Stress Less: 7 Ways to Stop Stressing and Slow Down
In our busy culture, where no one is slowing down, stress can peak with very few outside triggers and cause both immediate and long-lasting harm. School can cause stress when we don’t prioritize our time and stay organized and focused. Our work can cause us stress, from impossible deadlines to conflicts with workers. Our society can cause us stress, from waiting in long lines at the store to road raging maniacs.
But the most stress usually comes from our relationships, both within the family and outside of it. Friends are fun to have in our lives, but sometimes they can tick us off really easily. Parents and siblings are great sources of comfort and support, but no family is without its trigger points. Extended family are wonderful and can be a terrific addition to our everyday lives, but anything from politics to religion to how we raise our children can cause a fight.
What is most important is that you recognize when you are reaching a stress threshold and act to find balance and peace. This can be accomplished through listening to music, doing what you love, organizing your space, exercising, talking with someone, keeping a journal, and meditation and prayer.
Listen to your Favorite Music
There is nothing like listening to your favorite tunes when you feel stressed out. There is a lot to be said for taking the time to loosen up, bang your head, sing out loud, and dance as if no one is watching. Science tells us that music is a great source of joy and happiness. As you increase your level of happiness, you can lower your stress levels.
Everyone has different, favorite music. Some people can best relax when they are listening to slow, romantic music. Others like to get physical with pop music and hip hop. There are even some who need to thrash to heavy metal to release some negative energy.
Music affects a different part of the brain than stress does. Stress creates extra adrenaline that puts your brain into flight or fight mode. Music goes to the creative portions of the brain. When you listen to music during heightened stress, your brain can switch from flight or fight to enjoying and analyzing what you are hearing. It literally takes your mind off what is causing the stress.
No matter which type of music you use to help with your stress, what’s important is that you allow the music to soothe your anxiety, help you release negative energy, or simply let the melodies and harmonies calm you down.
Do What you Love
We all have hobbies and things we just love to do. When we have reached a peak of stress and anxiety, these activities can calm us down. Hobbies generally require a certain amount of focus and concentration. By redirecting your energy, you can channel your stress into an activity.
Let’s say for example that you love collecting baseball cards. You’ve spent a lot of time and money collecting some real winners. When you find yourself at your stress threshold, taking your collection out and going over your finds and great acquisitions will give you a positive boost. The reminder of the days when you came across your incredible finds are a great way to calm your mind.
Or, maybe you like to read. While that may not seem like an activity that could help you reduce stress, it absolutely can. Exciting stories and terrific plot twists engage your mind and allow you to leave your reality for just a little while. Though some people may frown upon escapism as a useless pursuit, if it helps you back off from your stress, it is absolutely worth it.
Some people love video games. Whether you are playing alone on your Xbox or PlayStation or playing with a team on your laptop or PC, playing video games activates the strategic thinking in your brain and redirects the stress from an input to an output. If you are stressing over a test tomorrow, and you need a break from studying, play a video game for about half an hour. This will allow your brain to take a break from reality and put some negative energy into a positive experience.
A movie is also a great way to unwind from stress. For the movie lover, those 90 to 120 minutes of escape help the body relax. You can get relief from a great comedy that makes you laugh (laughter is the best medicine); you can get a rush from watching action movies with high-speed chases; or you can have a good cry watching a drama. Any of these is a great way to let out some stress.
Organize Your Space
Believe it or not, if our personal space is messy, that can add to our stress and anxiety. It is frustrating, no matter on how small of a level, to not be able to find things or to see your space in a devastated state. Disorganization is an outward reflection of the chaos within us. When we see it, it reminds us of the imbalance in our lives.
When stress manifests, we often just throw things around. We don’t worry about how we will find things later on – we just dump them to get them out of our hands. That is a recipe for more stress later on. While it may not be your favorite thing to do, organizing your space will calm your mind.
When you organize your space, start with picking up trash. That is the easiest place to begin. As you pick up each piece of trash, take a deep breath and remind yourself that cleaning your space allows for calm in your mind.
Once that has been accomplished, start putting things in their proper place. Hang up clean clothes, fold your towels and put them in the closet, wipe down the counters in your bathroom, and make your bed.
If the chaos has extended to other parts of the house, work on those too. Again, start with collecting trash, putting things away, and making sure that everything is dusted or otherwise wiped down. Once you have achieved an organized space, you will feel calmer and less chaotic because you won’t be surrounded by chaos.
