When was the last time you felt stressed out? Last week? Yesterday? With today’s hectic pace, it’s no wonder many of us experience frayed nerves on a regular basis.
With our to-do list in hand we speed through our days at such a pace even the slightest setback irritates the heck out of us. Instead of keeping pace with the urgency of the world, why not step back and savor those small moments of downtime.
Following is a list of tension tamers that will show you how to make your stress work for, not against you.
Don’t make mountains out of molehills
If slow highway traffic has a tendency to make your blood boil, ask yourself “What’s the worst thing that could happen? Far too often everyday stresses like this get the best of us. Sort out the trivial from the essential. Give the whole situation a little perspective. If you’re stuck in traffic, exaggerate the situation by picturing yourself growing old behind the wheel. Now, how unrealistic is that? Chances are good if you use this method you will end up laughing which is good since humor is a great stress reliever.
Breathe new life into the moment
Breathe in for four counts, hold for two, then slowly release for six to eight counts. Get a rhythm going for several minutes. Deep breathing opens up the cardiovascular system, enhances the blood flow and distributes oxygen to every part of the body. Imagine a balloon in your stomach that inflates and pushes the abdomen out while you inhale and deflates, letting the abdomen fall back to its original position while you exhale.
Cut stress with kindness
You’d probably agree that the tension in most long lines and crowded waiting rooms is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Be the first one to strike up a conversation. Chatting with others around you is a great way to make the time pass quicker for everyone.
Loosen up your body
Mentally give your body the once over. Are you grinding your teeth or furrowing your brow? Is there a build up of tension held tight in your shoulders or a knot in your neck? If so, start at the tip of your head and concentrate on releasing the tightness in each individual muscle group until you’ve worked everything though.
Let others pitch in
We don’t have to do everything ourselves. Encourage everyone to pitch in. Divvy up chores among family members. At the very least, relax your own standards – everything doesn’t have to be perfect.
Accept what you can change and what you can’t
Even though having a sense of control can reduce stress, certain situations are beyond our influence. Acceptance is often the best approach. Remember the old saying by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr? “God, grant us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.” Find comfort in his words.
Walk away stress
What motivates people to stick with a fitness program? There are more benefits to frequent exercise than trimmer waistlines or firmer thighs. Most people who exercise regularly also benefit from the reduction of stress.
The basis of all stress reduction techniques is to help you focus on the present moment, rather than being distracted. And exercise does just that. During exercise we move in a rhythmic fashion that may also tap into our underlying natural body rhythms such as breathing and heart rate. In turn it can calm the mind and elevate the mood. Researchers have also long attributed the mind-body link to the release of endorphins, our bodies feel-good chemicals.
Turn off negative self talk
We may not even realize it but we could be feeding our stress level with pessimistic thinking. A great deal of stress comes from what we tell ourselves – the irrational thoughts and expectations – the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘musts’.
Take the time to listen to your internal messages. When you catch yourself in negative self-talk, instantly replace the thought with a more realistic one. It may take some time and practice to train yourself to turn those negative thoughts around. But in the long run, it is well worth the effort for the peace and well-being you’ll gain.