Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC
S-T-R-E-S-S! Just the sight of the word may be enough to make you feel stressed out. It may cause all those stressors you have in the back of your mind to come rushing back. Stress is something that everyone deals with even though nobody wants to. And if you’re not careful, it can have a large impact on your life. That’s why you need to learn how to deal with stress in healthy ways.
If you’re unsure if stress is an issue for you and the cause of the struggles that you’re experiencing, you can take this stress quiz here to learn more.
How To Deal With Stress
Thankfully, there are many different healthy ways to deal with stress. Here are some of the most common strategies:
Exercise can help you when dealing with stress in a few ways. First off, when you exercise, your brain releases chemicals that help boost your mood. When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, this can be just the thing that you need to turn things around.
Another way exercise can help with coping with stress is that using your muscles can release the tension and negative energy that you may be stored in your body. This can also help you to turn your mood around and overcome the feelings of stress.
- Massage Or Other Muscle Relaxation Techniques
Many people experience tense muscles in their shoulders, neck, and scalp when they’re feeling stressed. This can make your body feel bad and can also lead to things like tension headaches.
Getting a massage can help you relieve the built-up tension, which can help you reduce the stress you’re feeling. You may not even realize how tight and tense your muscles are until they begin to relax.
If you don’t have someone that can give you a massage and it’s not working when you try to do your own, you can simply focus on relaxing your muscles. Lay down in a quiet and comfortable spot like your bed. Then, close your eyes and work on relaxing one muscle group at a time. Try to imagine that your muscles are melting into the surface below you.
- Learn Time Management Skills
If you’re stressed because you have an overbooked schedule or feel that you have too many things to do, you may benefit from learning new time management skills and strategies. This can help you remove the stressful feeling by addressing one of the root causes.
- Look For Ways To Increase Efficiency
Along with learning time management skills, there may be additional strategies to help you make the most of your time and work more efficiently. When you waste less time, you’ll accomplish more with the time you do have. This can go a long way in reducing the stress in your life.
- Build On Your Communication Skills
Sometimes stress comes from a lack of proper communication. Miscommunication or a lack of communication can cause many issues in relationships, both personal and professional. It may be that you need to work on your listening skills, so you’re hearing what people are saying. Or it may be that you need to work on communicating what you actually mean instead of expecting people to know what you want.
- Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing can help to relieve the tensions from your body that stresses causes as well. When your muscles tighten, and you feel stressed, you may notice that you start to breathe shallower. This can have a negative impact on your body in other ways as well. For example, it can contribute to your heart racing and blood pressure rising.
By simply slowing down your breath, you can help to overcome some of these negative stress symptoms.
- Make Healthy Food Choices
The food that we put in our bodies has a large impact on the way that we feel. If you’re making poor food choices, you may notice that you don’t deal with stress as well. You may feel jittery or fatigued from not providing your body with the right sources of fuel.
Make sure that you’re drinking ample amounts of water. Staying away from caffeine can also help.
- Take A Break
Allow yourself to take breaks. Make sure that you’re not working 7 days a week, every single week. It’s important to give your body and mind a chance to rest and recharge, if at all possible.
If you’re not able to take off an entire weekend or day, make sure you build breaks into your day. You may benefit from using the Pomodoro technique to work for a certain amount of time and then give yourself a break, like 5 minutes, before diving into another work period.
- Make Time For Things You Enjoy
It can be easy to feel stressed when you feel like you always have to run from one to-do list item to the next. Instead, make sure that you give yourself time off to relax and enjoy activities and hobbies.
If you’ve been dealing with lots of stress in your life lately, you may have a hard time diving back into your hobbies. Stick with it so you can reconnect with those activities that you enjoy.
- Set Priorities In Your Life
When you have established priorities, it can help you to eliminate things that you don’t have time for in your life. It allows you to look at your priority list whenever you feel overwhelmed with tasks and establish what areas can be cut out.
Sometimes, people are overwhelmed with all good tasks, and setting priorities becomes crucial in maintaining proper mental health.
- Look For Your Triggers
See if you can find specific things that are causing your stress. When you know your main stressors, you can develop a plan to address those specific things. For example, if you have a coworker who is always adding to your stress, you can start identifying what steps you can take to eliminate some of the interaction with them, if possible. Or you can look for positive ways to change the way you currently interact.
Many different things can trigger stress. You may even find it helpful to keep a food journal for a few weeks to see if you can identify any commonalities. A few times a day, write down your stress level from 1-10 along with what’s happening at that time. You may be able to spot patterns that show you triggers to be aware of.
Journaling can be an effective way to let go of the stress that you may have pent up in you. If you’re not comfortable talking about your stress, you may find that journaling allows you to “get it off your chest” without having to talk about it out loud.
Sometimes journaling can also help you to reach new conclusions that you might not have reached before. This can help you find the causes of or solutions to your stress.
- Practice Mindfulness
If you deal with stress regularly, it can help you have some positive things that you can choose to focus on instead. For example, if you struggle to fall asleep because you are worried, you may want to have a positive quote, comforting Bible verse, or affirmation that you can choose to focus your attention on instead. This can help to push your stress and worry out of your thoughts.
- Get Enough Sleep
When you’re not getting enough sleep, it can be difficult to handle stress. You should be shooting for at least 7 hours of sleep at night. This can be difficult if you are stressed when trying to go to sleep, but some of the other strategies on this list can help address that.
For example, you may find that when you exercise during the day, you sleep better at night. Or you may find that meditating while you try to fall asleep helps to push the stress out of your head.
You’ve probably heard that “laughter is the best medicine.” Take time to enjoy parts of your day. Watch a funny YouTube video, talk with a friend that cracks you up, or look for the little things to enjoy in your day. When you spend time laughing, you may find that it feels like the stress begins to melt away.
What if these stress coping mechanisms aren’t working?
If you’re trying these strategies and still feel like your stress has a hold on you, you may want to consider speaking with a therapist. They can help you identify other causes of your stress and steps you can take to overcome it.
While stress can be caused by small day to day things, it can also result from larger trauma or mental health challenges. Sometimes stress is not going to just go away on its own, and you should learn how to address it completely for your physical and mental wellness.