The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life—giving you extra strength to defend yourself from an attacker, for example, or spurring you to run for your life in the face of a bear.
Stress can also help you rise to meet challenges. It’s what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when driving in heavy rain, or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV. But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.
Here are some simple ways to reduce stress levels:
1. Give Yourself a Time-Out
Stress comes right before anger and we usually have only seconds to stop that pressure buildup. Do whatever it takes to get back in control even if you need to lock yourself in your bathroom a few minutes.
2. Use “Calm Talk”
Lean to say a simple message to yourself to control your temper. “Stop and calm down.” “Stay in control.” Or: “I can handle this.”
3. Take Five (or a 100)
“Take Five” (or ten, twenty? Or whatever it takes!) Deliberate counting (while taking slow, deep breaths) can help calm you down and reduce that stressor.
4.Teach “Stop and Breathe”
The very second you feel you’re losing control, take a deep, slow breath (or two or three or as many as it takes). Getting oxygen into your brain is one of the fastest ways to relax.
5. Imagine Something Calming
Think of a person or place that helps you feel calm and peaceful—your Honey, that special romantic spot, the beach, your bed.
6. Do Elevator Breathing
Close your eyes, slowly breath out three times, then imagine you’re in an elevator on the top of a very tall building. Press the button for the first floor and watch the buttons for each level slowly light up as the elevator goes down. As the elevator descends, your stress fades away.
7. Try Stress Melting
Mentally scan your body to get a sense of how stress affects it each day. Lie on your back, or sit with your feet on the floor. Start at your toes and work your way up to your scalp, noticing how your body feels.
Be aware of places you feel tight or loose. For 1 to 2 minutes, imagine each deep breath flowing to that body part.
8. Be Present
Take 5 minutes and focus on only one behavior with awareness. Notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground.
9. Reach Out
Your social network is one of your best tools for handling stress. Talk to others — preferably face to face, or at least on the phone. Share what’s going on. You can get a fresh perspective while keeping your connection strong.
10. Laugh Out Loud
Lighten up by tuning in to your favorite sitcom or video, reading the comics, or chatting with someone who makes you smile.
11. Crank Up the Tunes
Every individual has a different preference in terms of the music that releases their anxiety. Some people listen to soothing music to lower their anxiety. For some people more upbeat tunes may do the trick, sometimes singing with the music can also be helpful. Metal is also a music style that helps an individual let off-stream.
12. Get Moving
Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But when you’re constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price. If you frequently find yourself feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system back into balance.