Four Practical Ways To Reduce Stress
Stress management has always been a trending topic of conversation, but especially in the past two years since COVID-19 took the world by storm. Now, stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can motivate us to take action and help us learn more about ourselves. For instance, since the pandemic started, I’ve learned more about my needs and how badly I needed to tend to them. For me, it eventually got to the point where I was so paralyzed by fear of the unknown and stressed by the feeling of not being able to keep up with two jobs, relationships, and other responsibilities, that my health and wellbeing took a nose-dive. Unfortunately for me, it took getting to rock bottom and feel so sick of feeling awful for me to take a step back and reconnect with myself and my needs.
It took lots of patience and many tries to find the set of strategies that worked for me, so here is a list of my top four practical ways that I was able to manage my stress, in case it helps you:
1. Listen to Music: Music is powerful. In fact, researchers at Stanford University suggest that listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication.
Studies show that music that is fast-paced can make us feel more alert and able to focus better. Upbeat music can help us feel more optimistic. Additionally, music that is around 60 beats per minute can make us feel more relaxed.
So, what’s the best type of music to reduce stress? This study suggests to listen to traditional Indigenous, Celtic, Indian stringed instruments, drums, and flutes.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is an evidence-based relaxation or grounding technique that can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.
PMR consists of you tensing each group of muscles from your toes all the way up to your scalp as your breathe in (without hurting yourself, of course), hold for 5 seconds, then relax your muscles as your breathe out. With practice, the hope is that you will be able to recognize any tension in body quicker and therefore be able to address it faster by engaging in this exercise.
3. Protect Your Sleep: A critical component of stress management is sleep. While it can be tempting to sacrifice sleep for various reasons, including work, school, socializing, or watching Netflix, it is not sustainable or helpful to be running on little-to-no sleep.
Prioritizing your sleep and being able to view sleep as something that must happen in order to fuel your mind and body, instead of it being an incentive you get if or when you complete a task, could be a good step toward being able to sleep and prioritize sleep with a peace of mind.
Don’t know where to start? It can be helpful to start with gradual adjustments. Follow a nightly routine that works for you and try to aim for a relatively consistent wake-up time.
4. Re-Assess Your To-Do List: If you’re like me, you feel a rush of excitement every time you get to cross something off your to-do list. To-do lists can be great as long as they are realistic and flexible. Are you trying to squeeze 20 hours’ worth of work into 8 hours? Then you better trust and believe that you will feel stressed.
If your to-do list is too overloaded, try organizing it based on what you can realistically tackle that day. Would you be able to delegate the task to someone else? Or ask for help? Making these changes can also be crucial to helping you get through your to-do list.
That’s it! Give these a try and see if it makes even the slightest of a difference to you. You are in control here even if it isn’t feeling that way right now. If you’re curious about how psychotherapy can help you in your journey to manage stress, book an appointment with us! At Infinite Horizons Psychotherapy, we offer free 20-minute consultations where we can discuss your needs, goals, and assess whether we would be a good fit for you.