“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”- Buddha
(This article is not intended as medical advice or expertise on the topic if needed please contact your personal doctor if you need further assistance. This article is only general suggestions to encourage thought.)
The Checklist and Worksheet are linked at the bottom of the article.
You probably think you are doing everything right. You eat a well-balanced diet. You get eight hours of good sleep every night. You exercise three or more times a week. Yet, you still experience stress or have anxiety in your life.
Even though you notice the physical symptoms of stress, your heart beating faster, or the churning, uncomfortable feeling in your stomach, there is more to stress than the physical symptoms. It impacts the spirit, mind, and physical body in many ways.
Did you know…
- 48% of Americans deal with more stress today than they did only 5 years ago?
- Stress is the basic cause of 60% of all illnesses and diseases?
- 77% regularly experience the physical sides of stress?
- 76% of people say money and work are a leading cause of their stress?
- 48% reported lying awake at night due to stress? (Source: http://www.stress.org/)
So, what causes stress and anxiety? They can come from many sources and affect everyone, at one time or another. Unfortunately, they often take a toll on your health.
Some of the major causes of stress include:
- Our jobs and school cause many people to be stressed. Work deadlines, coworkers, and employer relationships are at the root of many stressors. Those still in school say academic pressure and peer pressure cause a lot of stress in their lives.
- Major life events, dramatic changes, or experiencing loss of some kind are stressful. Events like weddings, death of a family member or pet, a serious medical problem in you or a family member, loss of a job, or financial resources, a victim of a crime or natural disaster are all reasons we feel anxious or stressed.
- Worrying about the future, personal problems, political issues, or global issues can cause the onset of anxiety and stress.
Even with all the things that stress us in our lives, we don’t have to live with it. There are ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Throughout this guide, you will find great techniques to help you reduce the stress and anxiety in your life.
How Stress/Anxiety Affects the Body/Mind/Spirit
Stress causes everything from depression to stroke. It affects your ability to concentrate, to function and your sleep. It affects your personal life, relationships with family and friends, and your work. It’s no wonder people spend thousands of dollars on books, stress balls, essential oils, pills, and other gadgets trying to find ways to fight and reduce our stress
When you are stressed your nervous system release chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline. These are key to preparing your body to face physical danger. Your heartbeat increases, your breathing speeds up, your muscles tense and you begin to sweat. This is the “flight or fight” response to danger. The chemicals are used up as we fight the danger.
Unfortunately, most stress isn’t caused by physical danger but emotional, mental, and spiritual stress, instead. That leaves all those chemicals floating around our body, causing damage.
Prolonged or frequent stress can cause:
- High blood pressure
- Lack of focus
- Mental health issues
- Tense muscles
- Muscle aches
- Heart disease
- Blood sugar levels are difficult to manage, leading to diabetes
- Stomach or digestive problems, constipation, diarrhea
- Heartburn, ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome
- Decreased libido, fertility issues
- Weight loss or gain
- Autoimmune issues such as arthritis, asthma, or eczema
These stress-related conditions become serious or life-threatening when they are left untreated. That’s why learning how to reduce your stress and anxiety is important for your overall health.
Stress Reduction Techniques
“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” – Winnie the Pooh
There are many ways to reduce the stress you deal with every day. Many will only take a few minutes of your time. Others need to be incorporated over time as a daily habit.
First, you’ll want to define what’s causing the stress and if it’s something you can change easily, do it. If not, find ways to make it less intimidating and easier to deal with positively.
Once you’ve determined the biggest causes of stress and dealt with it, you may still have some small, daily stresses to cope with. Use a few of the techniques below to help you balance your stress situations better.
- Make a plan. To reduce stress, you’ll need to plan on making changes. That plan should include mindfulness in every step. Planning helps you form habits to create change. Plan to have fun, to make life easier, and to change what’s causing you stress.
- Take care of your body. Find time to exercise and eat healthy meals and snacks. Exercise does wonders for reviving a stressed body. Get moving to work out those tense muscles and lift your mood. When we exercise our body releases Endorphins that relieve tension and lift your spirits.
- Learn how to eat a healthy diet. Protein, veggies and fruits, and whole grains are the starting points to a healthy diet. Try peanut butter and banana sandwiches, chicken or tuna salad on lettuce leaves, or whole-grain bread. Bring a few cut up veggies or fruit slices to your desk while you work or to the park with the kids.
- Stay away from caffeine and sugar! It is only a temporary lift and you’ll fall faster when the effects wear off.
- Take care of your emotions. Express yourself, don’t bottle up what’s bugging you. Call a friend when you’re feeling stressed or need to get something off your chest. They’re good listeners and won’t judge you.
- Get help. Whether you need a professional healer or doctor, a spiritual guide, or a friendly coach, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a sign of maturity that you can ask for help.
