By Ellen Shrouf, PhD, Family Medicine/Primary Care
Everyone has stress. Your ability to recognize and manage it is key to fending off chronic stress and its related symptoms. A few of these symptoms include lack of sleep, shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, nausea, digestive upset and muscle tension.
By taking a little time for yourself each day and countering your stress with some simple strategies, you can be on your way to better health.
Read on to learn five ways to help manage your stress.
1. Recognize stress.
Some people are stressed so often that they may not pay attention to stress-related symptoms like headaches, shoulder pain or feeling flustered and hurried. It’s important to recognize when you are stressed so you can take steps to manage it.
Once you recognize that you are stressed, please don’t wait until you’re overloaded to try and make it better. At that point, it will be much harder to alleviate. Instead, put a routine in place to manage your stress on a regular basis. Consider taking a walk, watching a yoga video or engaging in some form of stress management that calms you each day and try to stick to that routine even if some hurdles arise. If your walking partner can’t make it, for example, have a back-up plan like watching a yoga video. Having an alternative activity in the back of your mind can help keep you on track.
3. Try the 4-2-6 breathing technique.
Backed by research, this breathing pattern helps reduce stress. Start by breathing in through your nose slowly for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 2 seconds and breathe out through your mouth for 6 seconds. Repeating this method three to five times will calm you when practiced regularly.
4. Grab ordinary moments in your day for stress reduction.
Throughout the day, there are moments that can act as cues for you to engage in a calming activity. Whether you’re about to eat, step into the shower or you’re waiting for an elevator, consider using this precious time to turn off your phone for a minute or two and do something that helps relax you like the 4-2-6 breathing exercise or just take a moment to connect to your inner self and feel a sense of calm and peace.
5. Share your calming techniques.
Practicing relaxation doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor. If you have kids, consider teaching them calming techniques as well. This can help both you and them so you can remind each other to use them when needed.
While stress is an inevitable part of our daily lives, having set routines in place to help manage it can be empowering and give you the confidence to handle stressful situations as they arise.