gives you a mental break from whatever you are doing and can break a stress cycle.

Drink water. Being dehydrated is stressful on your body. The best recommendation I have seen is to drink until you are running clear. When you body is functioning optimally stress can be better handled by the body. If you need help getting into the water-drinking habit, set a timer every 30 minutes to remind you until the habit takes hold.

Listen to soothing music or music that lifts you up. Soothing music helps by being relaxing. If you are one of the people who cannot stand soothing music, then use the uplifting music. I find classical style and new age music to be the most relaxing for me. Instrumentals of whatever music is used will likely work the best.

Get into nature in some way. The obvious way is to take a walk outdoors, preferably in a park or other natural area. However, there are other sneaky ways you can access nature if a good outdoor area is not readily available. You can concentrate on a picture of nature and use a little imagination to pretend you are in the picture. One advantage to this method is that you can “go” anywhere you want, including a place out of season or out of this world (fictional locations). Another method is to listen to soundtracks of nature. I have seen them for bird song, oceans, general nature sounds, and thunderstorms. My favorite is the thunder storm – very relaxing for me. Find the one that works for you. Some recordings are only of the nature sounds and others have music added. Try renting a few until you find the one or two which is best for you.

The methods I have mentioned so far can be easily turned into daily habits to manage normal stress. Of course, if you are under a lot of stress from a given situation it may be more difficult. There are a few ways to address this type of stress.

Tune into your body and recognize what signs your body gives you that you are under stress. For me it is a specific pain in by shoulder and abdomen. Once you recognize these signs you may be able to nip heavy stress in the bud.

If you are under a lot of stress, identify the situation causing the stress. This may seem easy, but once you are tuned into your body you may realize you are under stress and not have an obvious reason why. Identify the source and deal with it the best you can.

In many situations for most people you can look at the big picture and realize that the source of stress is really not worth stressing over. For example, if you are pushing to get something done, remembering that no one will die if it is not done can put it in perspective (this is assuming that it is true for your situation). Sometimes just changing the perspective can reduce the stress.

Also, it is always good to remember what you can change and what you just need to accept. If you cannot change it and cannot accept it, then the best answer is to leave it as soon as you are able.

I hope that you find these methods useful. I used to be under significant stress from a toxic supervisor. At that time I did not know any method to reduce stress. I researched and found these methods and have found myself able to deal with situations associated with high stress without any stress symptoms. I know they work.

Have a nice, relaxing August!