How can I manage my stress?

How can I manage my stress?
I think most people are feeling a little stressed lately.  There are a few very practical things that you can do to stay calm when the world around you seems to be spinning out of control.

Here are some things that you can do to help you manage your stress.

 

Breathe
Controlled breathing can help to physiologically control your stress.  This is one part of your body over which you have significant control.  Take slow, even, deep breaths – 7 seconds in, hold for 1 second, then 7 seconds out.  Use your watch to time yourself.
Why does this work?  When you control your breathing at a slow pace, you actually slow the circulation of blood flowing through your lungs.  Slowing the circulation through your lungs will slow your overall circulation, leading to a slower heart rate.  Slowing your heart rate can help to make you feel more calm, and can help slow the racing thoughts in your brain.

 

Be Mindful
When you have a lot going on, and your mind is thinking of all of the worst case scenarios, racing thoughts can take control and get away from you.  Make yourself stop and focus on being exactly where you are for just one or two minutes.  Do this by taking the time to notice:
  • 5 things that you can see
  • 4 things that you can feel
  • 3 things that you can hear
  • 2 things that you can smell
  • 1 thing that you can taste
You may not be able to notice all of these things, but the idea is to reach out with your senses and notice the things around you.  Maybe you will notice how intense the lights are in the room, or the pressure of your body in the chair, or maybe the sound of a bird outside your window.  Be right here, right now.  Avoid going backward or forward in your mind.  Just be in the moment, in the exact place that you are.

 

Find a Good Distraction
You don’t want to be distracted all of the time, but when things seem overwhelming, it can be helpful to distract yourself for a bit.  It can protect your brain, lower your blood pressure, and give you a chance to live outside of the stress for a little while.  Give yourself permission to have a time out.  Watch a funny TV show, or read an engrossing story, or maybe try Duolingo to learn a new language!

 

Try to Keep Things in Perspective  
As bad as things might feel right now, they are likely to get better with time.  Take the time to think about the things that are good right now.  For instance, maybe you are getting to spend more time with your family than usual.

 

Things Over Which You Can Have Control, Take Control
  • Try to get enough sleep.  This can definitely improve your stress level.
  • Try to eat regularly and in a healthy way.  Try to avoid emotional eating and avoid eating a lot of junk foods.  This can be hard as we all tend to crave junk foods when we are stressed!
  • Try to get some exercise on a daily basis.  Even if you are not able to do your usual exercise routine because you can’t go to the gym, there are ways that you can exercise at home.  Maybe go for a walk a couple of times a day, even if it is just in your backyard, or around the inside of the house.  Do some jumping jacks or turn on some music and dance.  Maybe you could have a dance party with the kids, and you could all use up some energy!
  • Try to get some time outdoors every day if you can.  Even though you may be stuck at home, most of us can get outside without being exposed to others.  If you are not able to get outside, try to get curtains open in every room to get plenty of light in the house.  Sun exposure can improve your mood.
  • Keep your living space clean; not just sanitized, but organized.  Organizing the space around you can give you a significant sense of control.

If you have any more questions just Ask Hanna, our health advisors are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor
Image: ©Shutterstock / fizkes

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