You wouldn’t have gotten this far in life without learning how to cope with stress. However, just because you’ve “been there, done that” doesn’t imply it will be any easier this time.
Granted, life experience will have taught you the old adage that “this, too, shall pass,” but it will also have taught you something about the active part you need to play in combating stress from time to time, and how we may all benefit from a stress-busting reboot.
I believe we are all aware of the dangers of too much stress in our lives. Many negative health outcomes, such as diabetes, weight gain, hypertension, impaired memory, and a variety of mental health concerns, are linked to stress.
As a result, just as we need to clear out and freshen up our closet every now and then, how we manage stress in our life needs to be reassessed with a fresh and new perspective.
Below are my top 10 strategies to relieve stress and restore energy with a fresh look at some old favorites that are guaranteed to help you self-optimize for health and happiness in body, mind, and spirit.
1. Compartmentalize—Prioritization on Steroids
People interpret the compartmentalizing strategy in a variety of ways, and the term has certain negative connotations.
When I say compartmentalize to manage stress—or, better yet, relieve stress—what I mean is that you block out some aspects of your life that are distracting you from what you need to do in your everyday life.
For example, let’s say you’re at work but also have a lot of stress in your personal life since your parents are ill and you don’t have any siblings to help you care for them.
Managing this on top of your own personal and career duties, which are already stressful enough, puts you under a lot of strain.
When you compartmentalize, you put mental blinders on to assist you to focus on the task at hand, knowing that taking care of your parents’ living and financial needs will be taken care of after work hours.
Learning to separate these diverse aspects of your life can help you prioritize and manage the tasks at hand.
2. Get Outside, It’s Like Therapy
Simply getting outside in the fresh air will reduce your stress levels and help you reclaim some of your lost energy.
The emerging discipline of ecotherapy is proving once again how powerful nature is and how spending time outside can help our mental health as well as our physical and spiritual health.
When you’re outside, you’re more likely to be more active and exposed to the mood-boosting sun, which aids in the production of vitamin D in our bodies.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to inflammatory illnesses, depression, and a reduced ability to cope with stress, according to research, and vitamin D deficiency is growing more common in the United States.
Even if you only spend 10 minutes outside each day, you can enhance your mood, mental attention, and blood pressure.
Consider the increased concentration and efficiency you’ll experience as a return on investment that will result in significantly greater improvement in your aptitude and attitude for life.
3. Do an Organization Reboot
We all know that organization, or at least some sort of it, is crucial to success. Organization, in my opinion, is a process. Based on our current needs, we create structures to arrange information and life events.
This will fluctuate over time and most likely increase as your life becomes more complicated, forcing you to innovate and change things up as you go.
What was sufficient in college or your first job after graduation may no longer be sufficient at this point in your life. Furthermore, there are a plethora of systems that can assist us in organizing, but having too many can detract from their intended benefits.
Assessing and filtering out ineffective systems, or merging multiple systems into one, could be the answer.
Is a Google family calendar more efficient than a calendar on the refrigerator? Don’t just assume the answer is in technology. Consider the chalkboard in the kitchen against the concealed “to-do list” on your smartphone with constantly failing reminders.
An organization self-assessment is another technique for your organization’s reboot. First, tell me what you’re trying to organize and what you hope to achieve.
Is it for the purpose of communication—ensuring that everyone is on the same page—or is it to assist you in processing and thinking about the task you have in front of you?
Answering these two questions can assist you in moving forward as you consider what is best for you, your family, or your work team.
Another method to approach a reorganization is to inquire about how other individuals keep organized. This is especially useful when assuming additional obligations as a result of a work change or a change in family dynamics.
I did this in a new job I recently started, and I was able to do so by gathering data on how other individuals approached their jobs (think of the complex systems in public education).
4. Engage Your Creative Brain
When we engage our creative sides, we activate a region of our brain that releases dopamine, a naturally relaxing and restorative substance.
Needless to say, this will help us relax and reduce our stress levels practically immediately. One of the well-established premises for which art therapy has been used.
In one study, it was discovered that after just 45 minutes of engaging with artistic materials, independent of the person’s level of production or artistic aptitude, cortisol levels dropped significantly in 75% of the participants.
Another form of creative art that might help us relax and re-energize is music therapy.
Many of us listen to music to unwind or transition to another area of our day or activity. Music can also help us imitate the emotion or “vibe” we sense in the music by tapping into this portion of our brain that improves concentration.
Upbeat music, as we all know, makes you feel more upbeat, whereas slower music makes you feel more relaxed by easing some of the tension in your body.
There are a plethora of excellent stress-relieving playlists available. When you’re on your favorite music streaming service, try out a few different ones to find which one works best for you.
Music, of course, is one of those things that may be played in the background while we go about our daily activities.
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Perhaps this is another area in need of a reboot that could enhance your stress relief routine.
