While stress is an inevitable part of life, you can deal with stress better with the right stress management techniques. While stress can leave you feeling anxious, overwhelmed and exhausted, it doesn’t have to. With these brain-based stress reduction techniques, you can switch off your stress response and activate your inner calm.
We’re all under a lot of pressure as we seek to navigate and manage the changes and challenges COVID-19 has brought. If you’re wondering, “How do I handle these new stresses and pressures?” you aren’t alone!
In this article I’ll show you how to effectively cope with stress in your life. These 7 science-based stress management techniques will help you calm your sympathetic nervous system and get a grip on stress.
7 Stress Management Techniques
1. Get good sleep
Sleep is essential for stress management. Sleep helps regulate your emotional responses, which allows you to respond to challenges with reason and calm. Sleep also keeps your appetite hormones (leptin and ghrelin) in check, so you won’t be inclined to reach for sugar to sustain your energy during the day. Getting a good night sleep is the foundation of good health and part of your stress management toolkit. Don’t skimp on sleep!
Tip: Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night is recommend and will allow you to better face the challenges of your day.
Under stress, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol as part of your fight-or-flight response. Exercise can help use up these excess stress hormones, so they don’t harm your body. As an important stress management technique, exercise also gives you a boost of your feel-good chemicals, endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.
Tip: Feeling stressed? Get your heart pumping! Go go for a walk, hit the gym, swim in the ocean or take a dance class. Even better if you go with a friend!
3. Spend time in nature
Getting outside and enjoying some fresh air is a wonderful mind-break and stress reliever. Getting some sunshine gives you a boost of vitamin D and also serotonin, a great mood booster. It is much easier to manage stress when you feel good! Exposure to daylight in the morning will also help you sleep better at night, as it helps to regulate your circadian rhythm.
Tip: Incorporate time in nature each day. Try eating your lunch outside. Have a morning coffee while watching the sun rise. Go for a bush walk on the weekend.
Unresolved problems increase your stress. Without a clear solution and strategy, your problems circle around in your consciousness, causing more stress. To reduce your stress levels, start to problem-solve.
Finding solutions allows you to see a way through the stressful situation and re-activates your pre-frontal cortex. This intentional brain shift allows you to be more resilient, to feel calmer and more in control during challenging times.
Solving a problem or challenge also activates your brain’s reward centre and releases your brain’s mood-enhancing chemical, dopamine. Problem-solving feels great!
Tip:1. Identify the challenges you’re facing. 2. Brainstorm all possible solutions to your problems…get creative! 3. Take the next small action step forward – start where you are and use what you have. 4. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
5. Deep breathing
Deep diaphragmatic breathing or “belly breathing” is the fastest way to switch off your stress response. Focusing on a deep and long exhale hacks your vagus nerve. The vagus nerve activates your para-sympathetic nervous system, lowering your stress levels and promoting calm. Take a few minutes each day to breath deeply to regulate your stress response.
Tip: Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths, focusing on a longer exhale. If you loose your concentration and forget what number you’re up to, re-focus your attention and start back at 1. Aim to do 3 rounds counting up to 10. You’ll begin to notice a deeper sense of calm return to your mind and body.
6. Engage your senses
Stress has a way of moving you into your mind and out of your body. To release stress, begin to gently move back into your body. You can learn how to self-soothe by engaging your senses. Shift your state and find your inner calm through touch, smell, taste and sound.
Tip: Try diffusing some essential oils or rub them behind your wrist and neck. Make a tea or coffee and savour the aroma and taste. Have a nap under a cosy blanket. Have a relaxing bubble bath. Listen to your favourite music. Cook a beautiful meal.
Your brain filters information based on what you focus on. It can be challenging to try to be grateful when you’re stressed out. Yet, when you adopt a grateful mindset you can change how you feel. The more you look for things to be grateful for, the more your brain will notice great things in your life. Gratitude changes your outlook on your life. Studies have also found being grateful increases happiness and wellbeing.
Tip: Start a gratitude journal. Take 5 minutes at the beginning of your day (or the end) and write down the things you’re grateful for. This could include things that have gon well, the things you enjoyed or the things you’ve achieved. You could also start a family gratitude ritual. Go around the table and share one thing you were grateful for in your day.
Coping Well With Stress
While stress is a normal part of life, it doesn’t have to overwhelm you or keep you stuck. You can work with your brain to manage stress and take control of how you’re thinking and feeling. Use these 7 stress management techniques to re-wire for calm, clarity and control today.