- Try to find time every day to reflect. Set aside five or 10 minutes every morning before you start your day to reflect on what’s really important. Choose actions that suit your needs and lifestyle. Meditate, journal, pray, walk in nature. Don’t try something that feels uncomfortable for you if that causes you more stress.
- At least every couple of hours get up from your computer or walk away from your stress for a few minutes. If you set aside 5 minutes every couple of hours to relax, you will have more than 15 minutes of calmness in your day.
- Create a to-do list but don’t overfill it. Your mind needs something to focus on especially if you tend to blow things out of proportion.
- Re-think your goals. Decluttering allows you to live a simpler less stressful life. This includes our goals. But we sometimes set too many goals. We tend to clutter up our future. Random or scattered plans and goals will stress and cause you to feel anxious. Set clear goals about what’s profoundly important to you. Rethink your goals, prioritize, and pare them down to keep from scattering your energy.
- Schedule free time to do nothing. Get out of your head and just be. Sit, breathe, and be at peace with nothing.
- Decrease your budget. Or set up a budget if you don’t already have one. Go through all your monthly bills and debts. Knowing where your money is going and what can be done away with (think unused gym memberships or magazine subscriptions), helps you reduce the stress of financial worries.
Implement these stress reduction techniques while being mindful and focusing on the now to begin feeling less anxious and stressed.
Mindfulness is key in being aware of what’s causing you stress. Follow these tips to help you focus on being in the now and developing your mindset to embrace stress.
- Be grateful every day. Schedule a regular time every day to write down 5 things you are grateful for. Don’t just list the same five things every day, though. Find little things such as the butterfly that landed on your shoulder or the smile from a stranger.
- Be mindful of the things around you. When you know you are feeling stressed, bring yourself back into the present moment. Take a deep breath, block out what is going on (unless you’re driving), and reset your emotions. Choose to be calm.
- Take time to turn off. In the past, people would spend the evening hours relaxing without cell phones, televisions, and constant being available to social media. Take at least an hour before bedtime to turn off electronic devices like your cell phone, computer, and television. Stay off social media.
- Reset your mindset by viewing it as an opportunity to learn and grow from it. Ask yourself what you can learn from this challenge. Stress leaves an imprint on your mind that gets you ready to handle similar stress in the future.
- Write down what’s causing the stress and find an appropriate solution. Getting what’s worrying you down on paper can help you see a different perspective.
- Do some self-reflection meditation. If you think meditation is just for a yoga class or new-age aficionados. It’s a healthy habit for everyone. Find a quiet space and start deep breathing. Clear your mind so you can self-reflect on calm and happy memories and things you’re thankful for.
- Observe your own thoughts. Typically, we react to stress with habitual thought patterns that aren’t useful or productive. They lead to anxiety. Instead, when you are stress, observe your thoughts. What thoughts do you have when you’re stressed? Do past things come up? Are you worried about the future? Instead of thinking how anxious you are, acknowledge that you have anxiety and take steps to get it under control.
- Be mindful by focusing on what you’re doing whether it’s eating, driving or in a conversation. Part of our daily stress comes from having too many things on our minds at one time. Learning to be more mindful of your thoughts by focusing on what you are doing helps you embrace any stress of the moment at that moment.
Many of these techniques can be learned on your own. It will take time and practice but once you learn the techniques it will come easier. And of course, if you don’t think you can do it alone, ask someone trained in mindfulness techniques and stress management for help.
Strategies to Reduce Stress Over Time
As you can see, there are many things you can do right now to reduce stress and anxiety but if you are under a lot of stress, you need to put into place ways to reduce it over the long term.
Compromise with others when possible. Is it really worth the aches and pains of stress to argue? Give in once in a while. It’ll make you a more empathetic person.
Don’t overbook your time. Fill your calendar, yes. Overfill, no. Fit in time to relax and play. Your kids need you now while they are young, so enjoy them. You will have time for the long business meetings, the all-day forum chats, and the housework when they are older.
Don’t worry about your future or your past. Live in the now. You can’t sit and worry about your future while you are focusing on the present.
If you have set goals and are working toward them, you are preparing as best you can for the future. Don’t worry about what might happen in the future, what bad or good things are going to happen, the could-be or I-wish-that, the what-ifs or should-haves.
Thinking and worrying about the bad things that happened in the past causing stress. Think about it for a minute then let it go. You did it, it was a mistake, and it’s over and done with now so why let it stress you out.
Everyone in this world makes mistakes. Admit when you do and move on. Life is too short to worry through it. You can’t enjoy life if you worry or stress over things every day.
Be Positive. Continually thinking “I can’t”, “No one understands”, and “I have to do this perfectly or I will be a failure” can cause lots of stress. Change the way you think.
Say “I can do this” “I have lots of supporters who understand” or “ It doesn’t have to be perfect for me to be a success.”
Don’t complain about everything. If something is bothering you like the kids won’t pick up their toys or the laundry always needs doing, change it. Teach the kids the importance of cleaning up their toys or try to do a load of laundry a day.
