Stress doesn’t have to sideline you from life or send you straight to the ice cream tub. Here are some tricks to avoid letting your worries burden — or bury — you.
1. ID the source of your stress. Some sources of stress are easy to point the finger at, but are they really what’s bothering you? Lashing out at your kids, for example, may be a reaction not to what your kids just did but to an extra assignment piled on at work. The first step to managing stress: pinpointing the true culprit.
2. Focus on the moment. Being mindful — really paying attention to the present, not the past or the future — can help you manage stress. Spend some time every day noticing the things most people tend to ignore — like breathing, bodily sensations, and emotions.
- Lie down.
- Close your eyes and notice your posture. Keep your mind on your body — nothing else.
- Focus on the natural flow of your breath as air fills your lungs and leaves your lungs, fills your lungs and leaves your lungs.
- Notice your toes — any tension, tingling, or temperature changes?
- Think about your feet, heels, and ankles, and then your knees, thighs, and pelvis. Don’t rush. Take your time.
- Continue working your way up your body, finishing with your throat, jaw, tongue, face, and brow.
3. Look after your health. Stress is much more manageable when the other aspects of your life — from general health to sleep patterns to eating habits — are in good order. When you don’t get enough sleep, for instance, your body produces more stress hormones, making you more vulnerable to the damaging effects of stress. Evaluate what areas in your life need attention, and work on fixes.
4. Walk for 30 minutes, stretch, do yoga — just get up and move! Exercise is one of life’s greatest stress relievers. Try it.
5. Do the opposite. Every emotion has an “urge to act” that goes with it. When we feel afraid or anxious, we avoid things; when we’re depressed or sad, we withdraw; when we’re angry, we’re tempted to lash out or yell. Unfortunately, each of these behaviors actually makes things worse. But if you can do the opposite action, you may make things better. Worried about something? Tackle it instead of ignoring it. Angry at someone? Don’t lash out, be empathetic. Depressed? Go out rather than shutting yourself in.
6. Focus on your muscles. By tensing and relaxing your muscles, you can help relieve some of the physical stress that’s stored in your body. Start at the bottom: Tense the muscles of your feet and then relax them. Tense and relax the different muscle groups of your body one at a time — your legs, stomach, back, neck, arms, face, and head. And breathe.
Don’t let daily hassles get the better of you.