When we are stressed, our body reacts in an attempt to handle perceived physical or mental threats. Long-term activation of our stress response can lead to imbalances in the body, such as tension headaches, aching muscles, difficulty eating or sleeping or getting sick more often. Below are some tips and practices to help reduce your stress and live a happy, healthy life.
Managing your emotions can help reduce stress and lead to experiencing more positive emotions overall. To manage your emotions, start with a few simple steps:
- When experiencing anger, assess what personal rule has been broken and think about changing your perceptions of the situation.
- When experiencing worry, ask yourself if the worry is related to something out of your control, practice mindfulness and focus on what you can control.
- When experiencing fear, remember that fear is learned and, therefore, can be unlearned. Start by trying to get out of your comfort zone and examine what is causing your fear.
Manage the Stimulus Response
As humans, we have been conditioned to react to various situations in ways that can activate the stress response. However, we can put a pause between the stimulus and our response, giving us the power to choose how we respond. Whenever you experience a stressful thought or situation, follow these steps:
- Pause and take a deep breath.
- Focus on something soothing that will help relieve the stress of the moment.
- Ask yourself how the situation can teach you something or look for fun in the moment.
Sleep is essential to a healthy life, but few people get enough sleep or experience the deep, restful sleep that leads to optimum wellness. Manage your sleep by following these steps:
- Practice mindfulness or meditation before sleep.
- Eat well, exercise and manage your stress throughout the day.
- Try to avoid overly stimulating activities before going to bed.
Self-talk refers to our dominant thoughts. Our subconscious mind accepts our dominant thoughts as true and builds our perceived realities around them, which affects how we feel. Ineffective self-talk consists of words that create more stressful feelings, such as “I can’t,” “shouldn’t” and “I wish.” To prevent self-talk from negatively impacting you, swap the words you use with more positive ones.
- Change your self-talk to empowering, affirming thoughts.
- Use words and phrases such as “I can,” “I will” and “I do.”
- Check in with yourself to prevent negative self-talk from dominating your thoughts.
Stop the Control Stress
Stress and control are inversely related. As control increases, stress decreases. However, we can’t control everything in our lives, so the appropriate response to things we can’t control is acceptance. Reduce your stress from things you can’t control by doing the following:
- Make a list of things you can control.
- Ask yourself if there is a good reason for not letting go of your need to control certain things, then release them if possible.
- Take note of how you feel after you let go of things out of your control.
Upgrade Your Thoughts
Our thoughts often lead to emotions. When we have negative thoughts, this can trigger our stress response. When this happens, we can focus on upgrading our thoughts to encourage positive feelings and reduce stress. When you feel a negative or stressful feeling, focus on:
- Assess and identify the feeling.
- Upgrade your thoughts to something more positive.
- Take note of how you feel afterward.