Do you need some better stress management techniques?
These days, I think everyone does. I can feel my blood pressure rising every time I check my social media. Between news of racial tension, the upcoming election, a global pandemic, and just life in general, it’s normal to feel more unsettled than normal.
It might not feel that way, but it’s true. If you did not feel a little stressed right now, I would say you aren’t paying close enough attention to the things happening around you.
So, don’t worry if you’re more stressed out than normal. It might feel awful now, but there are things that you can do to feel better. It’s just a matter of time and patience.
In this post, I’m going to talk about how stress affects the body, share some helpful stress relief activities, and talk about the perfect gifts for a stressed out loved one.
Keep reading to find out about the negative effects that stress has on the body!
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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.
How stress affects the body
In case you were not aware, being in a constant state of stress has a lot of negative side effects. Not only does it affect you physically, but it also has emotional and behavioral side effects. MayoClinic spelled it all out really nicely, so here is what they said:
Effects of stress on the body
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Stomach issues
- Trouble sleeping
Effects of stress on your emotions
- Trouble staying motivated
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Anger or irritability
- Sadness or depression
Effects of stress on your behavior
- Change in eating habits
- Emotional outbursts
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Using tobacco
- Social withdrawal
- Less exercise
As you can see, there are dozens of ways that stress can affect you without you even realizing it. If you experience even 1-2 of these, it might be time to evaluate your stress levels and see where you can make some changes.
11 helpful stress relief activities
Now that you’ve been able to evaluate your stress levels with the previous section, let’s talk about some simple ways to manage stress. Share some of your favorite relaxation techniques in the comments!
1- Break a sweat
Studies show that exercise is a key factor in managing your stress levels. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals in your brain called dopamine and endorphins. They make you feel happier on a regular basis.
You don’t have to go for a two hour run to see any positive benefits, either. This can absolutely work for chronic couch potatoes too. Just go for a 15 minute walk 3 days a week, and you can see a little improvement in your stress levels.
2- Ditch caffeine
This one can be a bit of a challenge– especially for moms! I know when I feel stressed that drinking a little caffeine seems to take the edge off. But really, if you live with something like chronic stress or anxiety, you want to try to avoid caffeine as much as possible.
According to Verywell Mind, drinking caffeine on a regular basis increases cortisol just like stress does. So, while it might give you some relief in the short term, in the long term, it has harmful side effects.
3- Try yoga or meditation
Any sort of calming activity like this is going to help. Here are a couple of videos that can help get you started if you’re a newbie.
4- Take a hot bath
Taking a hot bath is one of my favorite relaxation activities. There is something about being in water that is grounding. Make it as warm as you can tolerate, toss in a cup of epsom salt, and maybe a bath bomb, and let your troubles drown away.
Have a hard time just being while you’re in the tub? I set up my phone on a stand and watch one of my favorite shows. That way I’m not worried about being trapped with my stressful thoughts while I’m trying to relax.
5- Write in a journal
Journaling has a lot of really amazing benefits for your mental health. You don’t have to dedicate hours a day to this practice. All it takes is a few minutes a day to help clear your thoughts and start to feel better.
If you aren’t sure where to start, I recommend making two columns. Write down all the negative things that are stressing you out in one column. In the other one, try to come up with a positive counter statement. This can help put some of the things stressing you out into perspective.
6- Cut out stressful people
If there is someone in particular that makes you really stressed out, it might be a good idea to think about spending a little less time with them. This can be really hard if it’s someone you’re close to like your parent or best friend, but your mental health is important.
If cutting them out is not a viable option, have a talk with them about how they make you feel. Anyone who really loves you will be understanding, even if they feel slightly hurt at the time.
7- Have sex
This is a proven method for stress relief. It releases endorphins the same way that exercise does! You don’t have to do anything crazy or outside of your comfort zone to feel the effects, either.
I know that when you’re stressed, intimacy can be the last thing on your mind. But even just trying this once a week can make you feel a little better.
8- Re-evaluate your life
If you are constantly stressed out, I would grab a notebook and start making an inventory of the following:
- Your relationship with your partner
- Your parenting strategies
- Your day to day schedule
- How your career is going
- How much time you dedicate to self care
Writing all of this down might help you notice patterns of things making you stressed. There might be a small tweak or two you can make to reduce your stress levels.
9- Hang out with friends
Sometimes, you just need a fun evening away from your responsibilities. Call up a couple friends and plan a dinner and a movie, or a shopping trip followed by drinks. Whatever might make you feel more relaxed.
If you are still social distancing, you can invite one friend over and sit six feet away on the couch and watch a funny show, or just chat and catch up.
10- Talk about it
If you find that you are stressed all the time, it could help you to talk about it with a professional. Returning to therapy has helped me immensely. Even if your work schedule will only allow one session a month, that might be all it takes to find some relief.
The great thing about a therapist is that they are trained to show you coping strategies that you might not have thought of. They are full of wisdom from years of experience, and a vital tool for your mental health toolkit.
11- Listen to music
One of my favorite ways to forget all my troubles is to drown them out with some of my favorite songs. There is something so therapeutic about the escape that music provides. It is such a massive help, that I will talk all about it in the next section.
Why listening to music for stress relief is so effective
Did you know that listening to music for stress relief is a highly effective tool? According to Psych Central:
Listening to music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds and bodies, especially slow, quiet classical music. This type of music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones. Music, in short, can act as a powerful stress management tool in our lives. As music can absorb our attention, it acts as a distraction at the same time it helps to explore emotions. This means it can be a great aid to meditation, helping to prevent the mind wandering.
I recommend creating a go to playlist for the days when you are the most stressed out. Pick 10-15 songs that you can jam out to on your worst days. Make sure they are downloaded on your phone so they are easily accessible no matter where you are. And put a pair of earbuds in your purse so you can listen at work or while shopping.
5 gifts for stress relief
Is a loved one super stressed and you want to pick out the perfect gift? Here are 5 gifts for stress relief that don’t require a huge budget.
I love having a pair of earbuds for when I’m exercising or doing housework so I can easily listen to music or a good true crime podcast.
2- Bath bombs
These are one of my favorite indulgences in life. Drop a bath bomb in some hot water, and they not only smell nice, but can help make your skin really soft.
3- Massage certificate
This would be a really nice gift for a stressed out friend. Find a local spa that offers gift certificates (most probably do, especially after losing business during a pandemic) and gift your friend with a 30 minute massage session.
4- A nice journal
Journaling is such a great tool, one your loved one might not realize they’re missing. Giving them a journal as a gift might be just the motivation they need to try it out for themselves.
5- Treat them to dinner
Sometimes, it helps to just get out of the house and escape for a few hours. Taking them out to dinner might be a nice treat. It doesn’t have to be somewhere fancy. I love going to Chili’s with friends and having a drink or two, and some tasty food. (I’m not being paid by them for the recommendation. Ya girl just loves Chili’s.)
Stress does not have to rule your life.
Even if you feel like stress is consuming you right now, it doesn’t always have to be that way. Think back to the beginning of the article where I talked about the negative effects of stress, and make the decision right now: I will do something to manage the chaos in my life, and make a change for the better.
I am right there with you these days. We’re all unpacking suitcases and suitcases worth of trauma, and worry, and fear for the future. But even though it is normal in situations like we’re in, it does not have to control you.
Let me know how you like to unwind in the comments. Tell me:
- Who you are
- How you like to relax
- If you feel like it helps
- And your current stress level on a scale of 1-20
Then, make sure to share this article on Pinterest or another social media platform if you found it helpful. Someone might need to read it, without you even realizing.