Stress is a naturally-occurring part of everyday life for most people living in the modern world. You have responsibilities you need to meet, a schedule to keep up, and you typically have a variety of places you must go to do everything on that list. Stress can negatively impact your mental health if you don't find adequate ways to manage it. Fortunately, there are many different techniques to help you learn how to relieve stress every day. When you master these techniques, your life will be more enjoyable and much more peaceful.
Use a Stress Ball
The easiest and quickest way to get started is with a stress ball. You take the ball in your hand and squeeze it to relieve the muscle tension in your body. As you manipulate the ball, you focus the stress into the muscles of your hand and release tension into the ball.
You can buy stress balls online or in stores, or you can learn how to make a stress ball for yourself. Here are three of the most popular ideas on how to make stress balls:
With flour and a balloon: Get a funnel, a balloon, and some flour. If you don't have a funnel, you can make one by cutting off the top of an empty plastic soda or water bottle. Place the balloon at the small end of the funnel or at the top of the bottle. Put flour in the funnel and tamp it into the balloon, then just tie up the balloon to make your stress ball.
With a diaper and a balloon: Take a disposable diaper out of its package. Put water on the soft side of the diaper and scoop up the filling with a spoon. Place the diaper filling in your funnel and push it into the balloon. Tie up the balloon and you have your stress ball.
With silicone and pillow stuffing: Use cornstarch to cover the part of the countertop or table where you'll make the ball. Make sure to apply cornstarch on your hands so the silicone won't stick to you. Squeeze silicone onto the cornstarch, and then mix the cornstarch into the silicone. If you'd like a colorful stress ball, you can squeeze in some acrylic paint. Flatten the mixture and place some pillow stuffing in the center of the silicone circle. Gather up the sides of the circle to cover the stuffing. Roll the ball in your hands to shape it, and then set it aside to dry.
Try Systematic Muscle Relaxation
Since stress often increases your muscle tension, the stress ball is a simple and comforting way to loosen up and get rid of some of the day's stresses. You can take that a step further by learning total body relaxation. This is done by initially laying on your back and getting into a comfortable state. Some people like to do this exercise with soft music or sounds of nature playing in the background. Starting with the tips of your toes and working up to the top of your head, tense or contract each muscle group for 10 seconds and then release the tension. A counselor can teach you this technique if you have trouble mastering it. They can guide you through the exercise until you are comfortable doing it yourself.
Another idea on how to manage stress is to learn and practice meditation. Meditating when you need to be alert of your environment, such as when you're driving, can be disastrous, so choose a time and place where you can relax. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Be still and quiet, not rushing anything or having any specific expectations of what will happen. When thoughts come into your mind, be self-aware. Let them pass without dwelling on them.
You can also enhance your meditation experience by creating images in your mind that help you let go of the thoughts. For example, you might picture a stream and visualize yourself placing each thought on a leaf and watching it float out of sight. The more you practice meditation, the more skilled you will get at letting go of the problems that have caused you to be so stressed-out and learning how to handle the stress that has built up through the course of your days.
It's easy to say, 'Don't dwell on the past or worry about the future.' Of course, you would know exactly how to deal with stress if doing were as simple as saying. The best way to approach this problem is to learn how to be mindful. Mindfulness means paying attention to the here and now. It means noticing the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch sensations in the present moment, right where you are.
As you learn how to reduce stress by being mindful, you become better at handling problems as they arise. The past and the future fade in importance as you place your focus on the things you can control. With your mind deeply centered on what is happening to and around you, stresses about the past and future diminish.
You can practice mindfulness at a retreat, but you can also use it to learn how to deal with stress when you're in a stressful situation. A simple illustration of this is when you go into your house and you might be stressed because you see there's so much housework to do. However, if you practice mindfulness, you notice the individual sensory experiences rather than the big picture of so much work to be done. You smell the trash and take it out. You see dust on your TV screen and wipe it off. You feel the stickiness of your kitchen floor and mop it. You can do the same thing at your job.
Remember: you can only take action in the present. By being mindful, you know what needs to be done and can attend to it now. You'll know how to handle stress from your past and future.
Practice Deep Breathing
Your breath is a wonderful thing. It brings fresh oxygen to your body, making you physically stronger and more peaceful. Oxygen helps your brain function better, too, improving the state of your mental health in that moment.
You can boost the power of your breathing by taking long, slow breaths. Often, yoga or meditation instructors suggest breathing in and out to a certain count. However, what works for one person might not work for another. Also, as you gain mastery of deep breathing, you'll be able to lengthen the breaths.
Start by breathing in more slowly than you usually do. Concentrate on letting the air reach the deepest parts of your lungs. Focus on the air as it moves into and out of your lungs. Feel the refreshing oxygen renewing your body and your mind. You can practice deep breathing anytime and anywhere, even as you work or interact with other people. Soon, you'll be breathing more deeply without even thinking of it. As a result, you'll feel more calm, focused and peaceful.
There's a biological reason behind stress eating. When you experience stress, your cortisol level naturally increases. This in turn increases your need for comfort. Eating is a quick but often destructive way to get that comfort. If you find yourself reaching for a snack whenever you're stressed, you need to learn how to stop stress eating.
The most helpful thing you can do is to teach your brain to look for comfort elsewhere besides food. This takes effort and commitment to go through the process, but you can change that reaction in time. Find things to do when you feel stressed that will also provide comfort. Drinking black tea has proven to lower cortisol levels and reduce the feeling of stress. You can give yourself a hand or foot massage, too. Look for new sources of comfort and stick to them whenever you realize you're about to stress eat.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by stress, a licensed therapist can help you learn the techniques you need to know to reduce that feeling. Often, therapy begins with listing the stressors in your life and examining what makes them seem stressful. Once you've identified the problem areas, the therapist can guide you in learning stress-reduction techniques.
Perhaps you'll find that you want to change your life to reduce the stressors. That's okay, too, and the therapist can guide you and teach you as you make those changes. You can set achievable goals and check in with progress reports when you have a session with him/her, and then congratulate you on your progress and help you discover ways to refine your efforts.
You can get started with a paid online therapist at BetterHelp.com right now or whenever you choose. Sessions happen within your schedule. You can receive this counseling help in your den at home or in a motel room while you're on a business trip. When you connect with someone from the site, you'll have many opportunities to uncover the reasons for your stress and address them either by eliminating the stressor or learning to self-calm and self-comfort in healthy ways. The result is sure to be a happier, more peaceful life for you.