For many people, exercise is more than just a way to stay healthy. It is one of the primary ways modern men and women deal with stress. Those who maintain a solid routine and stick with it are less likely to reach their stress thresholds. They also tend to have lower blood pressure, lower overall body weight, and can handle stress more effectively.
And you don’t have to be a gym rat to use exercise to fight stress. There are various exercises that are appropriate for everyday routines and there are some that are particularly efficient in dealing with stress. If you have built up negativity, why not take it out on the punching bag? It is a safe and effectual way to release that energy.
Some people also find spin classes or a good game of basketball as terrific outlets for their stress. Burning calories, sweating, and enjoying what you are doing will take your stress down several notches. If you initially bought your gym membership as a way to control weight and help you live healthier, use it as a stress-buster. Stress, in some ways, is far more detrimental to your health than eating a double cheeseburger. Stress can cause damage to any organ system, shred your vessels, and overrun your fight or flight response.
Talk with Someone
While it is not unusual for people with stress disorders and anxiety disorders to seek therapy, it’s not always necessary for everyone dealing with everyday stresses. When our stress reaches its peak and we are ready to explode, finding someone to have a conversation with may just be exactly what we need.
The point of talking with someone when we are stressed out is not about therapy – it’s about telling someone how you are feeling, bouncing ideas off them, or simply venting your negative thoughts and feelings. When we bottle feelings up inside, they can swirl and spin and become unmanageable.
That unmanageability is what causes overwhelming stress. Find a trusted friend or relative you are comfortable sharing your feelings with. Ask them to just listen and be there. You don’t always need solutions – you just need to talk to organize your thoughts and feelings.
But remember, you need to be there for them too. If you vent on someone, make sure you are available for them when they need to vent. In some ways, venting is more useful than therapy because when we have absolute faith and trust in our venting recipient. We know we can tell them absolutely anything, and it won’t be repeated.
Even though therapists and psychiatrists have the same confidentiality practices, we don’t know them like friends. We don’t love them like family. We are always waiting for some little piece of judgment to come out. Friends and family tend not to judge – and neither do journals.
Keep a Journal
Not everyone wants to talk to someone. A great way to organize your thoughts and feelings is to keep a journal. A journal is a private, safe way to express yourself and figure some things out. And you don’t need to buy a special journal – you can use a simple notebook.
For some people, having that special place to write things down is an invaluable resource. They don’t have to fear their thoughts becoming public, they don’t have to share anything they don’t want to, and a journal will never try to solve their problems for them.
If you’ve never kept a journal, grab a notebook and a pen. Start writing. Write about everything – write about nothing at all! Write about whatever you want until you start to write about what’s stressing you out. A lot of times, the first line in a journal is, “This feels stupid.” It’s not stupid. It is a very valid method of increasing your mental health and maintaining a healthy, emotional balance.
Meditate and Pray
Meditation and prayer are also about emotional balance. Some people think meditation is weird and requires chants or incense or strange humming. While there are methods of meditation that include such rituals, it is not required to use them. Meditation, at its core, is about being still. It’s about listening to your breath and your heartbeat and your mind as they find a peace amid the chaos.
One of the most popular practices in meditation is the clearing of the chakras. This Eastern meditation technique directs you to focus on clearing negative energy from the seven major points: bottom of the torso, gut, belly, heart and lungs, thyroid gland, brain, and pineal gland (said to connect to other planes in the universe). It may sound weird, but at its core, it is a relaxation practice.
Start by sitting still and closing your eyes. You don’t have to hum, use incense, or sit cross-legged. Simply be still. Imagine what your negative energy looks like. Next, visualize each chakra point and take a deep breath. When you breathe out, imagine your breath blowing all that negative energy out of your body. Do this for each point until you feel calm and relaxed. This is a great, simple practice anyone can do to relieve stress.
If Eastern techniques aren’t to your taste, prayer is an amazing option. Now, prayer isn’t for everyone. If you don’t have a connection to a higher plane or higher being, prayer may not help. Those connections really need to exist before you will be able to get any beneficial use out of prayer. When these connections do exist, you can reach out with your heart, words, mind, or soul and connect with an unseen part of the universe that has an endless supply of positive energy.
Regardless of how you choose to deal with stress, it is critical to deal with it. Unattended anxieties will simply pile up over time and create a non-stop state of chaos within your body and mind.
Whether you take the steps mentioned, or find your own coping mechanisms, don’t let stress become your new normal. Find your balance; find your peace and remember that getting professional help is one of the best things you can do to minimize and manage stress.