My Five Easy Stress Relief Strategies

a smiling woman sits crosslegged in the forest with her hands pressed together in prayer position.

Stress is a natural response that motivates you to do well. For example, on busy days when my list of appointments exceeds my mental capacity, stress keeps me alert and helps me fulfill my obligations.

But leaving our stress unaddressed can stop us from realizing our full potential and cause anxiety symptoms, depression, pain, fatigue, heart, and circulatory disease, and even death.

If you cannot deal with stress, this article is for you. Here I have listed five easy-to-implement stress relief strategies (that I use) for a calmer mind.

 

My Five Easy Stress Relief Strategies

 

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing is a deep breathing technique that engages the diaphragm, a large, dome-shaped muscle at the base of the lungs.

This exercise summons your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest-and-digest system) and helps stimulate relaxation to return everything to equilibrium.

Simple Steps to Follow

  • Sit or lie comfortably, placing one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest.
  • Slowly take a deep breath through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise as your diaphragm expands. Keep your chest still.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth and gently contract your abdominal muscles to help push out the air.
  • Continue the exercise for several minutes, focusing on the rise and fall of your abdomen.

 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a stress reduction and relaxation technique that involves systematically tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups.

This technique works because physical relaxation leads to mental relaxation, helping reduce stress and anxiety.

Simple Steps to Follow

  • Sit or lie in a quiet, comfortable place and ensure your back is straight and your limbs are uncrossed.
  • Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths to help center yourself and bring your focus to the present moment.
  • Tense and relax each muscle group one at a time. Contract the muscles as tightly as possible for about 5 seconds, then release the tension and let the muscles relax for 15-20 seconds. As you release the tension, be mindful of the difference in sensation between the tense and relaxed states.
  • Follow this sequence – start with the feet, lower legs, upper legs, buttocks, lower back, abdomen, chest, upper back, hands, lower arms, upper arms, shoulders, neck, and face.
  • After going through all the muscle groups, take a few slow, deep breaths, and enjoy the feeling of relaxation for a few moments.

Be Mindful

Mindfulness is a popular concept, and rightly so. It works wonders by allowing you to be fully present and engaged in the “now” without judgment or distraction.

Simple Steps to Follow

  •  You don’t need to sit or lie down for this.
  •  Just keep doing whatever you’re doing but split a portion of your attention to focus on your breath. Notice the sensation of the air entering and leaving your nostrils or the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen.
  • Acknowledge your thoughts and emotions as they arise without judgment or reaction. Let them come and go, gently bringing your focus back to your breath. That’s it. That’s all you need to do.
  • You can practice mindfulness for any duration, from a few minutes to longer sessions. At first, you may struggle to focus but keep at it. Consistency is key to experiencing its benefits.

 

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is for those with the power of imagination, and that’s all of us. Most of the time, we live in our heads and conjure stressful images. Why not use that power for something good?

Instead of letting your imagination wander off, you can take hold, and it will help to reduce stress, increase relaxation, and enhance motivation and performance.

Simple Steps to Follow

  • Take a moment to close your eyes and breathe deeply.
  • Imagine a place or situation that evokes peace, happiness, or motivation. Engage all your senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch – to make the experience as vivid and realistic as possible.
  • Spend a few minutes or longer in your imagined scenario. Allow yourself to experience the emotions and sensations it evokes fully. If your mind wanders, gently pull your focus back to the visualization.
  •  When you’re relaxed and ready to return, slowly bring your attention to the present and take a few deep breaths before opening your eyes.

 

Get Enough Sleep

Stress can make it hard for you to go to sleep. When you have a lot to do and think about, it can be hard to sleep. But when you sleep, your brain and body get new energy.

Simple Steps to Follow

  • Keeping the same time to sleep and wake up.
  • Drinking less caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
  • Putting away electronic devices before bedtime.
  • Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark, cool, and free of distractions.
  • napping for no more than 30 minutes and not too close to bedtime.
  • If you can’t sleep after 20 minutes, go to another room and return to bed when you feel sleepy.

 

Keep Experimenting & Practicing

Keep experimenting with the strategies and see what works best for you.

All the strategies won’t work in every stressful situation. So, it’s important to practice a couple of them and have them stored in your arsenal.

 

About the Author

Dr. Joann Mundin is a board-certified psychiatrist who has been practicing since 2003. She is a diplomate with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and a fellow with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. She is currently associated with Savant Care, a Los Angeles mental health clinic, where she provides assessments and treatment for patients with severe mental illnesses.

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