7 No Fail Ways to Lower Stress
It’s 9:00pm on Sunday night and your daughter just informed you that she has to do a project for school. She needs poster board, markers, super glue…and glitter. Oh, and it’s due tomorrow.
Cue the stress! You can feel your blood pressure rising, your face is getting hot…is that a headache starting? She said glitter, too, didn’t she…I think I’m getting a headache.
Stop! Breathe! There’s definitely some understanding here that this is an avoidable stress (but that’s a post for another time), but how can you be proactive about your overall stress level? What about that feeling of stress that just seems to bubble under the surface and boils up over the edges when things really get tough?
Here are 7 no fail ways to lower stress that can help you be better prepared for last minute stress that comes up (like forgotten school projects).
I make no promises about your ability to manage glitter.
1. Eat (healthy) – focus on foods that are known to increase “feel good” chemicals in your brain like serotonin. Serotonin is a messenger in the brain that delivers the signal to boost your mood and lower stress. The amino acid tryptophan is converted into serotonin, so common thought is that by eating foods high in tryptophan, serotonin levels should rise.
In truth, the right combination of foods are needed to help this occur. You can get more information about the healthy choices to make when trying to boost your serotonin through diet by reading this article from Healthline.
2. Sleep – you already know that getting enough sleep is a key component to improving many areas of your life, including having lower stress; however, the quality of that sleep matters even more. If the sleep you’re getting is not restful, you could wake up feeling more tired than you did before you went to bed.
Focus on getting at least 6-7 hours of good, quality sleep by: turning off electronics one hour before bed, sipping some chamomile tea, and complete any stressful tasks 2-3 hours before bed (including exercise). For more information and tips on getting good rest, check out my post on the do’s and don’ts of sleep hygiene.
3. Breathe – aromatherapy is an ancient practice in which certain scents are used to aid in relieving various ailments or symptoms, including help to lower stress. Scents such as lavender, jasmine and chamomile (remember this from the tea recommendation in tip #1?) can be used as a means to aid in relaxation and stress relief.
There are various ways to use essential oils, and many people choose to either inhale the scents (a good addition to tip #4) or infuse them into massage oils (which can be used in tip #5). Be advised that if you are using any essential aromatherapy oil on your skin, it will need to be mixed with a “carrier oil” (usually olive, coconut, or a similar natural oil) so that it does not damage your skin.
4. Meditate – Meditation is simply defined as allowing yourself to “be with yourself” for a period of time. Whether you decide to sit in silence, have soft music playing in the background, or take off on a hike through a peaceful forest, finding what works to lower stress is completely up to you.
Regardless of what speaks to you as an ideal way of meditating, there are a few factors that seem to be common across the board to aid in successful meditation practice: make sure your clothing is comfortable and non-restrictive, focus on your breathing throughout the process (in through your nose, out through your mouth), and allow yourself to be aware of sounds around you as well as your thoughts and feelings. Learn more in this article from Mentalhelp.net.
5. Massage – have you ever caught yourself rotating your neck or shrugging your shoulders in the hopes of relieving some of the tension that has built up throughout the day? These actions are ways our bodies try to allow us to loosen up tensed muscles that occur as we encounter stress. Massage takes actions similar to that and transfers them into the hands of a practitioner who can manipulate those tense muscles more effectively, leading to better relief and lower stress.
Massage can also be performed on yourself (primarily in hands and feet) or on a partner. Not only can this lower stress, but it is also a healthy way to reconnect with a loved one, as both partners are usually effected by the energy of each others’ stress. Here is a great step-by-step article explaining how to give a complete body massage (FYI, there is a step regarding the female chest, in case you may feel uncomfortable).
6. Write – Journaling can be a valuable tool to work through your stress. Having a safe place to write down any frustrations, questions, thoughts, worries, etc. may allow you to lessen some of your stress. When you allow your thoughts a place to “live,” many times they may seem to have less power. Once they can be seen in writing, the thoughts/stresses may seem much smaller than they once were.
Writing out stresses also allows you to have a place to write down possible solutions. Label the pros and cons of those solutions, which ones make the most sense, potential rewards and consequences, etc. Seeing everything in “black and white” so-to-speak, can put the stress in perspective and help you walk through the process of addressing the issue.
7. Talk – finally, talk to someone about the stress if one or more of the above strategies doesn’t work to alleviate the stress. You could reach out to a friend, family member, clergy, coach, therapist, etc. Regardless of who you choose, find someone that you consider trustworthy and who will give you support as you process your stress.
Remember, you are not looking for someone to solve the problem for you. You need to talk to someone who can be positive, encouraging, and reinforcing of your progress toward lower stress. Having an avenue of a friend with whom you can work out potential solutions to a stress allows you to think through a situation before rushing into a decision.
So the next time you get side-swiped with a last minute request or project and have to make some quick decisions to work things out, these tips should put you in a position to better lower stress before it even starts.
Unless there’s glitter. Glitter might be pushing it.