It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is right on the horizon and for many of us, the holidays are a time to spend with family and friends, far or near, and preparing for the season can make life a bit stressful. While you may not be able to always control some situations, one thing you can control is how you react to them. When stress levels become overwhelming or frequent, they can affect your mental and physical well-being. International Stress Awareness Week kicks off from November 1st through the 5th, with its goal to raise awareness about stress prevention.
What is stress?
The World Health Organization defines stress as any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain. Stress is the way that our bodies react when something needs attention or action. It affects both the brain and the body and while a little bit of stress can be good for some people to perform and protect themselves, too much of it can overwhelm and lead to a fight or flight response (which is a physiological reaction when the body perceives a harmful event, attack or threat to survival).
Established in 2018, International Stress Awareness Week (ISMA) was created as an event that focuses on stress management and hopes to reduce the stigma related to stress and mental health issues. ISMA aims to invite everyone to engage in spreading the message on how to help people who face mental health challenges, as well as educating employers on how to respond to stress that employees may face, etc.
What can cause stress?
Stress can be the result of events or situations that happen to people by a person’s thoughts, attitudes or expectations. Major life events, such as death in the family or divorce and even some positive events, like upcoming travel or having a child, can be stressful to someone. It is a common and normal physical response to a challenging or new situation. Stress can become a problem if it happens over a long period of time or if it makes someone unable to cope with the situation.
5 Ways to Reduce Stress Quickly
While stress can be debilitating, not everyone reacts to stressful situations the same way nor do they cope with it the same. The following section highlights some useful tips to reduce stress that anyone can try.
Meditation is a practice that increases calmness and physical relaxation and that has been in practice for thousands of years. Meditating just a few minutes a day can help you relax and cope with stress.
During meditation, a person focuses their attention on a particular feeling and eliminates cluttered thoughts that may be in the way of their focus and causing them stress. Its benefits may include increased physical and emotional well-being. Guided meditation, mantra meditation and mindful meditation are some of the common types of meditation to practice.
Try it out: Close your eyes and imagine you are sitting on the beach, listening to the waves crashing and smelling the salty ocean air. How does the warm sun make you feel? If you could bring one thing with you to that spot on the beach, what would it be? After a few minutes, open your eyes and return to the present moment.
Take a Deep Breath
Probably one of the most common types of stress relief, taking slow, deep breaths can help to lower blood pressure and heart rate. It can also make a great difference to a person’s stress level.
Try it out: Wherever you are, breathe in through your nose and imagine that you are inhaling quiet and clean air. Pretend that the air is flowing through your body and as you exhale it, you are breathing out all of the stress and tension that is holding you back. Hold that breath for one second and slowly breathe it out through your nose on the count of three. Repeat for a few minutes.
Walk it Out
Sometimes, you have to remove yourself from a very stressful situation. If you can, take a quick walk around the block. It helps to change the scenery and can also serve as a type of exercise. Walking is a simple, but very effective way to revitalize the mind and body.
Try it out: Take a quick break and go out for a walk. Take notice of the different trees, if any, along your path (and if you’re in Colorado, pay attention to the beautiful colorful leaves on the trees). If there aren’t any trees, use your five senses to take in the scenery: What does the weather feel like? What kinds of smells are there? Can you hear any sounds? Can you see any birds flying overhead?
Whether your creative talents include sewing, playing the guitar or salsa dancing, having a creative channel can do wonders for your state of mind. This type of therapy can help reduce stress and give a person a better way to manage it.
Try it out: Not artistic? Maybe pick up a coloring book designed for stress relief. These types of coloring books feature intricate patterns that can decrease anxiety and negative moods. These types of designs are beautiful and fun to color and once finished, would look great framed!
Laugh Out Loud
Laughter is truly the best medicine sometimes and it can do wonders for decreasing elevated levels of blood pressure. It can also relieve anxiety and boost moods. There is such a thing as laughter therapy.
Try it out: Watch a funny movie or listen to a humorous podcast and see how a genuine laugh can help you let some of the worries go away.
While stress is an unavoidable part of everyday life, keeping a toolkit of stress-relief tips on hand when the going gets tough can really help you. Incorporate some of these and other tips and make them part of your daily practice. Something as easy as taking a deep breath or calling a friend to chat can all help keep you grounded and relaxed.