Stress is inevitable. It finds us all in life, and while a little stress can keep us focused and motivated, too much of it can sometimes bring our lives to a complete halt. When we’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed-out, we often become paralyzed and unable to do much of anything. Just as bad as stress are unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with it. Do you find yourself turning to food, alcohol, medications, or even drugs? This can easily turn one set of problems into another that can balloon out of control, too. It’s best to avoid the unhealthy coping mechanisms from the start, and find good ways to keep your stress under control.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to cope and reduce stress on your own. Here are 6 ideas to handle stress without causing more of it.
- Calm yourself. Do a breath control exercise like abdominal breathing.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This insures that the diaphragm is pulling air into the base of the lungs.
- After exhaling through the mouth, take a slow deep breath in through your nose imagining that you are sucking in all the air in the room and hold it for a count of 7 (or as long as you are able, not exceeding 7)
- Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. As all the air is released with relaxation, gently contract your abdominal muscles to completely evacuate the remaining air from the lungs. It is important to remember that we deepen respirations not by inhaling more air but through completely exhaling it.
- Repeat the cycle four more times for a total of 5 deep breaths and try to breathe at a rate of one breath every 10 seconds, about 6 breaths per minute. This rate has a positive effect on cardiac health.
- Meditate. Use visualization to help you become one with your thoughts. Sit quietly with your eyes closed, imagining the sights, sounds and smells of your favorite place, such as a beach or mountain retreat.
- Identify your stressors. Now that you’ve slowed your racing thoughts, sit down with a pen and notebook in a quiet place and write down exactly what it is that is stressing you. Is it a project at work? Your demanding boss? An approaching deadline? A messy bedroom? A disagreement with a family member? Getting specific about what your stress is about will help you get organized to create a plan of action.
- Consider what you can control. Look at your list and figure out what you can control and what you can’t. Trying to take control over uncontrollable things will only add to your stress and make you feel hopeless. Once you’ve identified what’s stressing you out, determine the best ways to take action. Try breaking it into smaller, more manageable chunks and create a step-by-step action plan.
- Take care of your body. Avoid using caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, junk food, binge eating and other drugs as your primary means for coping with stress. Try a yoga class instead. And get the right amount of sleep. For most people, this is seven to nine hours a night.
- Learn to say, “No” occasionally. It won’t hurt other people’s feelings as much as you think and is simply a method to be more assertive in your own life, to better help you meet your own needs.
Remember — we do have control over our stress by the choices we make in our lives. It sometimes takes a little practice and effort to put some of these techniques into play in your life. But once you do, you may be pleasantly surprised at the positive benefits you’ll receive.