In a previous article, I presented the four fundamental aspects of stress management. This article will discuss several practical things that you can do to combat and manage the daily stresses you encounter.
Need immediate de-stressing? This article on instant relaxation techniques will help you relax fast.
How to Manage Daily Stress: 5 Tips
Make Time For Fun and Relaxation
As daily stress builds up and you get busier with life obligations, it’s often easy to forget about your own needs. Therefore, one critical component of managing the stresses of daily life is the prioritizing of “me” time. Remember– nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you’ll already be in a better place to handle life’s stressors.
➢ Schedule in leisure time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule–even write it down on your calendar–even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
➢ Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The very act of laughing has a therapeutic effect on your body and mind.
➢ Do relaxation techniques on a regular basis. Activities such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate your body’s relaxation response—a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the Fight or Flight stress response. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the articles on relaxation techniques and find some that are right for you.
➢ Do something you enjoy everyday. It can be anything small or big; the point is to always have something relaxing in your day to help you recharge.
Create a Stress Relief Toolbox
Another effective way to manage the stresses of daily life is to prepare ahead of time with a Stress Relief Toolbox. The purpose of the Stress Relief Toolbox (or a Wellness Toolbox) is to ensure that you always have something enjoyable to do…regardless of the situation or how busy you get. Your Toolbox can be as simple or as creative as you wish it to be; it could simply be a written list of activities that you enjoy doing, a jar with slips of paper with various activities you can draw from, or an actual toolkit containing various things you enjoy.
Having trouble thinking of things to put in your Stress Relief Toolbox? We have some ideas for you (click the figure to enlarge). Once you have made your toolbox, promise yourself that you will do one of those things everyday…regardless of how busy you are or how overwhelmed you feel. By doing this, you are forcing yourself to prioritize self-care, and I guarantee you will notice a difference.
Incorporate Exercise into Your Days
When you’re stressed, the last thing you may feel like doing is getting up and exercising. But physical activity is a huge daily stress reliever— it releases endorphins that make you feel good, improve sleep, raise self-esteem, and relax muscle tension. In fact, physical activity is one of the most effective stress management techniques out there.
While just about any form of physical activity can help melt away tension and stress, rhythmic activities (such as walking, running, swimming, cycling) are especially effective. Even if you are stuck sitting in an office chair the entire day, incorporating some seated exercises while you’re working is another great way to relieve some tension. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you enjoy, so you’re more likely to stick with it.
The act of exercising can be even more therapeutic if you practice mindfulness while doing it. What this means is that you make a conscious effort to pay attention to your body and all the sensations you experience as you’re moving. For example, try focusing on coordinating your breathing with your movements, or pay attention to how the air or sunlight feels on your skin. Adding this mindfulness element helps you break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that often accompanies overwhelming stress.
Utilize Time Management
Poor time management contributes a lot to daily stress levels. When you’re stretched too thin and are running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused.
➢ Break projects into small steps. If a large project seems overwhelming, make a step-by-step plan and use the Action Planning Technique to make short-term, achievable goals for each step. Focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.
➢ Delegate responsibility. Believe it or not, many times you actually don’t have to do it all yourself—whether at home or at work. Let go of the desire to control or oversee every little step. It may be difficult at first, but you’ll be letting go of the unnecessary stress which will make a big difference in the long run.
Connect With Others
Unlike stressors that trigger your body’s Fight or Flight response, meaningful face-to-face interaction triggers a cascade of hormones that counteracts this effect. Being with a friend or a loved one is like nature’s natural stress reliever and mood booster. So no matter how busy you become or how great your daily stresses are, make it a priority to connect regularly—and in person—with your support system.
Now that you have some tools to help manage your daily stresses, I encourage you to start incorporating the above stress management skills into your days. Remember—you have nothing to lose….except that stress in your life.
Want to keep this information handy for future reference?
Below is a printable handout with all these tips and more!
*The information contained in “How to Manage Daily Stress: 5 Practical Tips” can be found in Being Empowered for a Healthy Heart: A personal guide to taking control of your health while living with chronic conditions, by Phoebe Chi, MD, MPH.