Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
Most of our lives are filled with family, work, and community obligations, and at some point we feel as though we are "running on empty." Here are eight immediate stress busters to help "fill up the tank!" So take deep relaxing breath and read on.
1.Watch for the next instance in which you find yourself becoming annoyed or angry at something trivial or unimportant. Then practice letting go, making a conscious choice not to become angry or upset. Do not allow yourself to waste thought and energy where it isn't deserved. Effective anger management is a tried-and-true stress reducer.
2.Breathe slowly and deeply. Before reacting to the next stressful occurrence, take three deep breaths and release them slowly. If you have a few minutes, try out a relaxation technique such as meditation or guided imagery.
3.Whenever you feel overwhelmed by stress, practice speaking more slowly than usual. You'll find that you think more clearly and react more reasonably to stressful situations. Stressed people tend to speak fast and breathlessly; by slowing down your speech you'll also appear less anxious and more in control of any situation.
4.Jump-start an effective time management strategy. Choose one simple thing you have been putting off (e.g., returning a phone call, making a doctor's appointment), and do it immediately. Just taking care of one nagging responsibility can be energizing and can improve your attitude.
5.Get outdoors for a brief break. Our grandparents were right about the healing power of fresh air. Don't be deterred by foul weather or a full schedule. Even five minutes on a balcony or terrace can be rejuvenating.
6.Drink plenty of water and eat small, nutritious snacks. Hunger and dehydration, even before you're aware of them, can provoke aggressiveness and exacerbate feelings of anxiety and stress.
7.Do a quick posture check. Hold your head and shoulders upright and avoid stooping or slumping. Bad posture can lead to muscle tension, pain, and increased stress. If you're stuck at a desk most of the day, avoid repetitive strain injuries and sore muscles by making sure your workstation reflects good ergonomic design principles. Take our Workstation Quiz to find out how to make your workstation more ergonomically safe.
8.Plan something rewarding for the end of your stressful day, even if only a relaxing bath or half an hour with a good book. Put aside work, housekeeping or family concerns for a brief period before bedtime and allow yourself to fully relax. Don't spend this time planning tomorrow's schedule or doing chores you didn't get around to during the day. Remember that you need time to recharge and energize yourself. You'll be much better prepared to face another stressful day.
What Are the Warning Signs of Stress?
Chronic stress can wear down the body's natural defenses, leading to a variety of physical symptoms, including:
Dizziness or a general feeling of "being out of it"
General aches and pains
Grinding teeth, clenched jaw
Indigestion or acid reflux symptoms
Increase in or loss of appetite
Muscle tension in neck, face or shoulders
Cold and sweaty palms
Weight gain or loss
Upset stomach, diarrhea
Tips for Reducing Stress
People can learn to manage stress and lead happier, healthier lives. Here are some tips to help you keep stress at bay.
Keep a positive attitude.
Accept that there are events that you cannot control.
Be assertive instead of aggressive. Assert your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, defensive, or passive.
Learn and practice relaxation techniques; try meditation, yoga, or tai-chi.
Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
Learn to manage your time more effectively.
Set limits appropriately and say no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life.
Make time for hobbies and interests.
Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
Don't rely on alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviors to reduce stress.
Seek out social support. Spend enough time with those you love.
Seek treatment with a psychologist or other mental health professional trained in stress management or biofeedback techniques to learn more healthy ways of dealing with the stress in your life.