Most people experience stress at some point in their day-to-day life. For many the source is work, while for others stress is the natural result of health issues, family troubles, or concerns over money. Whatever the cause, if stress isn’t managed, it can soon become a stress-inducing problem in its own right.
Many strategies for dealing with stress (meditation, for example, or spending time away from work) work great in the long term. But what can you do to reduce feelings of stress or anxiety right now? Even if you have only a few minutes to yourself, the five methods listed below should help reduce feelings of stress, calm you down, and help you get on with your day.
1. Control your breathing.
Breathing is a process that we normally do unconsciously. We don’t notice when our breathing is deep or shallow – at least not until it becomes a problem. Taking a moment to focus on your breathing can help alleviate feelings of tightness in your chest, as well as making you feel more in control of your body.
Simple breathing exercises take only a few minutes to complete and can even be done during meetings, or at your desk, without anyone noticing a thing. A simple exercise that anyone can do is as follows:
• Breathe in through your nose, so that your belly expands rather than your chest
• Hold that breath for a slow count of three
• Exhale through your nose, slowly and evenly
• Wait the count of three before beginning again
2. Don’t resort to stimulants.
If you’re feeling stressed it can be tempting to treat yourself to a coffee, or duck outside for a smoke to steady your nerves. However appealing it seems, though, this is something you should avoid doing. Caffeine and nicotine are both fast-acting stimulants. If you’re stressed or anxious it’s very likely they’ll make your symptoms worse rather than better.
Taking a break is a good idea, though. If you find the ritual of smoking or drinking coffee relaxing, try switching from cigarettes to a nicotine-free vaporizer, and from ordinary coffee to decaf. You still get to enjoy your routine, but your body doesn’t have to process all those stimulants.
3. Eat and drink.
First and foremost, being hungry or thirsty is uncomfortable. This discomfort can compound the symptoms of stress that you might be feeling, making everything much worse. Additionally, an empty stomach can often result in jittery or fluttery sensations that mimic and worsen the symptoms of stress.
If you’re feeling stressed, having a quick snack and a drink of water can sometimes help. Avoid sugary snacks, though, as the short-lived rush of energy from these may increase feelings of anxiety rather than lessening them. Opt for a carbohydrate-rich snack instead, such as a cereal bar or a slice of toast.
4. Practice bouts of mindfulness.
Many people think of meditation as something that must be done in a specific setting, or something which can take a long time to get right. While plenty of time and a quiet, comfortable setting are ideal for meditation, it can be practiced anywhere and in any time frame.
To help you meditate or be mindful when in between meetings or on public transit, you might consider downloading a mindfulness app or other meditation tool. Practice whenever you find yourself with a spare few minutes, and before long you’ll find it easier than ever to get into a calm, centered headspace.
5. Give your body a workout
Exercise is one of the most effective means by which you can reduce stress – and it doesn’t have to mean a trip to the gym or a long run in the park. Simply taking a few minutes to go outside, walk around in the fresh air, and stretch your limbs can work wonders.
Short bouts of exercise like this are great for relieving sore or tense muscles. Again, tension in your muscles is something that mimics the symptoms of stress, and which therefore compounds the symptoms of stress. Eliminate the tension, and you’ll notice a difference almost immediately.
These tips provide rapid relief when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, but that’s only part of a healthy routine. Don’t forget to think about the sources of stress in your life, and what wider lifestyle changes you can make to reduce stress, calm anxiety, and increase your happiness overall.