5. Do You Need a Vacation or Weekend Away?
We may not be able to take as many vacations as we would want. However, a week in the tropics isn’t required to reap the benefits of a short vacation from your daily routine.
If we use some of the above tactics to optimize our time, we might be able to squeeze in that weekend break or even just a day trip with the family. Getting out of your regular surroundings, especially while trying to relax and de-stress, may do wonders for our mind, body, and spirit.
We may adore our homes, but they also serve as reminders of the never-ending “to-do” list and all the things that add to our stress levels.
Getting out of this atmosphere and engaging in some of your favorite activities with some of your favorite people will help to release your mind and body.
COVID-19 has, without a doubt, hampered our plans for a road trip or holiday. We can, however, incorporate the tiny pauses we need to reduce stress, reconnect with the people who are important in our lives, and make us feel prepared for the next challenge ahead of us with a little creativity.
6. Meditation and Mindfulness, Make Them a Habit
Meditation and mindfulness can provide us with a plethora of emotional and psychological benefits, as well as natural stress relief. Increased focus, relaxation, and a reduction in mental clutter are just a few of the advantages.
One of the most difficult aspects of meditation or mindfulness is that in order to feel the benefits, we must practice it on a regular basis, which requires discipline.
People who include meditation and mindfulness into their everyday practices are the most successful at incorporating them into their self-care and stress management routines.
And as is true with many strategies, we don’t need to spend hours doing it. Just 5 or 10 minutes a day can make a difference, but we do need to make sure we are doing it.
Maybe there is a 5 or 10-minute window at the end or beginning of your day where you could fit this consistently? There are lots of great apps to help guide you through your mediation with music and visualization.
7. Fight Off “Aloneliness” and Find Your Alone Time
I just read an essay about “loneliness,” the polar opposite of loneliness. As an introvert, I’ve always been that person who gets her energy from alone time, but I’d never considered the urge to be akin to loneliness for introverts.
The benefits of alone time are scientifically proven, and they include things like creativity, mental strength, and productivity, which often go out the window when we are worried and overloaded.
Many people have lost their alone time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which could be another reason you’re feeling anxious and unable to deal with your daily issues.
You might need to be strategic, but you could build some alone time into your life with a walk outside to get lunch for example, which will also be incorporating strategy #2 on this list.
8. Find Balance in Your Life
Stress has the ability to turn our lives upside down and toss everything out of whack. It’s critical to rediscover your equilibrium, get your bearings, and strike a balance in your life amid the multiple demands of family, partner, career, and friends.
If you’re experiencing greater stress, take a look at the pressures you’re facing and make sure there’s a balance between the various aspects of your life—particularly the areas where you find more soul nutrition.
Incorporating the well-known life coaching method of the “life wheel” is a terrific way to think about the various aspects of your life and ensure that you are giving them the time and attention they require.
9. Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene
It’s no secret that sleep can either be your best friend or your worst adversary. “What a difference a day can make,” as the phrase goes, is owed in great part to a good night’s sleep. When we are anxious, though, one of the first things that go out of whack is our sleep.
If you’re under a lot of stress, you’re probably seeing an increase in outside or family expectations. Finding the time to fit everything in may naturally interfere with your sleeping hours, or the stress may prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
In either of these two instances, it may be beneficial to examine your sleep regimen and force you to be a little more morbid.
Some of my go-to tips and strategies around maintaining healthy sleep hygiene are:
- Plan ahead
- Maintain your physical activity
- Limit alcohol
- Sleep in a cooler environment
- Get plenty of fresh air
So, before you get to thinking that you can sleep “later,” remember that healthy people and well-balanced lives have a healthy amount of sleep in their lives.
10. Animal Love
There’s a lot of study on the advantages of keeping a pet, especially a dog or a cat. Taking care of a pet or any other member of the animal kingdom can have such a beneficial effect on our mood and psychological well-being that our brain produces oxytocin, often known as the love hormone.
We acquire this hormone from other loving (human) interactions as well, but the influence it has on us when we care for and bond with one of our four-legged friends cannot be underestimated.
One example is the fact that many pet owners report experiencing a bond with their animal that rivals and, in some cases, exceeds that of any meaningful human relationship.
Additionally, having a pet will likely promote other healthy habits. Some of which I spoke about above, such as being outside more often and increasing your physical activity.
On a social level, connecting with friends and neighbors about your pet creates a shared connection—another protective factor in the fight against stress.
Modern life places many demands on us which hits us in different ways during different periods of our lives. Maintaining our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being requires a fresh and renewed approach every so often.
If you take the time today—to take care of yourself for tomorrow by revamping the old worn-out items in your self-care toolbox—you will reap the benefits 20 fold!
Learning how to relieve stress from our life is a process that we will need to revisit time and time again, each time getting better and better.