Stress and anxiety can quickly get the best of you. Maybe you got into a fight with your mother, made a mistake at work, and then returned to your car only to find a costly parking ticket on your windshield. The little things add up and can burn you out. There will be times when you want to scream and tear your hair out.
Excessive stress can have long-term effects on your mind, body, and health. You might feel an upset stomach, chest pain, headaches, or muscle tension. Stress can affect your sleep and productivity, making it harder to rest or do work. You may become irritable and want to snap at any minor inconvenience.
Nobody likes to feel this way. There are several long-term solutions to solving anger and stress such as therapy, dieting, and anger management, but sometimes you need immediate relief. Avoid stress eating or blowing up on someone.
Here are ways to overcome stress in your life right now
Psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker developed a writing technique that’s been repeatedly proven to help people’s mental health. It only takes a pen, paper, and 20 minutes of free time. Expressive writing consists of writing down anything that comes to mind for a mere 20 minutes. Talk about whatever is bothering you. Don’t pay attention to spelling, grammar, or even legibility. This paper is for your eyes only. When you’ve finished, rip it up, throw it out, or toss it in the fire. Do this a few days a week, and you’ll begin to notice the changes. Even one session of expressive writing allows you to get your negative feelings onto paper and then therapeutically throw them in the trash.
A 2013 study from Massachusetts General Hospital researched 93 people with anxiety. Researchers randomly assigned each participant to a two-month mindful meditation group or a control group for stress management. Those who went to the meditation group had significant decreases in their anxiety. However, you don’t need a two-month course to feel the benefits. Merely taking five minutes to sit down and concentrate on your breathing will help reduce and possibly overcome stress.
Many people turn to alcohol in times of distress, but there are plenty of more practical options. Drinking a hot glass of water helps relieve anxiety, mainly if you drink mindfully by focusing on the feelings that you experience while drinking. Furthermore, a 2007 study found that subjects who drank black tea for six weeks produced less cortisol (stress-inducing hormone) and were more relaxed after completing challenging tasks.
Did you know that Navy SEALs practice a technique called box breathing when in combat and other stressful situations? Box breathing is incredibly simple and only requires four four-second intervals: inhale, hold your breath, breathe out, and hold your breath once again. When you’re stressed, your body tends to go in a fight-or-flight response that triggers shallow breathing. Deep breathing exercises help calm you down by allowing oxygen to enter your brain and bloodstream, thus slowing down your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure.
Smiling might be the last thing you want to do right now, but it can help you overcome stress. Forcing yourself to smile, no matter how fake it seems, can “trick” your body into feeling happy. It lowers your heart rate and reduces your body’s anxious responses.
It’s time to hit the gym! Lift some weights, practice yoga, or run on a treadmill. You probably have a lot of pent-up anger and other adverse emotions. Exercising is a great way to let it all out. Channel those feelings into your workout. You’ll be motivated to work harder and stronger. Plus, exercise provides your body with endorphins, a hormone which boosts mood.
Plug in your headphones and start blasting your favorite tunes. Calming music can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. One study found that Latin choral music was more effective at calming people down than the sound of rippling water. Many people turn to music in times of distress because it can significantly influence their emotions and overcome stress.
Don’t let stress take over your life. Anxiety can quickly impact your work, relationships, productivity, and health. Learn to manage your stress and take back your life. Finding out how to take control of stressful situations in your life will help you succeed in other areas too.