Healthy Ways to Reduce Stress

Stress.  We talk about it and feel it on a regular basis.  In so many ways, it has become a cornerstone of our culture and dare I say, a measurement for success.  If you aren’t stressed or busy, one might argue that you’re lazy or not contributing to your fullest potential.  Stress, and our mindset of acceptance around it, has countless people suffering from panic attacks, consuming medication for anxiety, and looking to unhealthy solutions for taking the edge off each day.

I encourage myself and my clients to view stress as a sign of something, instead of a way of being.  We don’t want to remain in stress, but rather, become aware of how and when it appears in our lives, and channel it into healthy action that reduces it.

Here are 5 powerful ways to reduce stress levels and actively channel anxiety to create positive outcomes.

  1. Sweat.  Find one opportunity each day to get your heart rate up and break a sweat.  This allows the body some physical release and invites the reduction of stress.  Exercise creates space to tap into your internal self and think something through, or perhaps distract yourself from worry or outside thoughts.  It also aids in the production of endorphins in your brain which are your super power neurotransmitters that make you feel really good.  An instant mood booster.
  2. Get Creative.  Channel your worry or anxiety into making something with your hands. Shut off and put all electronic devices away.  Getting creative could mean carpentry, photography, visual art, dance, or really anything you feel connected to and inspired by.  Give yourself permission to express yourself creatively for at least 30 minutes.  For so many people, creativity is an area of their life that is left unexplored.  Nurture your inner child and embrace this simplicity for a period of time in your day.  
  3. Meditate.  Don’t be intimidated by this one.  All meditation is is observing your own thoughts and stepping back from identifying with them.  When we’re stressed, it can feel like there is a strong force with its grip around us.  Meditation helps to loosen this grip and create space between you and your thoughts.  Studies show that meditating consistently over time has some seriously positive health benefits that aid in becoming more aware, which leads to the ability to notice when stress is taking over and find solutions early in the process instead of when it’s too far gone.  Go for a meditative walk or bike ride, sit in silence for 3 minutes, or take a bath.  Meditation can look different for each of us.
  4. Write. The thoughts and stories you have around what is stressing you out, easily lose meaning when you spell them out.  This gives you the opportunity to spill everything and perhaps you’ll even be able to step back and reevaluate things in a meaningful way.  Take ten minutes to just write your thoughts stream of consciousness - don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or content.  Just write.
  5. Release Aggression.  If your stress feels like it’s coming up in the form of aggression or anger, don’t suppress it.  Find a positive and safe space to let this release.  Maybe it’s taking a kickboxing class or buying a punching bag for your house.  As long as it’s safe for you and those around you, don’t stifle yourself in trying to release aggressive energy that contributes to stress.

If you feel like you don’t have space and time for these activities, I can tell you from experience that the time to create that space is crucial right NOW.  I always think of this Zen proverb when I make excuses for not facing my stress head on.

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

Often the best indicator of a need to do something, is the amount of excuses you’re piling up in front of actually doing it.  Don’t waste time when it comes to looking after yourself.  In order to be the best version of you, you need to put the time and care in to make it so.  

Brittany Turner