This week I’ve shared some amazing, simple stress management techniques via Instagram (@stresswellwithliz). And now I want to combine them all in a blog post so that you can have them all in one place and as an easy reference for when you need some quick stress relief. Think of this like your stress management toolkit, which includes resources for you to turn to when you’re feeling particularly stressed, tense, or anxious. Enjoy!
Day 1: Just Breathe
For day 1 we are going to start with a super simple practice. A breathing technique. There are TONS of breathing techniques out there used for relaxation, meditation, and stress reduction, but today were doing to focus on one called diaphragmatic breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes called belly breathing, strengthens your diaphragm — a muscle that helps you breathe. There are tons of benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, some being:
- Lowers your blood pressure.
- Lowers your heart rate.
- Helps you relax.
- Lowers your stress hormone cortisol.
- And most importantly, it reduces stress!
So, let’s get to that breathing technique. Here’s how it works:
1. Sit in a comfortable position or lie on a flat surface
2. Relax tension in your body
3. Breathe in through your nose for 2-3 seconds. Expand your stomach with air and make sure your chest stays relatively still.
4. Contract your stomach and exhale through your mouth, with a pursed expression, for about 2 seconds.
5. Repeat several times.
6. Indulge in the relaxation.
Day 2: Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Time for your second easy, effective stress management tool. This one is pretty self explanatory from the picture, but it’s a muscle relaxation technique.
I first learned this technique during a yoga class, and I have since used it to relieve stress and also help me fall asleep. It’s called Isometric Muscle Relaxation, or Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Here’s how it works:
1. Choose a muscle group to start with. Try going from the bottom up so start with your feet. Inhale, and tense your feet for 5-10 seconds.
2. Breathe out, and completely relax your feet.
3. Take 10-20 seconds before you move to the next muscle group.
4. Continue with each muscle group until you’ve done them all.
This technique is really great at reminding your body what the difference between tension and relaxation feels like. Give it a try! Hope you love it as much as I do.
Day 3: Write a to-do list
Stressed out by the amount of to-do’s running wild in your head? I feel you.
Let’s get them out of our heads and on to paper. I promise it helps! Those to-do’s just need to be shown who’s boss. Dumping out the to-do’s onto paper and organizing them by priority will instantly calm you down. You’ll show less physical symptoms of stress and worry, and you’ll feel more clear-headed.
Day 3 of powerful, practical, immediate stress relief tips is writing a to-do list, and here’s how you’ll do just that:
1. Write down every “to-do”, “should do”, “need to do”, etc. flying around in your head. Get all of it out and onto a sheet of paper
2. Next, spend 5-10 minutes prioritizing your tasks in numerical order. What tasks are the most urgent and need to be accomplished today? What can wait until tomorrow or next week? Or what is out of your control? — cross those off your list
3. If you’re so inclined, organize your to-do list even further. Break your tasks into categories or organize according to a timeline.
Writing to-do lists has been one of my simple go-to stress management tools since I was little. It always brought me a sense of calm to write down all of the tasks running around in my mind. It’s a simple, free, effective tasks that can help you too. Try it and let me know how it goes:)
Day 4: Drink Water
Do you want to effectively manage your stress but feel like you don’t have enough time, money, or resources?
Well, my friend, that’s why I’m sharing 7 days of powerful, practical, immediate stress management tools. Even Beyoncé has time for these stress management techniques. And today’s tip is great.
Did you know that there’s a connection between stress and dehydration?
Studies have shown that dehydration leads to higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels. So staying hydrated can help to ward off stress and reduce the magnitude to which you feel the physiological effects of stress.
Being dehydrated is crappy enough as it is. Our bodies need water to function. We are 60-70% water, after all.
Drinking water helps us in numerous ways. It helps to cleanse the body of toxins, boost energy, and keep our appetite and metabolism in control. Reducing stress is just one of the reasons you should be drinking those 8 glasses a day.
If drinking so much a water each day isn’t palatable to you, try infusing it with fruit, like lemon, or mint.
I always say there’s no quick fix for stress management but this is one of the simplest and most effective techniques out there for managing your stress levels.
Day 5: Take a Walk
Here’s an easy, free stress management technique that has benefits that go beyond helping you regulate your stress.
Take a walk. Walking has become one of my favorite stress management techniques and I make a point to incorporate it into my daily life.
And you can too! Walking is probably the easiest and cheapest way to balance your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (which control your stress response). Walking also helps to balance cortisol (stress hormone) levels in your brain. Not to mention walking is good for cardiovascular health and helps oxygen to circulate throughout your body.
You can start small. Try taking a 10-minute walk the next time you’re feeling anxious at work. I can guarantee you’ll feel better and want to lengthen that walk time.
Taking a walk outside also provides you with a mental break, and it can be combined with meditation. The next time you go on a walk focus on the way your feet feel on the ground. Do this for the entire walk. Engaging your senses while you walk adds extra calming and enriching effects to your stress relieving experience.
Day 6: Use Affirmations
Chronic stress depletes many of our resources. It can cause us to feel tired, weak, numb, low mood, and even pain. Often when you’re stressed the first things that will retreat is your coping mechanisms. Your body goes into ‘survival mode’ and harnesses all of its resources towards your vital functions that need to keep working for your survival (breathing, heart beating, etc).
Sometimes when we’re experiencing stress our self-confidence and self-efficacy falters. And this is where affirmations come in handy.
You’ve probably already heard of or perform affirmations for meditation, mindfulness, or confidence purposes. But affirmations can also be powerful resources for when our bodies and minds are depleted by stress.
So the next time you’re feeling run down, try an affirmation. Here are some examples:
- My tension is melting away.
- I am feeling more peaceful each day.
- I am getting stronger every day.
- I can handle whatever life throws at me today.
- If I keep doing it, it will get easier.
Make sure the affirmations are positive, and they’re written as if they are traits you already possess, not something you want or are going to do.
Say the affirmation to yourself. Repeat it. Write it down. Write it on a post-it and stick it on your mirror. Take it a step further and focus on a different affirmation every day. Let it guide you through your stress.
Day 7: Strike a ‘Power Pose’
The way we hold ourselves and our posture has the power to influence how others perceive us and even our own body chemistry.
So called “power poses” can help us to combat stress in the moment and ease tension. And they’re a great way to finish our week of powerful, practical, immediate stress management techniques. So here are a few for you to try today.
Pride pose. This pose can reduce cortisol (stress hormone) in the brain when held for over two minutes. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and hold your arms above your head, either shoulder distance apart or in a Y position. Take several long, deep breaths.
Mountain pose. (Pictured). Stand with your feet hip distance apart and your arms at your sides. Slightly rotate your shoulders open so your palms face forward and your collarbones spread. Don’t arch your back. Take several long, deep breaths.
Legs on the wall or a chair. Lie on your back and put your legs up against the wall or a chair with your knees above your hips and your feet hip distance apart. Hold for ten long, deep breaths. By raising your legs above your heart it promotes blood flow and reduces swelling in your legs.
You will feel refreshed and energized coming out of these poses. Try them the next time you’re feeling stressed or tense at work. It only takes one minute of your time!