Deborah is licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist #94438 through the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.
What exactly is stress? What can feel stressful to one person may not make another person blink so how does one define stress? Stress is an experience a person has when the demands of his or her life feel greater than what he or she thinks they can handle.
Life can be very stressful at times and there isn't one person who hasn't felt the effects of extra demands in his or her life. It is important to learn how to recognize and reduce stress in our lives before we feel lost and out of control. Sometimes we are unaware of the emotional state stress brings until we begin to feel physical symptoms.
Have your experienced any of these symptoms in the past 30 days?
• Problems with sleep
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up off and on throughout the night
- Nightmares and bad dreams
- Waking up earlier than usual and being unable to fall back asleep
• Stomach aches or digestive issues
• Chronic colds or illness
• Fatigue that will not go away
• Difficulty concentrating
• Dissatisfaction with life
• Feeling very overwhelmed
If you have experienced at least 2 or more of these symptoms, it is very important to learn how to reduce stress right away. Listed below are some techniques that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine and can have a calming effect that can help reduce the effects of stress. However, to eliminate stress from your life, you will need to ask yourself a series of questions that can help you identify which parts of your life are the most stressful, but that will be for another post.
FIVE WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS IN YOUR LIFE
1. Take a deep breath.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing activates the body’s relaxation response. It helps the body go from the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system to the relaxed response of the parasympathetic nervous system. Try inhaling slowly while silently counting to 4. As you breathe in, fill your belly and then your chest. Hold your breath for a count of 4. Then slowly exhale while counting to 4. Repeat this at least three times and you will find your body relaxing and feeling more grounded.
2. Observe your immediate situation without judgement.
Stressful experiences are going to happen simply because we are human and live in a fast-paced world. We make judgements quickly and very often without realizing it, which can make our situations feel even bigger than they really are. When you are feeling anxious or stressed out, practice observing your feelings, thoughts, sensations, and emotions with complete compassion and without any judgement.
3. Write in a journal.
A daily journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:
• What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
• How you felt, both physically and emotionally
• How you acted in response
• What you did to make yourself feel better
4. Look for the upside.
When facing a major challenge or situation, try to look at it as an opportunity for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes. If you find yourself in a situation that you do not have control over, try to identify something about it that is positive or something you can learn from.
5. Connect with others.
Spend time with positive people who enhance your life because a strong support system will help buffer you from the negative effects of stress. Even if you find yourself short on time for getting together in person, a quick phone call can make a difference. The point is to not isolate yourself but reach out and make connections with the people in your life.
There are many more ways to reduce stress than what I have listed here. What other ways have you tried to keep your life stress-free? If you find yourself unable to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed or stressed, talking to a counselor or therapist may be a good option for you to help discover ways to minimize and reduce the stress in your life.
Deborah is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who is passionate about helping people discover their true, authentic self.