16 Ways to Stop Stressing Out

Amanda Page | Nov 20, 2012

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Feeling tense? Maybe work, finances, relationships, the holidays, or simply your daily routine have you feeling overwhelmed. Extreme stress can make you feel like there is nothing you can do, but believe it or not, you have the power to get back on track to a low-stress life. Here are some strategies to stop stressing out once and for all.

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Admit your stress

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You aren’t a super hero. Admit when circumstances have got you down and change is needed  Moving forward is difficult unless you recognize the situation and make a commitment to help yourself through it. Be aware of the warning signs-feeling anxious, irritable, fatigued, and grumpy-and stop them in their tracks.

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Identify your triggers

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This should be simple. Figure out what is causing the stress–a co-worker, a financial commitment, uncertainty about the future? Make a list of what really makes you sweat. Putting it on paper will help you visualize what is hampering your mental and physical health.

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Take a look at your list of triggers and identify the things that can be changed as well as the things that can’t. Accept that some things are always going to be stressful. Then, attention can be focused on the things that can be changed, not on what can’t. Try focusing on what can be done to make the future less uncertain, such as acquiring skills, making friends and setting goals.

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Resolve conflicts

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Once the malleable triggers are identified, set goals and deadlines for resolving stressful conflicts. What is the best way to approach a difficult co-worker? When will there be time to tackle that daunting project? Start by limiting exposure to that stressor rather than going “cold turkey.” Resolution can be the toughest task, but it is also the most effective since it results in key stressors being erased from your life.

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Write it down

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Reflecting on the day’s events can identify stressors and can help put emotions in perspective. Before bed, make an effort to jot down what fueled your stress, how you felt emotionally and physically, how you handled the stress and how you can improve upon your reaction. Eventually this will help identify patterns and common themes and help you get better handle on stress.

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Let it out

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Bottling up emotions can lead to a complete meltdown from accumulated feelings of loneliness and helplessness. Instead of holding it all in, communicate any problems quickly and honestly. The sooner something is addressed, the easier it is to handle sensibly.

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Laugh a little

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Studies have shown that exposure to humor can result in enhanced happiness and and stress relief, partly because laughing reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Additionally, humor can help combat fear and frustrations by relaxing the whole body and comforting the mind. If humor is introduced into a stressful situation, the body and mind react differently.

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Get lost in literature

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Research shows that reading is great for your mental health and can reduce stress levels by up to 68 percent. This is because the human mind processes reading much like meditation–shutting out distractions, relaxing muscle and heart tension-and focusing attention towards one specific thing. Take some time to get lost in a book and experience this often overlooked form of stress relief.

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Practice time management

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Sometimes stress can be a product of poor time-management skills. Start by dissecting big projects into smaller tasks and assigning each task a deadline. This will help to visualize the end goal and avoid procrastination. Try utilizing these other strategies to boost productivity, such as synchronizing daily activities to meet the body’s natural time clock. Feeling in control of time can work wonders.

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Trek through nature

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Taking in the natural beauties of the world can reduce stress and improve physical health. Studies have shown that people who live close to a park or forest exhibit less anxiety and depression than those with limited access to nature. Nature can provide a peaceful soundtrack, beautiful scenery and fresh air to help soothe the soul. So lace up your shoes and go for a walk in the woods or the nearest park.

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Cuddle up with a pet

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Studies have shown that pet owners have greater self-esteem and are less lonely, less anxious, more physically fit and more extroverted. This likely has something to do with the fact that there’s no better listener than your pet and they love you unconditionally. Animals can help your brain decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol and ramp up production of serotonin, a hormone that helps you feel at ease.

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Get moving

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Not surprisingly, exercise improves your mood, releases stress, and eventually will likely boost your confidence. And it isn’t necessary to be overly ambitious. Just 30 minutes of exercise three times a week is enough to have a positive impact on your mood and your health.

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Say 'Om'

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Meditation has proven to be effective in promoting stress reduction, relaxation and productivity. While you will probably notice the short-term benefits of meditation, the gyrification process is enhanced as meditation is practiced over time, according to researchers at UCLA. Gyrification is the folding of brain tissue, which allows the brain to process information more efficiently.

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The effects of aromatherapy have long been debated, and while the physical healing properties of popular oils are believed to be ineffective, their aromas have been shown to have a positive impact on mood improvement. So, if you need a pick-me-up, you may want to incorporate some lemon or lavender into your day, whether it simply sipping tea with lemon or relaxing in the tub with lavender-scented bath oil.

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Jam out

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Studies have revealed that playing an instrument can actually reverse the signs of stress, improve memory, boost cognitive abilities, enhance reasoning skills, relieve depression and counteract the cognitive effects of aging. The benefits of music surpass just playing an instrument too; music therapy reduces stress and anxiety through listening to music, singing music and even writing music.

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Namaste the stress away

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Hitting the mat at least once a week for two years or more slows the release of cytokine, a stress-triggered protein which leads to bad moods and fatigue. Regular asanas also raise levels of the brain chemical GABA (low levels are linked to depression).