Because most of us have got used to using alcohol to deal with stress, we need to find alternative ways of coping. Having some ready strategies up our sleeves can give us more confidence and will help make life easier.
Here are ten strategies you can consider using to reduce stress, anxiety and tension:
- Breathing and connecting with the moment and/or yourself (sometimes referred to as mindfulness or meditation). There is an increasing body of scientific enquiry exploring the benefits that this kind of regular practice brings – one of which is increased wellbeing and feelings of calm and relaxation. The audios in the programme guide you into doing this and progress in skill level as you progress through the programme;
- Working out or exercising. Working and moving your body physically on a regular basis is crucial for both physical and mental health. Finding something you can do that will push your heart-rate up and that you will enjoy is important. When you enjoy what you do it’s more motivating. Planning it into your day and sticking to your plans also helps. Once it’s become a routine, it’s much easier to stick to. Even though I dread doing my workouts some days, it doesn’t cross my mind to not do them because they’re just part of my routine. I find that on the odd occasion I’m really frustrated, angry or stressed, that a really hard-core workout is one of the best ways for me to let it out – this is because I have to become 100% focused on the exercises and my form and simply getting through them – I can’t think about the thing that’s stressed me out anymore. It also gets rid of negative energy – I like to imagine that I’m sweating it out;
- The more fresh air and time outdoors you can get, the better. This isn’t always easy or possible but if you can slot something in, it will benefit you. It isn’t for everyone, but some people find gardening very therapeutic;
- Taking a 60-second holiday (see the 60 Second Holiday blog for more information on how to do this);
- If you like animals, then contact and interaction with animals is a good way to reduce stress. Scientific research has shown that playing with or petting an animal increases levels of the stress-reducing hormone, oxytocin, and decreases production of the stress hormone, cortisol. (It also benefits the animal too!)
- Putting your attention somewhere else. Running a bath, playing music, reading a book or watching film (a healthy escape of your choosing). I really enjoy driving and find that putting some upbeat or aggressive music on and singing along whilst meaning every word really helps get any anger, frustration or irritation out;
- An activity like cooking or baking. Everyone has their own preferred activity that gives them an emotional release of some kind. Often these activities might be creative. Like painting, writing or making music. You’ll know what it is that works for you. You might even have neglected this creative part of you for years. For me it’s writing but I also find baking with the radio on in the background very therapeutic. I know people who spring-clean when they’re stressed as they’re “creating” a fresh space around them that has a positive impact on their emotional state. I know people who benefit from writing out how they’re feeling as if they’re writing a letter to the person or people that’s making them mad. The letter doesn’t have to ever get sent, but when you’re writing it like you mean it, you’re creating an escape for the feelings – they kind of travel through your body, into words in your mind, down your arm, through the pen and onto paper. Any way you can find of releasing your feelings in a healthy way is good.
- Practising a daily gratitude habit. There’s more about this in the programme, but in a nutshell: the more you look for things to be grateful for, the more you find them. Paying attention to what you have that’s good in your life helps to boost positivity. The more attention you pay to the positives, the happier, calmer and more relaxed you become. Spend 10 minutes at the end of each recording five things you are grateful for that day. It could be as simple as having a warm bed to sleep in or enjoying a healthy breakfast. The things you record don’t have to be super-amazing events like winning the lottery, but anything that puts a smile on your face. For people experiencing depression and who might sometimes struggle to find things that make them happy, recording positive things that at least didn’t make you feel sad can work. Things that left you feeling neutral or things that you can appreciate are good things in your life.
- Helping someone else. Similarly to paying attention to what’s good in your life, when you help others, you get a feel-good boost. Focusing on others and doing good deeds helps take your attention away from yourself and how you’re feeling. When I was in the UK, I did volunteering work for animal charities and this really helped me feel good. Plus, it was quite hard physical labour, which also leaves you feeling relaxed and refreshed when you’re done and you’ve showered and cleaned up.
- Letting it out in a healthy way. This could be in a physical way (like working out, going for a hard run, walking the dog or hitting a punch-bag) or it could be metaphorical (like imagining your stress has a colour, a shape and a size, maybe even a sound and movement, imagining where it is spatially and doing something to it that reduces or eliminates it. I’ll be running an up-coming webinar (The Stress-Buster) that talks you through this technique, so if you’re interested, let me know in the Forum 😊
Not all of these will work for everyone. We’re all different and it doesn’t matter what activities you choose as your best stress-busting techniques as long as they help release tension and they’re healthy for you with no negative consequences.
Do whatever makes you feel like a warrior 😉
You might have some really good ones that aren’t mentioned here – share what works for you in the Forum.