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Managing stress isn’t a one-size-fits-all system. Depending on the type and regularity of your stress, your stress management regiment will look vastly different from another individual’s. But it’s helpful to have a toolkit of stress management techniques on hand should you need them.
If you need to know how to relax fast and reduce stress, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve rounded up a comprehensive list of 20 stress management techniques.
They will help you:
- Overcome stress quickly
- Reduce stress in the long-term
- Cope with stress in different situations, such as at work and in relationships
The stress epidemic
Before we jump in, let’s first take a beat to recognize that our stress levels are at an all-time high.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 67% of Americans report feeling increased stress since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
And 78% say the pandemic is a significant source of stress in their life. And this stress is on top of the daily stressors we already experienced before. Stressors such as work, health, finances, family, and relationships.
A little bit of stress can be healthy. But chronic stress, as we’re seeing, can negatively affect your mental health and physical well-being.
The scope of the stress problem is another part of the reason managing stress effectively is so significant.
Why is stress management so important?
It’s normal to face stressful situations in life. Everyday stressors include everything from the daily commute to paying your taxes.
Stress affects everyone. The important thing is to learn to manage it so that our stress levels don’t become overwhelming.
Symptoms of stress
- Unexpected mood swings
- Insomnia or difficulty staying asleep
- Constant fatigue
- Weight changes: both weight loss or weight gain
- Digestion issues
- Inability to concentrate
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Increased bodily tension
- New or heightened obsessive/compulsive behavior
You may experience one or two of the above symptoms while your friend is grappling with five of them. Both responses are entirely normal but require different stress management techniques.
4 benefits of learning to manage stress
Learning to manage stress effectively is crucial for your long-term health and well-being. Here are four of the main benefits of using stress management techniques:
- A stronger immune system. Stress weakens the immune system and makes you more vulnerable to illness. Relaxation and stress reduction help strengthen your natural defenses.
- It is easier to maintain a healthy weight. Stress can cause us to eat or drastically reduce our appetite. And it doesn’t usually have us reaching for the salad. Instead, we go for junk food loaded with sugar, saturated fat, and salt. This reaction to stress can cause weight gain. But reducing your stress levels can help control your appetite and cravings.
- Better sleep. Stress makes it difficult to sleep due to the excess adrenaline it releases into the bloodstream, causing muscle tension. Stress management can increase endorphins, which help with muscle relaxation and promote sleep.
- Improved mood and relationships. Stress can cause you to be moody and irritable. These attitude changes affect the way you react to those nearest to you. As a result, it can put a strain on your relationships. Reducing your stress levels can help restore balance.
3 risks associated with excessive stress
You probably already know that excessive stress is associated with poor physical and mental fitness.
One study even found that stress can be as bad for you as smoking five cigarettes per day. Let’s take a closer look at three of the main risks associated with stress.
But while we tend to associate burnout with work, it can also be caused by other extended stressful situations, such as caring for an elderly parent.
2. High blood pressure and heart disease
According to the American Heart Association, stress can have serious long-term health consequences.
When your stress response activates, your heart rate is higher than normal. This increase is not a problem if it only lasts a short time. But when stress dominates your everyday life, it can put pressure on your heart.
3. Poor physical health
Being in a state of fight or flight reduces your body’s capacity to function properly. It detracts vital energy from processes and systems, such as the digestive and reproductive systems.
It can also affect your endocrine system, which is responsible for your hormonal health. This can create imbalances in your body that lead to health problems and disease.
4 ways to deal with stress at home
Home should be a sanctuary. But they can actually be one of the most significant sources of stress in our lives.
For example, you might struggle with a relationship with a family member or neighbor, financial problems, or your daily routine.
Here are four ways to reduce stress at home:
1. Speak up for yourself
If you feel that someone in your home is mistreating you, speak up for yourself. Let them know how their behavior is affecting you. Communicating the problem will help you find a solution and reduce your stress.
2. Take action
If you are stressed about a problem, the best strategy is to look for a way to solve it.
This solution will reduce the stress the problem is causing you. Humans love to problem-solve, so it will also give you a sense of satisfaction.
3. Get organized
If your outer world is chaotic, it can create disorder in your mind and make you feel more stressed.
Having a clean and tidy home helps maintain mental balance and reduce stress by giving us a sense of control over our lives.
4. Create your own space
If possible, find a space in your home where you can be alone and dedicate time to yourself. It doesn’t need to be big, but it should be somewhere that others won’t disturb you.
4 stress management techniques for work
For many people, work can become a top stressor in their lives.
And because it can affect your work performance and other areas of your life, reducing stress at work is more important than ever. You can use these four stress management techniques at work:
1. Understand the expectations
Knowing your job expectations is fundamental for fulfilling your role at work.
Being unsure of the requirements can cause stress. Ask for clarification from your supervisor whenever you need it.
2. Avoid multitasking
Multitasking reduces your effectiveness at work. Not only that, but it makes us feel more stressed and more likely to drop the ball on something.
Doing one task at a time is less stressful and will help you achieve better results.
3. Minimize conflict
Workplace conflict can be a major source of stress. Minimize potential conflicts by avoiding controversial topics such as politics, religion, or gossip.
