As a mom of two I do feel stressed out quite often. Sometimes it starts right from the morning when we get to the kitchen for breakfast, sometimes even before we get to the kitchen. There’s no other way around it. Some people are just naturally chill, some are more hot-headed. I would probably fall in the middle, but it depends on the case. No matter what kind of person you are, you are not immune to stress and it’s ok.
Short term stress can actually be good for us.
It could be a strong motivator and help us work more efficiently to meet the challenges at work or school and everyday life. The so-called fight-or-flight response also works as a danger alarm. When perceiving a stressful and potentially dangerous situation, the brain releases hormones and neurotransmitters, such as cortisol, epinephrine (or adrenaline) and norepinephrine, into the bloodstream, causing an array of response symptoms: increased heart rate and breathing, elevated blood pressure. Our senses become sharper and help us stay safe. Short term stress can boost memory and concentration and even strengthen the immune system, according to Harvard University. Stress is our friend when it comes to our chances of survival.
When stress becomes a bad guy
This happens more often than it should. Once the stressful situation has passed, the released chemicals should be reabsorbed by the body and the stress response should pass. But when we experience stress on a regular basis, it sometimes becomes hard for the body to return to normal state, and the stress adds up. This may have detrimental effects on the body and weaken the immune system, making us prone to disease. You can have a wide range of symptoms when you experience chronic stress. They are:
- Excessive anxiousness, worry, anger or irritability
- Headaches and body aches
- Frequent infections, such as cold and flu
- Trouble falling asleep or waking shortly after
- Poor memory and concentration
- Poor or excessive appetite, weight loss or weight gain
In the long run, it can seriously harm your body, so it is important that you know how to cope with stress. If you feel angry, anxious or frustrated, if you find that you can’t focus on your daily tasks or cannot calm down and feel irritable and agitated, it makes sense to take steps to achieve a calmer, more balance state.
15 Ways To Reduce Stress Right Now
- Just breathe. This is much more powerful than it sounds. Take a moment and take 10 deep breaths. It really helps.
- Walk, run or ride a bike. It helps a lot just to take it outside, because too often when stressed we feel trapped, confined to the place where the stressful event is happening. Getting out of that place can feel liberating, and the physical side of it is a proven way to clear your head and reduce stress levels.
- Do squats or lift weights. Once again, the physical action is very therapeutic. It stimulates the release of endorphins, the happiness hormones. Also, sometimes when you are irritated or angry, it helps to put all that energy into action to find liberation.
- Draw, paint or colour. These activities are very relaxing, they could take your mind away from the problems or they could serve you as a way to express your feelings. Even scribbling on a piece of paper can do you good, but if you want something better – opt for ZenColoring.
- Write in a journal. Pour it all out. Sometimes it can be hard to know what exactly you are feeling or thinking unless you sit and write it down. If you’re not into journaling, or if the root of your problem is another person, try writing a letter to that person. Just make sure you don’t send it. Tear it apart and throw it out. Or better yet, throw it in the fireplace and watch your feelings ease up as the letter burns.
- Do yoga. Yoga is not just a form of exercise, it’s the exercise that connects your mind and body, it focuses on movement in accordance with your breath and it urges you to pay attention to how you feel each and every move. Yoga is one of the most therapeutic forms of exercise and I can personally vouch for it. It is very grounding and calming.
- Go out with a friend. Remember the ‘take it outside’ thing from No.2? Adding a friend to it can be a great benefit. It may help you take your mind away from the problem and let you relax, or on the other hand, it may allow you to share your thoughts with somebody else, because keeping it inside does you no good. A friend could even give you a clue to how you could solve the problem, or at least give you a support.
- Meditate. This practice is severely misunderstood. Meditation doesn’t mean not thinking and clearing your mind of thoughts. It doesn’t involve levitation either (insert a giggle here). What it means is sitting down in peace and quite for even just 5 minutes, with your eyes closed and body still, and just making a deliberate choice of not dwelling on your thoughts and feelings. You just watch them come and go, observe. Acknowledge each thought as it comes and let go. At first, even 5 minutes can seem to last forever. Sometimes it is easier to count your breaths and focus on them. I promise though that you feel better, calmer and rested. To me it does as much good as a short nap. I feel recharged.
- Drink hot tea. Not so hot that it can burn your mouth and throat, just pleasantly hot. Tea drinking has a calming effect on your body, mostly because it forces you to slow down. You cannot drink hot tea too fast, so you have to take that time and slow down, and maybe even reflect on the situation and how you feel about it. Teas like chamomile, peppermint or lemon balm have additional calming properties.
- Listen to music. Better yet, sing along. When did music not help?
- Light a scented candle or diffuse oils. This could help in 2 different ways. First, it is an act of self-care and maybe even self-love, you do it for yourself and it boosts your sense of well-being. Second, depending on the type of scent you’re using it could have a calming, grounding, restoring or uplifting effect. Just make sure to research first, if you are not familiar with essential oils. My picks are Lavender for calming and Orange for a mood boost.
- Take a bubble bath or a long shower. This is another act of self-love. Water also has a very calming effect on the body and mind, be it a shower or a bath. You could boost it additionally by using Epsom salt soak for relaxation or put a few drops of an essential oil for an effect you want to achieve.
- Clean or declutter the room or your wardrobe. Sometimes we can feel stressed out if our environment is not clean or is too cluttered. This clutter sits at the back of our brain and does not let us focus on a task or fully relax. Overtime, it accumulates and almost suffocates you. So having your house cleaned or decluttered may not only help you relax, but also eliminate the source of your stress. Purging things from your home or your wardrobe can have an extremely therapeutic and refreshing effect on your mind. Just do it sensibly.
- Work in the garden. It is another thing that is great in taking your mind away, or letting you put all the negative energy into something physical. If you’re not much of a gardener, try cooking instead.
- Play with a pet or a child. Please don’t bash me for mixing them too. But both playing with a child or a pet can help you loosen up a bit and feel carefree. Pets are the best healers. And children… well, could you stay unmoved when you hear a child’s wild laughter? Try tickles – they work best.
All of these are proven ways to help with stress and anxiety. One may work better than the other, depending on the situation and source of your stress, and also on your personality. But I invite you to give it a try the next time and see what works. If you have your own secrets of dealing with stress, I’d love it if you share them in the comments.
My favourite ways are deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tea and scented candles and oils. Cleaning and cooking also work from time to time, when the kids are quiet. When they are not, tickles and cuddles might do just as well.