The word “stress” is bounced around a lot these days:
“I had such a stressful day today!”
“Geez, that meeting stressed me out.”
“That match last night, talk about stress!”
It’s tossed around so much that for a lot people the notion of “stress” as a serious condition has diminished over time – unfortunately it can have very real and very serious consequences both to our physical and mental health.
As such, it’s not a condition to be taken lightly or merely shrugged off, and in this article we’ll briefly look at how to recognize signs of stress, before moving on to seven of the best tried and tested stress management techniques.
How do I know if I’m stressed?
The signs of stress take many forms, and all to varying degrees of severity. Common physical complaints include: headaches, an upset stomach, chest pains, difficulty falling asleep, a loss of appetite or overeating.
More internal mental symptoms can see a person feeling unfocused and on edge, crying, feeling anxious or irritable.
Stress might also instigate a series of negative behaviors in your life such as returning to previous addictions like smoking or alcohol, or even reckless behavior like driving too fast.
Top stress management activities and techniques
Stress can crowd your headspace with a sense of disorder and chaos, making it impossible to dispel this thick jungle of thoughts. Meditation is a great way to clear the mind, as it encourages a deep state of relaxation and internal serenity.
There are many ways to meditate but the simplest way is as follows:
- Find a quiet spot, draw the curtains and sit on the floor cross-legged.
- Rest your palms on your knees upturned, and close your eyes.
- Create about a wide open space in your mind, and place yourself in the middle of it. It can be somewhere in nature, or maybe a vast hallway with high ceilings. The key is that it is completely empty, devoid of anyone else.
- Breathe in through your nose and breathe out from your mouth.
- Focus on this image, and think about nothing else.
You can do this for any amount of time, but try to do it for at least 20 minutes.
You’ll be left with a profound sense of peace afterwards and a place to go to when you need to destress.
Need more guidance on meditation? Check out these tips from Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche:
Create a Routine
Stress can make it feel like unpredictability and disruption is running rampant in your life.
Creating a routine allows you to take control and put your hands back on the mental steering wheel.
Look to set down a daily schedule for the week ahead. This will provide a sense of order and mastery over your day-to-day, meaning you won’t have to worry about what the week ahead has in store for you: remember, you are in the driving seat.
Here’s Jordan B Peterson’s explanation of why exactly you need a routine:
Learn to say “No”
If you’re in the workplace, it’s easy to say yes to every request that comes your way; it can be a lot harder to say “no”.
Manager’s expectations, promotion prospects, not wanting to let the team down – this can all feed into the idea that it’s necessary to always be at the behest of others. However, this can soon lead to being overworked and feeling like your life is spiraling away from you.
Be more assertive and start reclaiming your time and mental wellbeing: say no so that you can say yes to the things that really matter to you.
Here’s Matt D’Avella’s perspective on the art of saying no:
They might seem a little cheesy, but it’s amazing how much this method genuinely works. Positive affirmations work by realigning your subconscious from a negative outlook to a positive one, and begin working the minute you start listening to them. Choose the affirmation that speaks to you and repeat immediately in the morning after waking up and in the evening before going to bed. This will boost your self-esteem and overall wellbeing in no time at all. Here are a few affirmations specifically for stress relief:
~ I am letting go of my stress ~
~ My mind and body are relaxed and calm ~
~ I am peaceful and centered ~
Need more? Check out the extensive morning affirmations list on our site!
Healthy Food Choices
“You are what you eat” is an old saying, but there’s a reason it’s stood the test of time. Eating well has countless positive effects not just in terms of the physical body, but mental wellness too. Introduce nutrients into you diet that help lower stress reduction:
- Vitamin C lowers the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), and reduces blood pressure during anxiety-inducing circumstances.
- Complex Carbohydrates increase production of serotonin (the “happy” chemical)
- Magnesium helps reduce headaches and fatigue, and improves sleep levels
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids reduce floods of stress hormones and can protect against depression
Examples: oranges and fruits (Vitamin C), whole grains and fibers (complex carbohydrates), soybeans, salmon and leafy greens (magnesium) and nuts and seeds (omega-3 fatty acids).
Need further info on anti-stress supplements? Start here:
Exercise and other physical activities might feel rough and tough in the moment but physical stress has been shown to relieve mental stress in the long term.
Research reveals that exercise and other forms of physical activity reduce the body’s levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
It also encourages the body’s production of endorphins, the chemicals that elevate your mood and are a natural painkiller.
Going for a run or getting a spar in at the boxing ring for instance is great way to dissipate stress, plus the subsequent sense of accomplishment and feeling of becoming fitter earns a sense of self-confidence and control of your situation.
What’s extremely important though is you get into strength training rather than cardio. While you may need cardio for conditioning, the most hormonal benefit comes from resistance training.
If you want to get started with strength workouts – check out Jeff Cavaliere, one of the best athletic coaches in business, he gives out a ton of free info:
A common symptom of stress can be restless nights, but if you are able to focus on building your sleep, it will do wonders for reducing your stress levels.
Cortisol, the stress hormone that raises heart rate and stimulates alertness falls at night, leaving you with lowered blood pressure and less levels of stress in your body and mind.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, set a strict bedtime routine, one where you are preparing to sleep an hour before your intended bedtime.
Close your laptop, stay away from your phone screen and begin the wind down process. Keep this consistent and your body will soon learn to adjust to this routine, making it easier to get some valuable shut-eye.
Need more info on stress relations with sleep? Check out this video by MedCircle: