Stress is an inevitable part of being alive. Sometimes things are just moving so fast, or feel so complicated that it is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed or worried. A survey by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that seven out of ten adults experience stress or anxiety every day, so you are definitely not alone.
If left unchecked, feelings that life has too much pressure can be deeply destabilizing and make it more difficult to function, and even harm your health. Common signs of stress include anxiety, feeling like your mind is out of control trying to process worries, trouble concentrating on one thing, difficulty falling or staying asleep, sweating, and loss of appetite. If you are feeling stressed, it can be really helpful to know about some strategies for helping manage and bring down your stress.
1. Plan Ahead
A lot of anxiety can be caused or intensified by thoughts held in your head, running around and around and coming back up like a hamster in a wheel. Trying to hold on to everything you have to do, or worrying that you have forgotten something, can easily make you feel overwhelmed and stressed.
Putting something out there, creating a reminder external to your own brain, can often a really helpful way to reduce your worry and think more carefully about what you have to do to. Making a to-do list can be a valuable way to put down all of your tasks in one place, so you can be more calm and focused by thinking about only one thing at a time.
Stress is felt by both the mind and the body. An overwhelmed or hyperactive brain can often cause physiological symptoms, such as quick shallow breathing and a rapid heartbeat. These things can in turn cause you to feel more panicked, in a vicious cycle that can feel hard to overcome.
Fortunately, the opposite is true as well. Slowing down your breath can be a very effective way to feel calmer. Deep breathing slows down your heartbeat, and draws your focus to yourself in this moment, in a way that can be instantly calming and clarifying. Just take a few moments to bring your focus to the breath, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, putting your hand on your belly if you want to feel your breath more deeply.
3. Reach Out
Stress is often intensified by feeling alone. If you are lost in your own thoughts, it's easier to feel helpless. Connecting with another person willing to be helpful and supportive can be a really important way to feel calmer, as well as get a fresh perspective on your situation.
Talking to others can be another way to get your thoughts out of your own head, and an appropriate and sympathetic response can help empower you to help yourself. Talking face-to-face will give the maximum benefit, but you can also share what is going on over the phone or online. Support groups, taking classes to try a new fun skill, or volunteering for a cause are ways you can meet people who can help support you in your stressful moments.
4. Laugh, or Dance
If your brain feels full of anxieties or worries, taking a break to fill your mind with other things can be one of the best ways to refresh and reset. An anxious brain can easily get trapped in unending patterns of helplessness, regret, or worry, and sometimes it can be really helpful simply to break the cycle, turning to a "positive distraction" that takes the load off.
Laughter and physical activity are two excellent ways to do this, since those things release endorphins, which cause happy and relaxed feelings, and lower cortisol, that brings on feelings of stress. Turning to your favorite sitcom or funny movie, or listen to relaxing music, can lighten your mood considerably, so that your problems will feel more manageable when you return to them.
5. Change Your View
One very effective way to lessen or eliminate stress is to change your focus, or think about something other than the cause of your anxiety. This can be done by expanding your focus, and bringing your attention to something else in front of you.
Think about something going on in your life for which you feel grateful, or something in your environment. Spend a few moments dwelling on that thing. This can take your mind off your anxiety, reminding you of the positive things in your life. Relax into these positive experiences, dwelling on them so that you do not ignore then in the midst of your stress.
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