In the last few years, we have witnessed unprecedented political changes, countless environmental disasters, and a global pandemic. Needless to say, I think we could all benefit from some stress management techniques.
Whether you’ve stumbled across this page because:
- You’ve noticed your blood pressure steadily rising over the past few months;
- COVID-19 news has made you anxious;
- You’re nervous about the upcoming holiday gatherings;
- You have a family member who seems to be losing the battle to stress;
- Or any other reason,
This article will address multiple research-backed methods to reduce stress.
I invite you to take a few deep breaths, lean back and enjoy the following guide to some of the best stress management techniques.
Best Stress Management Techniques
When it comes down to it, there are basically two ways to create change: remove something or add something. In the first section, we’ll review some positive changes and additions you can make to your daily routine. Not only will these changes help to reduce your stress level, but they will also lead to a healthier, happier life.
Things to Add to Your Routine for Better Stress Management
If you’re like most people, just thinking about exercise stresses you out. However, it’s important to note that even extremely low-intensity, short-duration exercise throughout the week (such as a light, 15-minute stroll outside after lunch) can improve stress and mental health. Also, once people get started with an exercise routine, their fear and stress about the activity tends to decrease markedly.
You don’t need to start lifting heavy weights or running sprints in the desert to reap the benefits of exercise. Start slow. Find something you don’t hate that gets you moving. Before you know it, your stress levels will begin to melt away.
Throughout many cultural and religious traditions, meditation has always played a key role. However, meditation doesn’t have to be associated with religion. In fact, for our purposes, we can define meditation as “peaceful reflection”.
With this definition in mind, you could technically be in a state of meditation while you read this article. You don’t need to move to a monastery and give up all earthly pleasures to start meditating. Just like with exercise:
- Start slow.
- Put your phone down for a few minutes in the morning before you start your day.
- Think about something that makes you happy.
Soon enough, you’ll find yourself relaxed and ready to take on each of the items on your daily list.
Often, people equate deep breathing with meditation. However, for our purposes, let’s separate the two stress management techniques.
There are many different ways to practice deep breathing. Examples include:
- The Wim Hof Method.
- XPT Breathing.
- Breathing exercises for managing coughs.
- General breathing exercises.
Some of the above deep breathing methods involve complex philosophies on breathing and health. Others on the list are simple tips for better breathing.
But you may not want to start a whole new breathing routine. Further, you may feel overwhelmed by the methodology inherent in each of these techniques. If this is the case, simply start here:
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Set a timer for 3 minutes.
- Begin by breathing slowly in and slowly out (at least 3 seconds in and 3 seconds out).
- Every few breaths, try to slow down a little bit more (e.g. increasing to 4 seconds, then 5 seconds, etc.).
Once the timer goes off, take stock of how you are feeling. Do you notice any difference in your stress level? Your heart rate?
If you like the feeling you get from deep breathing, try for 4 minutes next time!
Do you like reading? How about listening to music? It can often feel like we are too busy to stop and enjoy these activities. However, it’s important to take time for yourself. If you like to read, set aside 15 minutes a day to read a chapter or two of a new book. If your favorite band came out with their latest album, listen to it on your commute!
You deserve to do things that make you happy. Not every minute of your day needs to be spent on being productive.
Things to Remove From Your Routine for Better Stress Management
Alcohol and Drugs
One drink here and there is no problem. Many people enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, and it never becomes problematic. Evidence from rigorous research studies has even found that a single glass of red wine at dinner benefits cardiovascular health. However, more than a single glass of wine and that the risks outweigh the benefits.
On the other hand, many people can fall into the trap of using alcohol and drugs as a crutch. Without these substances, they feel that they can no longer cope with stress. This level of dependency can lead to devastating consequences. Alcohol abuse is never a good option for dealing with the problems life presents to us.
Turning to sugary, calorie-filled foods when stressed can cause weight gain and other health consequences. The fleeting moments of bliss that one experiences after eating a donut or similar foods are not true happiness. Turning these unhealthy foods into an escape from stress will only lead to long-term problems, not solutions.
Romantic relationships, friendships, family relationships, and even work relationships can create significant levels of stress. If you feel that your stress is a direct result of a particular relationship, you should do everything you can to end or change this relationship. No amount of money you receive from a toxic work environment is worth being constantly stressed.
As far as personal relationships go, evaluate the pros and cons: is the stress you experience worth keeping the relationship alive? Have you discussed your concerns with the other person, and nothing has changed?
Your relationships are your business. Just make sure you’re maintaining these relationships for the right reasons. Furthermore, ensure that your relationships aren’t causing you unnecessary levels of stress.
Stress is a complicated phenomenon that is present in everyone’s life to some degree. But even though we can’t fully eliminate stress from our lives, we can find ways to manage it. By removing stress triggers and adding positive coping techniques, anyone can live a more fulfilling, less stressful life.
*Note: the information provided in this article should not be considered medical advice. This post is not a substitute for an official evaluation by a licensed medical provider. Always consult your doctor before beginning any new health program.