Experiencing stress is inevitable at any point in our lives. With the evolving COVID-19 situation, fear and anxiety about the future could cause overwhelming emotions in adults and children. Social distancing measures, albeit necessary, can also evoke feelings of loneliness which might further increase stress.
It’s important to handle stress proactively to minimise its impact and prevent anything from spiralling out from control. If not managed or kept on track, high stress levels over time can negatively impact your health, such as risk of anxiety and depression and high blood pressure. If you’re currently going through a rough time or know someone who is, here are some therapist-approved stress reduction techniques to employ.
Journaling, a tried and true practice for many therapists, is a simple yet powerful tool that reveals your internal thoughts and worries. Not just that, it helps create order when you feel like your world is in chaos. According to professionals from the University of Rochester Medical Center, not only does journaling help you prioritise your problems and fears, it also tracks day-to-day symptoms so you can recognise triggers and learn ways to better control them. Maybe you’ve been stressed over work, but could there be other larger factors at hand, such as demanding perfection from yourself? Journaling provides the opportunity to gain greater insight into your thoughts so you can work on a plan and reduce your stress.
Have a daily ritual
Do your days tend to get overwhelming? Try to work with a schedule, and fit in intervals throughout the day where you can pause and get some me-time. “Take five seconds to pause before you get out of the bed, before you get in the shower, get to work or go on your next task,” says clinical social worker Jihan Madyun, LICSW, in an interview with Bustle. She recommends taking that time to do some gentle breathing, or think about what’s gone well for the day. “Make this a regular daily habit, and your feelings won’t feel so scary.”
Practice the 4 A’s of stress management
Stress can hit us anytime and anywhere, whether it’s at a meeting with your boss or dealing with difficult family situations. In such instances, you can either change the situation or your reaction. Regardless of what you choose, it’s helpful to keep in mind the four A’s: avoid, alter, adapt, and accept. Avoid unnecessary stress by learning how to say no; alter the situation by changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life; adapt to the stressor by reframing problems; and accept the things you can’t change.
Try breathing exercises
When you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, the first thing you need to do is breathe — better yet if you employ breathing techniques. Try the diaphragmatic breathing technique, which uses patterns of deep, regular breathing from the diaphragm, and is found to reduce stress and muscle tension. Psychologist Shiri Sadeh-Sharvit, Ph.D, recommends practicing two to three times a day for three to five minutes each time. The 4-7-8 breathing technique (also known as rhythmic breathing) is also another effective method to employ — focus on breathing in quietly through the nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale forcefully through the mouth for eight seconds. Remember to take your time.
Spend time in nature
Spending time in nature has great therapeutic effects. A 2019 study show that taking at least 20 minutes out of your day to stroll or sit in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature will significantly lower your stress hormone levels. By being in the outdoors, many discuss feeling a greater sense of peace and less rumination. So the next time you procrastinate on going on that walk — don’t.
Talk to someone
It’s important to get help and support from others, as humans are social creatures. “Having a heart-to-heart conversation with a family member can diminish your stress. Not only that, the other person will provide important perspective, instrumental support and emotional feedback,” Sadeh-Sharvit tells Bustle. If you’re not comfortable confiding with your family, a friend or therapist is just as good. Some social time can also provide immense benefit as spending time with people who care can help you feel better. So make it a point to connect regularly with family and friends.