We all experience stress – sometimes a lot and sometimes not so much. Stress, your body’s reaction to change, can be related to positive changes like starting a new job or having a baby. But usually, when we talk about stress, we mean distress. This type of stress overwhelms your ability to cope and when it’s chronic or intense it can negatively affect your health, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.
Recognize the signs of stress
Stress, like many things, is easier to deal with when we catch it early. So, being aware of how stress shows up in your body and mind means you can use stress-relieving strategies before your stress gets out of control.
Common symptoms of stress include:
- Irritability or anger
- Gastrointestinal issues (stomach aches, constipation or diarrhea, etc.)
- Insomnia or trouble staying asleep
- Excessive worrying
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Grinding your teeth
- Muscle tension (stiff/sore back and neck are common)
- Lack of sex drive
- Pessimistic thoughts
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling overwhelmed
You may also find it helpful to identify situations that you regularly find stressful (such as meeting with your boss) and behaviors that you engage in when you’re stressed (such as overeating or biting your nails).
Ways to relieve stress in 10 minutes or less
Below, you’ll find a list of simple and quick ways to relieve stress. These are particularly helpful for acute stress and aren’t intended to be the solution to chronic or intense stress.
- Listen to your favorite music
- Get some fresh air
- Stretch or do some yoga poses
- Do a grounding exercise
- Disconnect from technology
- Talk to someone supportive
- Look at photos that make you smile
- Squeeze a stress ball
- Read for pleasure
- Walk, bike, or skateboard around the block
- Count to 10 slowly and repeat
- Write down 10 things you’re grateful for
- Doodle, draw, color, or Zentangle
- Chew a piece of gum
- Watch a funny video on YouTube
- Punch a pillow
- Slow, deep breathing (I like the “breathe bubble on the Calm app.)
- Read an inspirational quote
- Spend time with your pets
- Do 20 jumping jacks
- Do something nice for someone else
- Sit in the sun
- Visualize a safe, comforting place
- Pick some flowers (or pinecones or leaves or seashells or rocks)
- Give yourself a neck massage
- Take a shower
- Kick a soccer ball
- Diffuse essential oils or use scented lotions or candles (Bergamot, lavender, and yuzu are a few to try.)
- Tend your garden; water and talk to your plants
- Hug a loved one
- Savor a cup of decaffeinated tea or coffee
- Repeat a mantra
- Do a progressive relaxation exercise
- Make a list of your worries and identify which you can do something about
Make your own list of ways to relieve stress
When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, it can be hard to think of effective, healthy coping strategies. Having a list of stress-relieving activities at hand can be very helpful. This way, you’re ready whenever your stress level spikes.
I find it’s helpful to have a variety of stress management strategies. You will need to use different strategies when you are at work, school, or home. Sometimes you have more time and other times you are limited. And, of course, we have personal preferences and all find different strategies more or less helpful.
To get started, you can choose a few of your favorite ideas from the list above, write them down, and add or subtract ideas as you try them.
You can also print a PDF of my 38 ways to de-stress quickly and hang it on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. You want to have healthy coping strategies readily available, so you don’t have to think too much about it when stress is at hand. The more you practice them, the more automatic they will become.
This PDF is available as part of my free resource library. To access 30 free emotional wellness worksheets, tips, and articles, just sign-up HERE for my weekly updates and free resources.