You know the feeling. You’re at work, and everything is going smoothly. Then, out of nowhere, stress hits you like a ton of bricks. All of a sudden, you can’t focus, you’re irritable, and everything seems to be going wrong. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Stress is one of the most common issues we all face today. But luckily, there are plenty of ways to deal with it. Here are 9 tips to combat stress so you can get back to being your productive self.
01. Do Something that Makes You Laugh
When was the last time you had a good laugh? Laughter is a great way to reduce stress. “People often hold a lot of their stress in their face, and laughs or smiles can help relieve some of that tension,” says the American Psychological Association.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some time to relax and have a good laugh. Whether you take up quick Nintendo Switch sesh with your friends or jump on FaceTime with your family, talking and laughing should be a regular activity. And don’t forget those goofy animal videos – they always seem to do the trick!
Regular exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure and increase energy levels, making it a great way to reduce stress. Low-intensity exercises like walking or dancing are a great way to get started, and “in the midst of a stressful time can give an immediate effect that can last for several hours,” per the APA. If you’re ready for something high intensity, you can also be awesome and start a street hockey tournament in the parking lot during lunch. Twenty minutes of exercise is usually plenty to start feeling better.
03. Crank that Biz Markie
It’s no secret that music can be a powerful tool for managing stress. After all, many of us instinctively turn to our favorite songs when we need to calm down, focus, or get pumped up. According to a 2015 study from the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, it’s not the music that’s effective for stress relief — you need to be deliberately listening to music in order to relax.
If you’re looking for an easy way to de-stress, put on some music and let yourself get lost in the melody. Whether you prefer Gershwin or Kid n’ Play, Christina Perri or Green Day, there’s definitely a type of music out there that can help you relax and unwind.
04. Help Others
Why didn’t I make this number one on the list? Oh, well, I’ve gone too far; can’t look back now.
Helping others can be a great way to reduce stress. It can put your problems into perspective and make you grateful for what you have. There are many ways to help others, such as getting groceries for those who aren’t capable, sending words of encouragement via text message, or mailing a letter to a friend just to say you appreciate them. These small gestures can make a big difference in someone else’s life, and they can also help reduce your stress levels.
05. Identify and Label Your Stress
Yes, literally. Actually put a name tag on every guest at your stress party. Doing so can help reduce the amount of stress you feel, as well as change the way you respond to it.
For example, if you’re stressed about your workload this week, labeling it can help make sure that you’re not “merging the stress with the self.” In other words, putting a name to the source of your stress helps keep it separate from who you are as a person. This can be helpful because it allows you to take a step back and look at the situation more objectively.
Additionally, labeling stressors can also help you start to take control of them by talking about them instead of just letting them sit inside your head. By verbalizing what’s stressing you out, you’re automatically putting them into a system and gaining some measure of control over them.
We all have those days when we’re just not feeling it. Maybe you’re tired, or overwhelmed, or just not in the mood to do anything. On those days, it’s okay to take shortcuts whenever you can. If you don’t feel like chopping your own veggies, go ahead and buy them pre-chopped. Or if you’re too tired to do your normal hair routine, throw your hair up in a ponytail and call it a day.
Embracing the mess is one of the best ways to reduce stress. When you accept that things won’t always be perfect, you’ll feel less pressure to try and achieve perfection. Beauty is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
07. Build the Lego Infinity Gauntlet
Or paint, or scrapbook, or sew, or do some wood working. Any craft will do.
The process of creation can be therapeutic—especially repetitive tasks like cross-stitching, candle-making, or paint-by-number. Researchers found that creating art for 45 minutes noticeably lowered cortisol levels in the saliva of people in a 2016 study in the journal Art Therapy.
08. Focus on What is in Your Control
So much of our stress comes from things we feel like we can’t control. We worry about the future, agonize over things that have already happened, and spend hours tormenting ourselves with “what if” scenarios. But what if there was a way to focus on the present, and what we can control in this moment?
It turns out, there is. And it’s called present-focused awareness. When we focus on what’s happening right now, we’re able to manage our emotions more effectively. We can take a deep breath and center ourselves, rather than letting our thoughts run wild.
There are plenty of ways to get into this mindset. One of my favorites is using a meditation app like Headspace. It helps me focus on my breath and brings me back to the present moment. From there, I can move forward with my day knowing that I can only control what I do.
09. Watch Ted Lasso
There’s a lot of stressful news and a focus on so many bad things happening around the world. It’s okay to take a break from it. Adding some positivity to your life through a show like Ted Lasso, watching Taskmaster on YouTube, or listening to a Podcast of After the Whistle is a fantastic way decompress. Bonus points for doing this on a Mental Health Day away from work.