Has someone ever told you to “just relax” when you’re in the middle of a stressful situation, and you thought to yourself, “Well, that’s easy for you to say!”
Relaxation actually isn’t easy (and doesn’t come naturally) for many of us. It’s hard not to get caught up in worry during our fast-paced, time-crunched days. Many of these options take just a few minutes, but the benefits can last a lifetime.
Simplify your schedule.
Take a look at your calendar for the upcoming week. Is there any appointment or activity you can remove or at least scale back? Sometimes it takes sacrifices and tough choices to make time for yourself, but the benefit can be better health and a less frantic brain.
Getting rid of things you don’t need provides a calming effect in life. Spending upto 10 minutes getting rid of things you don’t need can give you a feeling of accomplishment while taking your mind off of daily life for a few precious minutes.
In case you hadn’t heard, coloring isn’t just for kids anymore. According to an interview with Mayo Clinic clinical psychologist Craig Sawchuk in The Washington Post, coloring has a calming effect because it “can help slow down the heart rate and respiration, loosen muscles and stimulate the brain.” The folks at Colorit sent us a coloring book to try. I was initially skeptical that a coloring page would make my day less stressful, but it was surprisingly therapeutic.
Scale back the multi-tasking.
I’ll be honest: While it may seem like tackling several tasks at once is the key to accomplishing more of your task list, the reality is that multi-tasking can be stressful and ineffective. Research shows multi-taskers do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one task to another as effectively as someone who does one thing at a time.
Ask yourself: Will this matter a month or even a week from now?
It can be stressful when your day doesn’t go as planned, you’re running late for an appointment or you forget to pack school lunches. Although it raises you blood pressure in the moment, will these small things matter by tomorrow? Take a moment to consider that no one is perfect, we all make mistakes and the best thing you can do is learn from them and move forward.
Exercise is known to boost endorphins (those “feel good” hormones in your brain) and improve mood, both of which reduce stress. It might seem counter intuitive to recommend finding time in your day to exercise when you’re already overwhelmed, but even 10 minutes of activity can be enough to reap the stress-reducing benefits.
Reduce how much time you spend checking social media sites.
You don’t have to give up your favorite social media app completely, but consider putting limits on how much time you spend scrolling because the minutes can add up. You might only check your Facebook feed for five minutes, but if you do that 10 times, it adds up to almost an hour a day! If lack of time is a stressor in your life, cutting back on social media is one simple way to add time to your day.
Despite the rise of social media, traditional journaling is still a popular way to reduce stress and anxiety. Organizing your thoughts and getting them out on paper can provide an emotional release and serve as a time to reflect on situations and problem solve.
Don’t be afraid to say no.
You can’t be everything for everyone all the time, and if you try to be, you might find there’s not much left for yourself. Saying “no” doesn’t have to be a negative thing; it might just mean you know your limits. Prioritize what’s important so that you’re saying “yes” to the things that bring you the most joy and allow you to make the greatest impact.
Listen to music.
Have you ever been late for work, stuck in traffic and starting to panic that you won’t make your morning meeting? With the stress level rising, your favorite song comes on the radio. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, your mood lifts as you go to that happy place in your head we all love. Research has investigated the therapeutic benefits of music, and found that it can reduce anxieties and promote relaxation. Isn’t it nice how music can make a bad day a little better?
Whether you choose to adopt one of these or several, finding positive, productive ways to react to stress will mean the difference between pulling your hair out and facing your to-do list head on with grace and determination.
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