Are you feeling a familiar tension around your shoulders? Not sleeping well? Biting your nails to the quick? These might all be signs that you’re under stress. And, if you are, it only makes sense to understand and learn how to manage stress—both short- and long-term stress—before it manages you.
Keep a stress journal
If you know yourself and what causes you stress, you’ll be well armed to reduce the symptoms, because you can develop strategies to manage them.
Try making a list of the situations, concerns or challenges that trigger your stress response—either positive or negative. Some of these might be external (a promotion at work or an impossible workload) and some might be internal (uncertainty or fear of flying).
Some people swear by ear massages—simply massaging the tips of your ears. Others suggest neck massages to relieve stress and headaches.
Make some art—even if you’re bad at it
You don’t have to be a Michelangelo to enjoy the benefits of art therapy. It’s the process of making art that’s important, since it can alleviate emotional stress and anxiety by creating a physiological response of relaxation.
Follow an ancient path
Labyrinths, which date back at least 4,000 years, are single circular paths that you follow in to a center point, and then out again. Following a labyrinth can decrease tension, help physical healing and strengthen the mind-body connection.
You can buy already-painted, fold-up canvas labyrinths in many sizes. Or you can paint your own. Finger labyrinths on paper or computer screens can have the same effect as full-size labyrinths.
Clutter can cause feelings of stress, fatigue and depression. To declutter, evaluate your space and eliminate what doesn’t bring pleasure. Donate clothing, decorations or household items to charity. Rework your space until you feel happy and relaxed.
Go for a walk—go natural
Taking a break to stretch your legs, even if it’s just around the block, is a simple and very effective way to clear your head and boost endorphins, which then reduce stress hormones.
Better yet, turn off the technology and head for the park or another natural space to give your brain a chance to reconnect with more basic stimulations. Recent research suggests that the positive effects (feeling happier and in good spirits) of a single exposure to nature can last for seven hours after an individual has experienced it.
Fish or cut bait
Deep down, most of us know what we need to do about stressful situations. But we procrastinate. We ignore our stressors, which can lead to paralysis. This creates even more stress.
This is where the “fish or cut bait” advice comes in: deal with the cause of your stress or eliminate it altogether. But don’t get caught up in finding the perfect solution to your problems. Simply moving forward puts the ball in motion, leading to more action, which, hopefully, will ultimately solve the problem.