7 Ways To Handle Stress Better, According To Therapists
We know it's important to get ahold of our stress so we can make it through whatever is causing our issues, but when you're caught up in the moment, it's not always easy to keep yourself calm. Luckily, there are a number of tips you can use if you don't handle stress well, and having these strategies in the back of your mind can help you when the going gets rough. It's not uncommon to get overwhelmed whenever stress hits, but it's important to figure out ways to manage your mental state to prevent anything from spiraling out of control.
"Handling your stress is something that everyone needs to do because there are many mental and physical health risks if you don’t," psychiatrist Vinay Saranga M.D, tells Bustle. "Too much stress can lead to burnout and depression, [...] relationship problems, high blood pressure and heart disease, and a potential of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. People who handle stress well tend to have higher job satisfaction, are more likely to get promoted at work, have better relationships with their significant other, family, children, and friends, and are overall happier."
If you're someone who doesn't handle stress in the best way, try these seven useful hacks, according to therapists.
1. Schedule In Self-Care
It can be hard to fit in stress-relieving activities once your day gets started, so schedule in something that will help keep you relaxed, preferably in the morning. "Why not make a mental health deposit to yourself first on a daily basis?" licensed professional counselor Rwenshaun Miller, tells Bustle. "This may not be an easy task because you like to get every second of sleep before you have to get up and be out of the door, but at least try."
2. Count Backwards From 10
Distracting your initial surge of emotions is possible with a little mind trick. "When something triggers you, count backwards from 10," Carrie Carlton, clinical director (LCSW), at Beachway Therapy Center, tells Bustle. "The mind starts to think about the next number, removing the focus off of the stressor. Then space is created for an inspired thought of a possible solution or next step to take."
3. Get A Totem
Having a designated item to turn to as a reminder during high-stress moments can help you stay grounded. "Carry a smooth stone or wear a beaded bracelet, and when stressed, touch whichever item you choose as your totem," says Carlton. "You may want to repeat a mantra in your head such as 'This too shall pass' or 'A solution is on the way.' This engages our sense of touch which soothes away the stress."
4. Try Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing exercises can help reduce stress and muscle tension. "They are very easy to learn," clinical psychologist Shiri Sadeh-Sharvit, PhD, tells Bustle. "I would recommend downloading an app that specializes in relaxation and listening to the instructions, then practicing two to three times a day, for three to five minutes each time. Diaphragmatic breathing reduces heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol secretion."
5. Have A Go-To Friend
Humans are social creatures, and we thrive when we have the help and approval from others. "Having a heart-to-heart conversation with a family member (a parent, a partner, a sibling, etc.) can diminish your stress," Sadeh-Sharvit says. "Not only that, the other person will provide important perspective, instrumental support and emotional feedback. Just by holding the conversation and interacting with someone who cares about you, you will feel more optimistic and your body will increase the secretion of hormones that are important to your wellbeing, such as oxytocin."
6. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Using a technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation can help trick your body into feeling calmer. To do it, you tense up one group of muscles, and then relax them. "We start with the clenching and subsequent relaxing of a fist, and then move to the rest of the body," psychologist Dr. Russell Morfitt, tells Bustle. "It’s a great way to both learn to recognize hidden muscle tension and to do something about it. When we relax our muscles, our thoughts and our emotions tend to relax as well, so we feel calmer.
7. Use A Stress Tracker
Stress looks different for everyone, and although some people have an idea of the things that stress them out, not everyone understands the root causes of their stress. "To help with this, begin with taking an inventory of your stressors with a stress tracker," Miller says. "Write down the things that add stress to your life, [including] when and where it happens and how you mentally and physically respond. You will be amazed how you will pick up on patterns once you document these things and learn what you need to change."
Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress, so try out one of these tricks to see which works for you.