4. Get comfortable
The discomfort caused by inadequate chairs or desks, annoying noises, and even clothing can make you feel stressed.
Adjust your work environment and clothing to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible.
4 stress management techniques for relationships
Interpersonal relationships are complicated and can be a huge source of stress. Let’s take a look at four ways to deal with stressful relationships:
1. Remove external stressors
High levels of stress in one or both partners can affect their ability to communicate effectively and manage conflict. If left unaddressed, this often causes stress in the relationship.
Try to remove external stressors if possible. If not, look for ways to manage stress individually to avoid impacting the relationship.
2. Get to the root of the problem
When there is a problem in one aspect of a relationship, it can spread to other areas and become a source of stress. It’s essential to talk to each other to get to the heart of the issue and work to resolve it.
3. Save time for yourself
It can be hard to find time for yourself in a close relationship, which can cause you to feel suffocated and stressed. It’s essential to dedicate quality time to yourself and the things you enjoy.
4. Improve your communication skills
Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, arguments, and stress.
Learning to communicate effectively and constructively can reduce conflicts and stress.
4 ways to deal with stress quickly
Sometimes you need to find a way to reduce your stress levels quickly. Keep these four stress management techniques in your back pocket for the next time you face a stressful situation:
1. Take a walk
Exercise of any kind can be an effective stress reliever.
Taking a short walk has the advantage of removing you from the source of your stress — whether that’s a demanding boss, an argument with your partner, or a problem you can’t seem to solve.
This simple act allows you to clear your head, calm down, and approach the situation from a different perspective.
2. Breathe deeply
Taking a few deep breaths can help instantly relieve stress. Make sure you breathe into your belly as shallow breathing signals to the body that the stress response is still required.
You might find it helpful to learn some breathing exercises from an experienced teacher. Keep these exercises on hand and use them whenever you feel stressed.
3. Use aromatherapy
Research suggests that certain scents — such as those found in essential oils — can decrease the levels of stress hormones in our bodies.
Whether you prefer a scented candle, a diffuser, or fresh flowers, try using scent to calm you when you feel stressed.
4. Get a hug from a loved one
Hugging is a surprisingly effective way to combat stress. It releases oxytocin, which is the “love hormone” that’s responsible for bonding.
It also reduces blood pressure and the stress hormone norepinephrine. This hormone activates the relaxation response, helping to quickly calm you.
4 long-term stress management techniques
Prevention is better than the cure, and stress is no exception. Use these preventive strategies to reduce long-term stress.
1. Exercise regularly
Physical activity is a powerful short-term stress reliever. It releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones that give us natural stress relief.
But in the long-term, exercise also helps combat the physical effects of stress. Exercise keeps your heart healthy and improves your overall levels of wellness.
Whether it’s running, yoga, or Tai Chi, the key to maintaining a regular exercise routine is to find something you enjoy doing.
2. Eat well
Eating a poor diet can aggravate your stress response. Stress can cause us to reach for highly addictive, highly processed foods loaded with salt, sugar, and fats.
But these foods cause your blood sugar to spike. This releases more cortisol, the stress hormone, making you feel more anxious and stressed.
Eating a balanced diet has a variety of health benefits, including mitigating the effects of stress.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness practices such as meditation are proven to be effective stress management techniques.
Practicing gratitude is another effective technique for managing stress long-term. It helps you transform negative thoughts into positive ones.
4. Try relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques such as guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation can lower stress.
These techniques activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of your nervous system responsible for the relaxation response.
What not to do when managing stress
When trying to manage stress, you may take some wrong turns. Here are four things you should avoid doing when trying to manage stress:
1. Embrace stress in your environment
Manage your environment by avoiding people and situations that cause you to stress as best that you can. For example, if you work from home, make sure you have a quiet place to work where the people around you don’t disturb you.
2. Overload your to-do list
Time management is an essential skill for dealing with stress. Time blocking can help you meet deadlines more efficiently and show up for meetings on time. Make sure you allow for unforeseen roadblocks.
3. Neglect self-care
Additionally, you may need more time to yourself. In that case, try establishing healthy boundaries to maintain a work-life balance.
4. Lose hope
A big part of successfully dealing with stressors is believing that you can overcome them. This positive mindset shift is essential for lowering your stress levels.
If you feel overwhelmed, try to reframe the issue. For example, instead of thinking of your to-do list as things you “have” to do, reframe it as things you “get” to do.
Consider adopting a mantra such as “I can handle this,” and repeat it to yourself daily. A mantra such as this can help boost your self-esteem as you overcome your stressors and build confidence in your strength.
When should you see a doctor?
Stress affects different people in different ways. Consider speaking to a health professional if you notice:
- Changes in your eating or sleeping habits, such as insomnia or loss of appetite
- Headaches, nausea, or vomiting
- Chest pains
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Racing heartbeat
- Feelings of depression
- Suicidal thoughts
- A decline in your performance at work
- Deterioration in your relationships with loved ones
Stress management techniques can change your life
Stress management techniques can help you improve every area of your life — from your health to your work to your relationships.
Over time, daily acts of self-care can lead to reduced stress, improved sleep, and better overall health and well-being. So try some of these stress-management techniques to find balance and reduce stress in your day-to-day.