INTRODUCTION TO STRESS REDUCTION
Are you ready to kick that stress to the curb and be chill again? Well, you’re not alone! Overwhelming stress is not something you just have to live with. The good news is there are easy lifestyle changes you can implement to make stress reduction a breeze.
Over time, you may notice that certain activities address specific stresses better than others. Use this information to direct your future choices when you experience elevated stress and are choosing an activity to address that anxiety.
7 TIPS FOR STRESS REDUCTION
- Let It Go Away! Experiment with 3-5 minutes to clear your mind with meditation where you sit comfortably, close your eyes, breathe better, and focus on your breathing instead of any thoughts. You may want to use guided meditation via an app or a recording to help you get started.
- Laugh It Away! Experiment with 60 seconds of sustained, authentic laughing, think about something that makes you laugh or grab an image or listen to something that helps you laugh.
- HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) It Away! 5-minute series such as 20 sec jumping jacks or high knee marching, 10-sec rest, 20-sec feet together, side-to-side jumping, 10-sec rest, 20-sec push-ups, 10-sec rest, 20-sec bear crawl, 10-sec rest, 30-second jump rope (with or without a rope), 10-sec rest, 20-sec burpees, 10- sec rest – repeat 5 times.
- Stretch / Roll It Away! 5-minute foam roll your whole body and use a hard ball (like lacrosse or baseball) on your foot or try a 10-minute whole body stretch. I love a whole body stretch when I really need to relax.
- Wash It Away! A bath or shower helps your body relax. Try an Epsom salt or magnesium bath for 10 minutes (not hot, but warm) or a warm shower, and finish with 30 seconds of very cold water.
- Smell It Away! Use essential oils or fresh lemon or herbs to deeply inhale through your nose.
- Have Mom Send It Away! Get in touch with mother nature – ideally touch nature (hug a tree, remove your shoes and socks and walk on the Earth) for 10 minutes Spend time with an animal outside. Color, draw, paint or take photos outside (ok to post later).
IDENTIFY THE SOURCE OF YOUR TENSION
Prevention demands that you get to the root cause of your stress. To identify the true source of stress and determine if the stress trigger is within your control, ask yourself the following questions:
- Was my stress elevated before the current trigger occurred? For example, if you think the source of your stress is your boss asking you to do something new at 4 pm (when you leave at 5 pm) but at lunch, you went to pay your bills and you’re worried about being able to pay them all. Then your true source of stress is likely to be finances, and your boss’ request was just the icing on the stress cake.
- Do I have significant control over the true source of my stress? Wishing someone you love would behave a different way, or wanting to see something in the world change? Yes, you can discuss it with them. Yes, you can vote, donate and join groups that take action(s). But the reality of both these situations is that you don’t have direct or significant control over the outcome.
If the answer to the above question is “no” then, proceeding through stress addressing actions may have little lasting benefit.
- Instead, try acknowledging your lack of significant control.
- Journal or speak into the mirror about how this makes you feel.
- For this type of stress, you may benefit from working with someone to help release its impact as well.
- Stress over which you don’t have significant control often puts you at a higher baseline stress level (what keeps you at a 5,6, or 7) so that when something additional happens, it automatically pushes you to elevated stress.
- Recognize that stress that you don’t have significant control over is some of the hardest to let go of – but it is essential for better health.
HOW TO BETTER ADDRESS STRESS
If you answered “yes” to having a good amount of control over your true stress source, your better next step is to determine what action(s) you can take to reduce this stress from happening or from elevating your stress.
- Try a “Could” exercise to help you build a decision tree – and see the choices you have that can help you prevent your stress. It’s important to allow yourself to dream big during a “could” exercise, just like they say in a brainstorm “no idea is a bad one” even if it feels like a “dream on, that’s never going to happen” go ahead and jot it down. Here’s an example:
- When I get home from work, I am always stressed about needing to get dinner ready as well as wanting to exercise plus needing to get the dog to exercise, and wanting some alone time.
Working backward, you can take each of these items and see how you can make different choices more often to produce a different outcome.
- Could you get some alone time at work before coming home?
- What could you do en route to getting home that could change how you feel (scents, sounds, etc.)?
- Could taking the dog for a walk give you alone time and exercise as well? Or could you have someone else do that some days?
- Could I (or others) meal prep dinner the day before to make assembling it less intensive?
- Could your family implement some fun exercise before or after dinner?
- After you do your “Could” list, your better next step is to pick a maximum of 3 that you are going to attempt this week or month. Record these experiments and how they impact your stress. Yes, trying a “could” could be stressful the first time. It’s unknown. It creates uncertainty. But it could prove to be a win for helping you address a true stress source – so go for it!
Prevention of stress begins as you work through acknowledging and letting go of those things that you don’t have significant control over as well as starting to make new choices “could’s” that reduce the intensity and frequency of true stress sources over which you do have significant control.
For more guidance on stress reduction, download my free guide on How to Assess and Address Stress Better. If you have any questions please send me an email and I’ll be glad to help you.