If you’re looking for ways to reduce stress, you’re not alone. According to the American Institute for Stress, 77% of adults experience physical symptoms of stress. Stress impacts us physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, stress is also a major part of life.
If you research “ways to reduce stress,” you’ll find techniques that are quick fixes. The downside? Quick fixes won’t dramatically change your stress level over the long haul. The trouble with stress is its long term impact, not short term discomfort. Because of this, little tricks can only do so much.
At some point, all of us can get overwhelmed by stress. Even happy, successful people get stressed out from time to time. The key isn’t to avoid stress or to quickly make it go away. Rather, you can learn how to structure your life so you can better handle it.
Read on for ways to reduce stress and live a more balanced life.
6 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress
#1: Get grounded every single day
Over time, stress that gets out of control begins to harm us physically. For example, our muscles tense up in response to stress. Imagine what happens over time when your muscles are always tense. You get back strain, injury, and become inflexible. Eventually, you enjoy working out less because of the difficulty.
Because of this, you should work on reducing stress every day. Start by getting grounded. In short, this means walking or doing another form of exercise that puts you in direct contact with the ground. If walking outside isn’t your thing, try yoga or seated meditation.
In order to be grounded, you really need to touch the ground and feel it support you. Essentially, you become grounded when you are able to feel what is real and physically there. Stress can lead to thoughts about outcomes that aren’t real – it can feel like the sky is falling.
So to fight this reflex, talk a long walk. Preferably outside, but a treadmill will do, too. The key is to feel the ground striking your feet and to be present in the moment.
Massage helps with grounding, too, because of the physical sensation and touch. In fact, you should set up a regular appointment for massage therapy. Massage soothes tensions in the body that you might not otherwise know are there. Not only that, but seeing a massage appointment coming up in the week is something to look forward to.
#2: Commit to exercise
Experts regularly talk about physical exercise and its positive impact on stress levels. Staying physically active is one of the most widely recommended ways to reduce stress.
Unfortunately, if your stress level gets too high, you might not feel like working out. Or, carving time out of your busy schedule to work out could seem impossible. If the idea of working out stresses you out even more, here’s what to do:
- Start really slowly. Just walk. Walk the dog or walk around the block. Park further away from entrances than you normally would. If you live in the city, instead of walking just to get from place to place, walk to the park. Walk for no reason at all except to get exercise.
- Schedule one day and one time, and do not break your commitment. You can commit to one day a week. Once you have it down, add another day, and then another.
- Join a gym. Gyms offer new and different ways to work out. As a result, you end up with a variety of ways to beat stress, so you don’t become bored. You may also get a pick me up by being around other people (such as with group fitness).
- Hire a trainer. Personal trainers keep their clients honest and are incredibly supportive. Find one and let them know you’re looking to reduce your stress level. Then, incorporate their ideas and advice.
#3: Socialize with supportive people
If you’re going to be around people, make sure they’re supportive. Sometimes you have to find new friends that have positive outlooks. Good friends can also come up with ways to reduce stress. Ask them for advice and ideas. You may be surprised by all of the different tips out there. Best of all, really good friends want to see you happy and relaxed. A good friend will go out of their way to support you and help you to be well.
#4: Get rid of clutter
Can clutter stress you out? Yes! If you haven’t yet, read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. Kondo’s clients swear by the positive impact of de-cluttering. Tidying up isn’t about being a neat freak; Kondo makes a compelling argument that getting rid of clutter can actually make us happier and more joyful. According to Kondo, people make clearer and better decisions when they are not surrounded by mess.
Here are a couple of ideas:
- At the office: Every single day, clear your desk before you leave. Even if you are the type of person who feels fine about messy work spaces, try clearing it to see how your stress level responds.
- At home: Put things away. Not putting things back where they belong is the fastest way to clutter.
- In the car: Keep seats free of clutter and keep a small bag for trash handy. When you get out of the car, take anything with you that doesn’t belong there.
#5: Write down your to-do list
Get out of your head! Some of us have excellent memories and never need to write things down, but that’s not the point. When you write something down, you no longer need to remember it. You transfer the responsibility to a sheet of paper. What’s interesting is that writing things down can actually help you remember things, so it comes full circle.
A written to-do list has a second lesser-known benefit, also. Often times, we think we have much more to do than we actually do. So, write down the things you need to get done. Prioritize and cross off things you don’t really have to do. You might be surprised to realize your to-do list is shorter than you thought. Or, even if it’s long, the time it takes to check the items off may be shorter than it seemed.
#6: Eat full meals without interruption
Finally, one of the simplest ways to reduce stress in your life and keep it low is to take better care of your eating habits. Eat slowly and intentionally. Enjoy your meals!
Try this: Put away your cell phone while eating, whether alone or with friends. And for one month, make a commitment to eat seated at a table meant for eating – not at a desk, and not standing. Actually sit down and eat. Be present at your meals.
Also, make an effort to eat more meals with companions. A 2014 article in The Atlantic pointed out that eating alone is quite alienating. Isolation just compounds and adds stress. On the flip side, sharing a meal with someone and connecting with them can provide a much needed emotional release.
You don’t have to get overwhelmed by stress. There are ways to reduce it. May you can’t eliminate it, but you can structure your life so that stress doesn’t control you and make you sick. Chronic stress is very problematic, so it’s best to get in front of it. The above six ways are a great start.