I recently listened to a few podcasts that talked about stress reduction and thought there were a lot of good ideas. I have been working closely with all of them myself and will attempt to share these ideas in hopes that you will find them helpful too.
Reducing stress in our lives is so important. In general, stress is good for us until it goes over a line. When our stress spills over the top, it can lead to burnout or making poor food choices and everywhere in between.
Managing our stress is important for more than just lowering our stress levels. When we feel less stressed, we produce less cortisol, the stress hormone that throws us all out of whack. When we can keep our stress manageable, we tend to eat better, move more, and make better choices for our well-being.
Think about adding some of these stress management skills into your daily routines:
So, one of the most important aspects of stress management is RELAXATION. What do you do to relax? Do you just go, go go, or can you stop and take a pause? When I say relax, I mean, ACTIVELY relax. This isn’t about watching TV or even playing video games, if that’s all you do. These two activities aren’t active enough, unless you are actively engaged and it’s a super treat. Otherwise, I mean something more active, such as yoga, conscious breathing, meditation, going for a slow walk. You are looking to engage the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response) rather than always being in the sympathetic.
Our bodies are meant to move. Movement is good for our bodies, as well as our brains. Adding some kind of movement into your daily routine is one of the best things you can do to manage stress, decrease anxiety and boost mood. This could be a daily morning walk (and get some sunshine), or going to the gym at some point in the day. It can be cardio, strength training, walking, stretching, hiking, anything you like as long as you’re moving.
Develop of mindfulness ritual for yourself. This could be meditation using an app on your phone or simply sitting in silence for a few minutes. Consistency is more important the amount of time, so start simple with only 2 mintues. Build to 5-10 mintues if possible.
Start most days with an intention or affirmation.
I intend to… eat healthfully.
Additionally, creating morning and evening routines for yourself can be key. What do you do first thing when you wake up? Do you have a routine yet? If not, you may find it useful to create one that starts your day off with less stress. Slowing down in the morning to set the stage for the rest of your day. This is the same for winding down on most nights to prepare for sleep. Creating a few good habits for yourself to de-stress and let go of the events of your day.
Breathe while the coffee drips
To create new morning/evening routines, it can be helpful to tag a new healthy habit onto other habits you’re already doing. So, if you make tea/coffee in the morning, you can simply take the time that it takes for it to boil/drip or steep and do some deep breathing. That’s only takes a few minutes, but can make a huge difference to the start of your day. You aren’t really making any more time for this new habit either.
Breathe deep before putting it into (D)rive
If you have a morning commute, you can also attach a breathing exercise to the automatic habit of buckling your seatbelt or starting the car. Before turning on the radio or podcast, simply take 2 long, deep breaths every time you get into the car. This can help you be more patient as you drive and de-stress you before you’re even stressed out.
For the evening, you may choose to do some at-home yoga for 10-20 minutes each night as a transition from work to home. This could also be done in connection to making a tea or just the first thing you do when you get home – change into your yoga clothing and start to transition away from work.
Do your best to incorporate one new idea at a time. Be kind to yourself and know you can’t change too much, too fast. Have realistic expectations of yourself and set reasonable goals. Aim for less stress and more relaxation in 2020.
Kimberly Atwood is a licensed psychotherapist and certified sex therapist working in private practice in Princeton, NJ. She also provides online therapy with clients living in Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. She specializes in sexual health, intimacy and relationship issues. For more information, please check out her website.