How to effectively blow off stress – starting right now!
People just aren’t living relaxed lives anymore. “Highly stressful” is the most common way they’re describing their lifestyles today. At work, an increasing number of them are becoming so burned out, they may need medical treatment or extra time off. Estimates are that three out of four people visiting doctors suffer from stress-related problems.
What can you do to get more in control of your life now? Surprisingly, it takes much less than you’d imagine – just a whole lot of little things that you can put to work for you rightaway. Here are 20 practical quick-fix tips to get you on your way to de-fusion!
- On the road, remember that you’re not Ben ’Hur . Don’t contest everyone who tries to move into your lane. You’ll actually feel more in control and less stressed if you let someone cut in from time to time.
- Unlock your jaw. When you relax your jaw muscles, you send calming signals all through your body. Take a deep breath and let your jaw drop loosely.
- Skip the second cup. The caffeine in two cups of coffee adds about 16 beats a minute to your heart rate and makes you more irritable and anxious.
- Walk and talk. When possible, discuss stressful subjects with others while you’re strolling together. The conversation will seem less formal, and you’ll avoid constant eye contact, which can generate extra anxiety and tension.
- Keep things moving. If you have to juggle multiple projects and you’re stuck on one, move on to another and come back to the stickler later. You’ll keep yourself from panicking and be able to approach the problem with a fresher, more creative outlook.
- Don’t fight distractions. Watching a spider outside your window isn’t wasted time, it’s a mental time-out. Anything that holds your attention so that you’re looking and listening instead of thinking and worrying can reduce stress, say the stress specialists.
- Smell the oranges. Keep fruit on your desk. Knowing that you’ll eat it later is a cue to relax. When you eat it, take five minutes to do nothing but focus on how good it tastes.
- Take an exercise break. When you feel tense, take some time out to stretch or exercise. Set aside 30 to 60 minutes a day and the calming effects will last up to 24 hours.
- Unshoulders those burdens. Because a round –shouldered hunch tips your head slightly forward, it tightens your shoulder and neck muscles. Release that tension with shoulders rolls. Start with your shoulders level and square. Roll those forward 10 to 15 times, as if you were trying to paddle a boat with your shoulders. Then roll them back.
- Change position. Moving to a different chair or standing up from your seat can literally make you see things in a slightly different way. It helps distract you from stressful thoughts, alters your thinking pattern and provides a new perspective.
- Speak slowly. Fast talking is a sign of stress. Use an unhurried cadence and you’ll automatically slow your breathing. You’ll also sound less agitated.
- Pace yourself. Schedule the most taxing jobs for the times when your energy is naturally high. Likewise, if you’re prone to low energy late in the day, for example, save that time for reading industry journals or opening mail.
- Nail it down. Stop searching for your appointment calendar and address book. Buy a large desk-size version that can’t be mislaid.
- Plan for the unexpected. Leave 10 to 20 per cent of your daily calendar open. That way, you’ll have time to fit in emergency jobs or important meetings if you have to. As the day progresses, maintain your time buffer by re-jiggering your schedule or eliminating low-priority tasks. You may end up with enough spare minutes to leave the office a bit early.
- Avoid the tube. Wait at least an hour and a half after getting home to watch any TV. You are overwhelmed all day with information and talking. Turning on the TV just bombards you with more. Instead, spend some quiet time with your family, or turn on some music.
- Keep surfaces clear. When ad hoc piles build up on the dining-room table, the top of the TV or on shelves, you feel more out of control. Clear these areas and you’ll clear away tension.
- Play games. Computer games, solitaire and crossword puzzles are excellent for blowing off stress. It’s hard to think about aggravations when you’re starting at words you can’t figure out!
- Get some perspective. Step back from the problem to keep yourself from over-reacting. Next time you feel worked up, rate what’s stressing you on a scale of 0 to 10. Then rate your reaction to it from 0 to 10 as well. Having trouble finding a parking space rates maybe a 1, but if you’re feeling more like 9, then you’re out of balance and need to lighten up a little.
- Look beneath the surface. Loosening the reins begins with values. The common wisdom that nobody on their deathbed wishes they’d spent more time at the office may be trite, but it’s true. We need to step back out of the jungle and ask what’s really important in life.
- Give something back. Look for ways to commit yourself to ideals beyond yourself. One review of more than 60 studies of stress-busting tactics found that having a sense of purpose in life was the single most powerful way for men to gain peace of mind. It may come from social service involvement. It may come from working for political reform or acting as a mentor for young people.