5 Ways to Manage Your Stress in Seconds
Stress can strike at any moment. Sometimes it’s expected, like during a traffic-jammed morning commute. Other times it can come out of nowhere and completely derail you.
Our stress responses used to be a necessity that helped us survive, but that isn’t usually the case today. Chronic stress keeps our body in fight or flight mode, which has serious, long-term health repercussions. It also affects us in the moment, causing reactions that range from foul moods to panic attacks.
A few years ago Carnegie Mellon University conducted the first ever historical analysis of stress in America. Not surprisingly, researchers found that stress levels are way up compared to 30 years ago. In 1983, only 10 percent of people reported feeling stressed. By 2009 that number had jumped to 30 percent.
Harrison Interactive’s 2013 Work Stress Survey produced even more startling statistics. Based on their responses, an estimated 83 percent of American workers feel stressed about at least one aspect of their job.
However, the most troubling news comes from the American Psychological Association. They note that stress is a growing problem among kids. As many as a third of kids report physical symptoms related to stress. In addition to their own angst, 86 percent said that their parent’s stress affects them.
There are many things we can do to reduce chronic stress overtime, but sometimes immediate relief is needed. In those moments, try one (or more) of the five stress relieving strategies below.
Take a Moment to Read
The ONE Thing can help you stress less on your way to success! The University of Sussex analyzed a number of proven stress relievers to see which one was worked the best and the fastest. Their research team found that reading is the quickest way to significantly reduce feelings of stress. All it took was six minutes of reading for 68 percent of study participants to feel their nerves start to calm.
Reading relaxes the muscles and decreases the heart rate mostly due to distraction. When a person is immersed in reading, they aren’t thinking about stressful situations around them.
Take a Deep Breath . . . or Two . . . or Ten
Our breathing is closely connected to our response to stress. One of the most obvious physical signs of stress is shallow breathing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, slow, deep breaths can help you initiate a relaxation response. Deep breathing is one of the few relation techniques that have been recognized by the National Institutes of Health as being effective for handling anxiety.
Find a quiet space and close your eyes. Now focus on taking very slow, very deep breaths. Breathe in for a five seconds through the nose, fully filling your lungs. Then slowly expel the breath through the mouth or nose. Repeat nine times, more if needed.
Take a Quick Nap
Stress and sleep are interconnected in a negative way. When we are stressed, it’s more difficult to sleep. When we’re sleep deprived, it’s easier to succumb to stress. The antidote is a 30-minute nap. Researchers at Sorbonne University found that napping for 30 minutes was all it took to rebalance hormones and relieve stress in men that had skimped on sleep the night before. Like reading, a nap is also an effective way to remove yourself from a stressful situation because it allows your brain to reboot.
Take a Minute to Stretch
Muscle tension and tightness is a clear sign that stress is causing a physical reaction. Gentle stretches can help relieve the tension and stress at the same time. Try a few of these low-impact stretches:
- Upward Stretch: Lace your fingers together then raise your arms above your head with your palms facing the sky. Push upwards to stretch out the upper half of your body.
- Shoulder Stretch: Bring one arm across your body and hold it just below the elbow with your other hand. Hold for about 30 seconds and then switch to the other arm.
- Neck Stretch: Bend your head forward and to the right. Using your right hand gently pull the head down further. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat, tilting your head to the left.
- Triangle Stretch: Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders. Reach down bending at the waist until your fingers touch the ground. Hold for 15 seconds then move your hands to the right side and grip your ankle. Hold and then repeat on the left side.
Take Five to Watch a Funny Cat Video
Laughter is a great cure for stress. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic have found that laughter helps to lower stress hormones while also reducing blood pressure. A quick laugh can also relieve muscle tension for up to 45 minutes because it increases circulation. Plus, it gives you a rush of feel-good endorphins.
It’s important to identify how you typically respond to stress. This will help you hone in on strategies that will be most effective for your personal response mechanisms. Looking for some longer-term approaches to getting your stress under control? Here are seven more healthy ways to reduce stress over time.