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Stress Management Techniques You Can Do Now

A poll conducted in April 2020 found that an unprecedented number of adults in the United States–60 percent–experience stress and worry daily. That number represents an increase of 14 percent in just one year. If you’re feeling stressed about your personal life or the state of the world right now, you’re not alone. Most importantly, help is available.

While nobody can totally remove stressors from your life (wouldn’t that be nice), there are tools that can help you emotionally handle the worries that come your way. Below are five stress management techniques you can do right now to lower your stress levels. Practicing these techniques often will provide even more benefits!

1. Flip the Script

Sometimes when people get stressed, negative thoughts about ourselves creep in. These automatic thoughts may declare that you aren’t good enough or you can’t handle what’s going on.

Take a moment and notice any negative thoughts you have had about yourself. Include anything you thought about yourself but would never say about your best friend. Once you have identified these thoughts, turn them around. Here are some examples:

  • “I can’t handle this!” becomes “Considering all that’s going on, I’m handling it well.”
  • “Nothing is going my way. Everything is awful.” becomes “I’ve hit a few obstacles, but I know good things will happen too.”
  • “I am alone in this.” becomes “I can reach out for help if I need it. People care about me.”
  • “I made a huge mistake. I’m so stupid!” becomes “I’m smart and capable. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes.”

Consciously and purposefully think the exact opposite of your automatic negative thoughts. The more you practice this, the easier it will become. You don’t have to believe your positive thoughts at first, just keep thinking them until you do.

2. Reduce Your Sensory Input

We use our senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound) to observe and interact with the world around us. However, when one or more of these senses is a little too stimulated, it can make stress worse. For example, a crowded and noisy train can make a stressful day that much harder to handle.

If and when you can, take some steps to lower your sensory input, even if just for a few moments. Examples include:

  • Turn off a television or something else that’s making noise around you
  • Plug your ears with your fingers or earphones (without music!) for a moment
  • Close your eyes
  • Look away from the screen

Anything you can do to reduce sensory input can help you find stillness and combat the stressors in your life.

3. Escape in a Healthy Way

Flipping the script on negative thoughts and stopping sensory overload are great techniques, but sometimes the racing thoughts are just too much to contend with. We hereby give you permission to metaphorically escape for a moment. Do something that gets you “out of your own head” and thinking about anything but the stress.

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This could mean playing a game, calling a friend, watching a show, or playing with your pet. Whatever gives you joy and gets you away from the negative thoughts for a few moments counts. Then, when you’re ready, take a few deep breaths and get back at it. You’ve got this!

4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

If you’re stressed, take a moment to notice any tension in your body. Is your jaw clenched? Are your shoulders tight? Maybe there’s excess tension in your legs. This is a common part of the body’s stress response. Turn the cycle around by intentionally relaxing each muscle.

Start by focusing on relaxing your scalp. Then release the tension in your brow, mouth, jaw, and so on. Continue down your body, spending at least a few seconds on each body part. By the time you’re relaxing your toes, you may feel less stressed and more capable of taking on the day. This can also be an effective technique for falling asleep.

5. Laugh

Laughter can almost immediately turn your mood around. Of course, laughing on command probably won’t do the trick. Instead, try:

  • Chatting with your funniest friend
  • Watching or listening to your favorite comedian
  • Checking out your favorite source of memes
  • Watching an episode of a comedy show
  • Recalling your funniest childhood memory

If you can only manage a smirk or a giggle, that’s ok too. Purposefully finding joy and humor is the point here.

Bonus: Talk to a Professional

The techniques above are helpful in many stressful situations. However, sometimes the stress is too great or chronic to tackle on your own. A licensed therapist can help. Whether you have a mental health disorder or not, a therapist can give you a personalized plan to manage your stress and live a happier life. Book an in-person or telehealth appointment online today!