Control and Manage Stress by Following These 18 Tips

Given the complexity of our daily lives, it’s almost impossible to conceive of days without stress. You may recall from psychology 101, there is good stress and bad stress. A difficult boss or the illness of a family member are obviously bad stress.  Starting that new job, buying a new home, and growing your family could all be considered good stress. However, both the good and the bad variety can take a toll on your body and psyche.  Your heart rate is rising, and your breathing is shallower. You’re feeling antsy, and a headache is emerging. Stress is rearing its ugly head, but you can control and manage stress by following these 18 tips.

Tip #1 to control and manage stress -exercise regularly

Whether you are an athlete or a couch potato, exercise in any form can lower your stress. During exercise your body releases endorphins, “feel good hormones” that elevate your mood.  Exercise also clears your mind and allows you to re-focus. Plus, your body can better tackle stress when it is physically fit.

Tip # 2 - get adequate rest and sleep

Sleep provides critical time for your body to recover.  Without it, you’re more likely to get sick and more apt to feel stress more acutely.  Fatigue makes us less able to mentally process our emotions and make decisions. Set a goal for 7-9 hours nightly if you are an adult aged 18-64 years.  There is individual variability by age, lifestyle and health.

Tip #3 - try yoga and meditation

Practicing yoga or meditation lowers your heart rate,  blood pressure, and the production of cortisol (stress hormone).  Both focus on deep breathing and quieting the mind.

Tip #4 -just breathe

If the notion of yoga or meditation feels a little too “hip” for you, no worries.  Deep breathing is effective. Focusing on your breathing can keep your body from going into “fight or flight” mode.  Find a quiet spot and sit comfortably. Breathe through your nose, making sure to let your chest and abdomen rise. Count slowly as you inhale and exhale.  For best results, repeat for 10 minutes.

Tip #5 -chew gum to manage or control stress

Some researchers think that the rhythm of chewing increases blood flow to the brain, others think the taste or smell decreases stress. In either case, grab your favorite flavor and chew away!  

Tip #6 -get into the great outdoors

Research shows that time spent outside—surrounded by the sounds, sights, and natural light of nature—brings about a calming response.  Even a few minutes outside can help.

Tip #7 -smile (a real one)

By engaging the muscles around your eyes and mouth, you prompt a relaxation response and lower your heart rate.  Hang out with a funny friend, watch a comedian or funny movie—it will be time well spent.

Tip #8 - try aromatherapy

The scent of lavender is associated with relaxation.  However, just like music can transport you back to happy memories, scents are also strongly associated with memory.  If, for instance, the fresh, clean scent of a candle or infuser elicits fond memories of time spent on the beach, keeping one handy at work or at home can be your go-to relaxer.

Tip #9 -eat healthier

Eating the right foods can indeed chip away at your stress level.  When stressed, we typically crave high-fat foods, caffeine, and sugar (all of which exacerbate the stress response).  Instead, reach for high fiber, complex carbohydrates (e.g., sweet potato, brown rice), and fruits and veggies to boost your serotonin (relaxation hormone) and immunity.

Tip#10 - give yourself a positive talk

When we’re facing a stressful situation, we often have a negative narrative streaming through our head.  Re-wind. Pretend you are trying to encourage a friend, and use those words instead. “It’s going to work out. You are going to figure out how to solve this.”  Talk yourself up rather than talk yourself down. Remember too, some things are out of our control.

Tip #11 -discover the magic of music

Listening to calming music before a stressful situation can lower the stress response.  After a stressor, music can bring about a relaxation response more quickly.

Tip #12 -write it down/get it out

The action of writing down your stressors is cathartic and practical.  You feel the sensation that the stress you’ve bottled up is now out of your body. Also, now that those worries are out in the open and listed concretely, they are more accessible for you to address.

Tip #13 - talk it out to control and manage stress

Similar to writing down your stressors, talking about what you’re fretting over with a friend is a great way to physically relieve yourself of the burden.  Plus, by sharing your concerns with a trusted friend, you can draw on their experiences to help process your own challenges.

Tip # 14 - say NO

Don’t let everyone’s needs become more important than your own.  By limiting how far you extend yourself, you are proactively working to reduce your stress.

Tip #15 - participate in hobbies and favorite activities

Whether it’s woodworking or karate, painting or soccer, take time to focus on your own enjoyment.  Don’t just dwell on what’s weighing you down.

Tip #16 - spend time with friends and others you enjoy

If these same friends share your hobby or favorite exercise and make you smile, even better—triple bonus!

Tip #17 -avoid alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviors to ward off stress

These behaviors are a camouflage rather than a solution.  By relying on these short-term “fixes”, you aren’t developing a repertoire of healthy go-to actions that actually alleviate your stress.

Tip #18 -utilize effective time management

Don’t underestimate the power that using your time effectively can have on controlling your stress.  But there are a number of time management strategies to help you make the most of each day and meet the demands of your schedule. If your day is a perpetual merging of professional and personal demands. Stress is no stranger to you.  But technology can help. The iStratus DayPlanner app for iPhone is a multi-faceted tool to integrate multiple/complex calendars and schedules.It gives you the flexibility to generate, store and access encrypted documents on the run.  The DayPlanner makes your day more manageable, supports productivity, and eases your stress.  Stress is a multi-headed monster. But, by utilizing a variety of techniques to combat stress, you can come out on the winning end of that fight.

You might be thinking, “How am I supposed to do all of these?”  In truth, it’s more important to pick the few strategies that resonate most with you.  Those that you think will give you the biggest bang for your buck should come first. Once you’ve mastered those, try adding others to your repertoire.  Of course, contacting a mental health professional is another great tool to hone your stress-fighting skills. For more ideas on how maximize time and minimize stress, visit iStratus