Stress can be a positive thing. It can motivate you, improve your focus, and help keep you performing at your best. But too much stress can be highly distressing and can have a negative effect on your health. If you feel like things are getting on top of you, try these six stress management techniques.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that triggers the stress response. People who are chronically stressed have an overactive amygdala, but mindfulness meditation calms it down. With continued practice, meditation causes the amygdala to shrink in size, leading to long-term improvements.
Exercise promotes stress resilience by increasing activity in the parts of the brain that trigger positive moods. Exercise also improves memory, learning, and concentration — this puts you in a better place to think your problems through.
One way to reduce stress is to remove, or manage, the cause of it. For example, if you’re stressed over a job interview, write answers to 100 interview questions, and have friends mock-interview you every day. If your job is stressful, speak to your manager about delegating responsibilities, taking some time off, working flexibly, or consider a new line of work.
If you go to YouTube and search for “relaxing sounds,” there’s a reason you get crashing waves, gentle rainfall, and bird songs — nature is inherently relaxing. Make the effort to get into nature. Hiking would be ideal, but even visiting the park or the beach can help soothe a restless mind.
We are social beings, and interaction with fellow humans is beneficial to mental well-being. Make an effort to connect with your friends and family, invite coworkers out for drinks, or join a club that meets regularly. Don’t wait for people to contact you.
Lack of sleep causes stress, and stress causes lack of sleep. It’s a vicious circle. To improve sleep, turn off all screens two hours before bedtime, keep the room cool, and avoid caffeine after 1 pm. You can also meditate before bedtime, to quiet the mind.
It’s important to use these techniques regularly. One-off usage will help in the moment, but it won’t have a lasting effect. In fact, you should use these techniques when you don’t feel stressed, to increase your resilience to any difficult times that may lie ahead.
If you feel like you could benefit from the insight and advice of a fully trained professional in this area, we have a host of stress management practitioners in our directory.