With all the responsibilities of daily life, many people feel stretched thin and stressed out. Experts say that stress can be beneficial in small doses; it can heighten our senses and sharpen our intellects. However, prolonged stress can have serious negative effects on physical and mental health.Taking time to manage your stress can improve your mood, quality of sleep and overall health.
Here are five tips to get you started:
1. Identify the cause of your stress:
Take a moment to write down the things that cause you anxiety. Getting them down on paper can help you look objectively at the root causes of your stress, allowing you to start making concrete changes to reduce your stressors.
2. Make a plan to manage your time:
There are a few easy things you can do to help your time management:
• Schedule time to relax. Commit to relaxing for at least one hour every day. Putting it on your calendar will help you remember your commitment to yourself.
• Simplify your schedule. Weed out extraneous activities, giving you more time to do what fulfills you.
• Prioritize your sleep. A good night of sleep can prepare you to tackle stress as it arises. Going to bed and waking up at the same timecanfacilitate getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Spend an hour decompressing before bed. During this time, avoid bright screens and dim the lights.
• Prepare yourself.If you have a deadline for an assignment, carve out time to work on it. Finishing early will ease the stress of a looming deadline. Plan in advance when traveling, whether you are headed to work or somewhere exotic. Make sure you know how to get there and how long it will take. You will feel less stressed if you give yourself time to get ready and arrive early.
3. Minimize your interaction with what stresses you out:
When possible, minimize interactions with people who stress you out. Don’t feel guilty about cutting people out of you life if all they are contributing is drama and turmoil.
Also, it’s important to manage your social calendar. Don’t feel obligated to attend every event you are invited to, especially ones that make you anxious.
4. Find an outlet for frustrations:
Open up to someone — you don’t have to worry alone. Talking with a friend or family member will likely make you feel better and they may even be able to give you some helpful perspective. If you are debilitated by stress, it may help to speak with a mental health professional.
Another wonderful outlet is exercise¬¬¬¬¬.It only takes 30 to 45 minutes of exerciseon most days to strengthen your body and refresh your spirit. Swimming, running, dancing, hiking, yoga and team sports are all great ways to reduce stress. Choose something you enjoy and can stick to.
5. Utilize Relaxation Techniques:
These are some quick tricks to relaxing in the heat of a stressful moment:
• Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Slowly tense and relax each muscle group at a time, drawing your attention to the difference between tension and relaxation. You might try tensing your toes for five seconds or more and then relaxing them for 30 seconds before working your way up to your neck and head, one muscle group at a time.
• Visualization: This technique uses mental images to guide you to a peaceful place. Imagine somewhere beautiful and calming. Try to incorporate sight, sound, smell and touch.
• Deep Breathing: Slow, deep breathing is associated with relaxation, so you might be able to coax your body to relax by using your breath. Start by inhaling slowly, filling your low belly. Notice as your belly, lower backand sides expand with air. Then exhale, noticing them contract. Repeat, becoming more relaxed with each breath.
By incorporating some of these stress management techniques into your daily life, you will begin to experience a reduction in your stress levels. Identifying and reducing your stressors, managing your time, finding an outlet for your stress and utilizing relaxation techniques should promote a more peaceful existence.
Gabriela D. Acosta is the community manager for the University of Southern California’s MSW programs, one of the most innovative and dynamic social work graduate programs online. She is passionate about social justice, community organizing and leadership development. Connect with her on Twitter @Gabyacosta101