Take regular time off. Plan regular vacations and long weekends when you can to get away from your daily stress. It’s not a sign you’re a bad person—it means you’re willing to take care of you, so you’ll be able to take care of everyone in your life.
Don’t try to be perfect. No one is. As the saying goes, if something isn’t exactly as you wanted when planning your party, who will know? The same goes for life. Who is going to know if you don’t dust under the china cabinet or you take a shortcut in cleaning? No one should expect you to be perfect. It’s not realistic.
Create pleasant surroundings. Pleasing sights, sounds, and aromas help reduce tension. Turn down the TV or stereo. Clear the clutter to feel less scattered and distracted. Open a window to let in some fresh air. Set a bouquet of fresh flowers on a table. Bake a loaf of bread or a batch of cookies.
Make your home your sanctuary. Fill it with things you love and want around you. Paint it and decorate with soothing colors that make you calm and happy. Keep the clutter out, especially your bedroom and living areas.
Pamper yourself with little luxuries. Thick, fluffy towels, a beautiful blanket, scented soaps, and candles will make you feel like you’re at a luxury spa. There is nothing more comforting than slipping into bed under freshly laundered sheets.
Cut out the busy noise. Turn off the cell phone. If it rings constantly, pick a time during the day to turn it off for thirty minutes to an hour. Turn off the computers and televisions for at least an hour daily. In fact, limit your television viewing to one to 2 hours a day. The constant noise of every day only adds more stress.
Encourage fewer after school activities for the kids. Let them pick one or two activities they really enjoy, then get rid of the rest. You will have less running time and more family time at home.
Enjoy Nature. Go to a park, river, lake, or just sit outside and relax. Listen to the water, the birds, the wind, and all of nature’s glory. Clear your mind and let your body relax.
Ask for help. If your day is too full, ask your kids, family, or friends if they can help out in some way. Maybe the kids can clean their room or help load the dishwasher. Ask a friend or family member to care for your child while you do some work.
There are many ways you can reduce and manage stress without adding more stress to your already hectic day. Take a good look at your days and everything in your life. Figure out what you can get rid of, whether its physical, material, obligations, or people that cause you stress.
Being in the Moment Stops Anxiety
Being aware of being in the moment is a great way to cut down on worry and anxiety. Follow these six steps to be more in tune with the present:
- Practice savoring the present. Notice sights, sounds, smells, and engage all your senses in each moment of the day. This helps you relax.
- Focus on your task, not on your performance. Focusing on the task at hand instead of worrying about how well you are doing keeps you from stressing over what will happen.
- Notice your breathing. When you focus on your breath you feel more peaceful and centered.
- Lose track of time by getting into the flow of what you are doing. Focusing on what you are doing and enjoying it while you are relaxing you.
- Accept people and situations as they are. When you refrain from judging others or stop worrying about situations, you let your mind and body off the hook of fearing it.
- Work on building your mindfulness every day. Mindfulness keeps anxiety at bay because you are aware of what is happening around you.
Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you should aim to be in the present moment. This allows joy and happiness to replace anxiety.
More Ways to Reduce Stress
Stress and anxiety play a key role in our health and how much enjoyment we have in our lives. These 5 tips can help you begin reducing stress today.
Light Some Candles
Light scented candles that make you feel good. Find a scent that makes you feel happy or that calms you. Using essential oils is another option. Some scents that are especially calming or soothing include:
- Roman chamomile
- Ylang ylang
- Orange or orange blossom
Music drives our emotions. They make us feel something, remember something, or make us excited. Find some that help you relax. R&B songs are a great. Spotify has entire lists of relaxing music that you can try.
Laughter has been shown to reduce the physical effects of stress. There’s always something to laugh about. Put on a funny video, make jokes, or watch a stand-up comedy show.
Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal is both an outlet for the stress and a way to keep track of what is causing your anxiety, so you can deal with it. When you spill the words out onto a page you are healing yourself. It’s like being your own therapist. Write about everything and you will see new possible solutions.
Working out helps you release the tension and fears when you are anxious or stressed. When your pent up stress builds you have too much energy. Working out, at home or at the gym gives you an outlet to get rid of the excess energy.
Try some of these options today to reduce stress to feel more relaxed and aware of yourself and everything around you.
Do This Next
Choosing to live in the past or to worry about the future puts more stress on you than if you live in the moment. Learn how to reduce your stress using many of the techniques in this guide.
Stress and anxiety lead to all kinds of health problems including physical, mental, and emotional ones. Everything from high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes to insomnia, depression, and suicide. That’s why it’s so important to reduce stress as much as possible in your life.
Simple strategies implemented daily can be used to help you get control over your stress. Figure out what causes you stress then begin finding ways to reduce it and make your life more enjoyable.
Being in the moment has a profound effect on reducing stress and makes you less susceptible to the effects of stress. Make it a habit to be more mindful every day.