Stress is an ugly monster that can rear its head anytime and anywhere. No one is completely unaffected by stress, but it’s not difficult to learn to manage it. There are a number of reasons you may experience stress, from your workplace environment to a situation that is out of your control, a traumatic event, or other reasons. Triggers are different for every person, especially what might alleviate or halt future bouts of stress. Read on for an insight on how stress can affect us along with stress management activities that are proven to reduce the burdens that come with it.
What Are The Effects of Stress?
Stress can have major impacts on our lives and our ability to function on a regular basis. According to the American Institute of Stress, there are wide ranging effects on us both mentally and physically. Mentally, you may experience difficulty making decisions, frequent crying spells, a lacking interest in your appearance, nervous habits, increased frustration, and so on. Physically, you may notice an increase in headaches, heartburn, and stomachaches. You could also experience rapid breathing, insomnia, tense muscles, a weakened immune system, and more. For a full and comprehensive list of the effects of stress and research, check out the American Institute of Stress’s website.
Stress Management Activities
Stress Management Activity #1 Exercise
For many people, the urge to exercise is reduced when they are stressed. However, exercise remains one of the most effective stress management activities. You can run, walk, participate in yoga or bar classes, try boxing, or a choose number of other activities that you may prefer. What matters is that you see an increase in your heart rate. This will stimulate the production of endorphins, one of the four chemicals responsible for our happiness. Meanwhile, the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol will be reduced. In the end, it will make for an overall healthier and more joy-filled you.
Stress Management Activity #2 Meditation
Increasingly popular, meditation is an age-old practice with undeniable benefits. In terms of reducing stress, it works by restoring the body to a relaxed state. By calming your mind and body, you can actually reverse the damaging effects of stress. Your heart rate and breathing will slow, normalizing your blood pressure and allowing you to utilize oxygen more efficiently. While difficult at first, those who practice meditation will benefit from quicker recovery and a better resistance to stress. The best part of meditation is that, with practice, you can do it anywhere. This makes it a great option for those who may experience stress frequently.
Stress Management Activity #3 Breathing Exercises
Although an integral part of meditation, breathing exercises are not what define meditation. Focusing on how you breathe is simply a way for one to enter the state of meditation. With that being said, there are many ways in which you can perform breathing exercises. There is belly breathing, roll breathing, morning breathing, and more. All in all, conquering your ability to control your breathing will allow your mind and body to calm, allowing you to relax and thereby relieving tension and stress.
Stress Management Activity #4 Aromatherapy
A well-loved practice, aromatherapy is the use of aromatic plants and extracts to improve psychological and/or physical well-being. This can be accomplished via candles, lotions, oils, and a variety of other products or treatments. While there are relatively few studies that have conclusively found aromatherapy to be effective in treating stress, some benefits have already been proven. These include the reduction of the perception of stress, decreased levels of cortisol, and some relief for those who experience depression and anxiety. It can also be combined with massage or meditation for increased effectiveness.
Stress Management Activity #5 Progressive Muscle Relaxation
A lesser known method for treating stress, progressive muscle relaxation is when you tense a group of muscles as you breathe in and you relax them as you breathe out. This is done in a specific order; for example, one could start at the hands before moving up the arms to the face and finally down from the shoulders to your lower legs. Once your body is physically relaxed, you will feel less anxious. You can improve the effectiveness of this method greatly with practice and even use it for other aspects of your life. For example, it is often used to assist with sleep or relieve insomnia, which is also a common cause of stress.
Stress Management Activity #6 Get Adequate Sleep
As previously mentioned, sleep is a prevalent issue that can cause stress. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult (between the ages of 26 through 64) requires between 7 to 9 hours of sleep. There are serious issues that can arise with lack of sleep, both mentally and physically. Mentally you can experience mood swings, trouble thinking and concentrating, memory issues, and more. It affects nearly your entire body, including your central nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, and immune systems.
While some sleeping issues may need to be addressed by a physician, others are as simple as tackling bad habits. For most people, this means adjusting their nightly routine. In general, you should be going to bed at a decent time, keeping electronics out of your room (especially those that emit blue light), and eating your last meal at least two to three hours before bed.
Stress Management Activity #7 Talk to Someone
For many people, one of the best ways to combat stress is to talk to someone. Vocalizing or “venting” about any issues or emotions you are facing can help get them out of your system. The only problem you may face is finding an active listener; this is the secret ingredient to a successful vent session. Be sure to choose wisely with whom you speak to; preferably, ask a close friend, parent, or partner. Alternatively, if you aren’t quite sure about vocalizing your problems to someone, you can keep a stress diary instead. This can be a great first step before transitioning to speaking to another person.
Stress Management Activity #8 Learn to Love To-Do Lists
Some people already swear by and love to-do lists. It is something often taught in school as a time management practice to help preserve your sanity. To-do lists are an effective way to combat and prevent stress by creating the semblance that you have a plan and are in control – a trigger for many people. By writing down tasks to complete, you will feel organized, and checking off each item can give you a sense of accomplishment. Through both of these processes, you will hopefully feel less overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities.
Stress Management Activity #9 Art Therapy
Whether or not you excel at art, there are undeniable benefits that come from tapping into your creative side. It will take your mind off of the stressors you are facing, help you reach a near-meditative state, and allow for some self-care or downtime. There are so many mediums you can test out, from paint to colored pencils, chalk, graphite, and more. You can even start out with an art class before progressing into a style that is completely your own. Specifically, try drawing your feelings, creating a “dream journal”, or grabbing one of the many adult coloring books that are available.
While completely avoiding stress is near impossible, there are a number of ways to cope with it in a productive way. We hope at least one of the stress management activities we have mentioned will be right up your alley. However, let us know in the comments below if there is an activity we missed (or if you have a personal favorite)!