Stress management techniques: fifteen easy ways to relieve stress starting now
Too much stress can adversely impact your quality of life. Learn how to relieve stress now by employing some of these fifteen stress reducing changes to your lifestyle. They should help you improve your ability to deal with pressure and become more emotionally resilient.
Stress is everywhere in modern day life. Whether it’s relationships, financial burdens, job security or long working hours, there’s few places us chaps can hide. Men are waking up stressed, rushing around stressed, trying to juggle their hectic lives stressed, and going to sleep stressed. Just to repeat it all again the next day.
Many men will not admit to suffering from stress – men like to pretend that they are unbreakable and don’t suffer from any problems.
The good news is that once you can admit that you suffer from stress, there are many things you can do to get the better of it. Here’s our top fifteen stress management techniques so that you know how to handle stress better.
1. Understand what is causing you to feel stressed
A great first step in beating stress is to understand what may be causing it in the first place.
Keep a diary of your stressors, that is anything that triggers a stress response. Look back at your experiences over the past few weeks and keep track of what happens every day going forwards. Record details such as the time, date, place, how you felt (e.g. angry, anxious, deflated) and how you reacted.
Over time you should notice patterns emerging which give you a better idea of your stress personality and triggers. This will give you a good idea of how to deal with your stressors in the future before you reach crisis mode. You may find it helpful to start with the stressors which are causing you the greatest levels of stress.
Although many stressful situations may be unavoidable or out of your control there are often things that can be done to make them more tolerable or you better prepared.
Unfortunately, there are somethings in life which you can’t change. The key here is to understand this, come to terms with it and move on by focusing your time and attention on other things.
2. Get organised
Getting yourself organised can help with stress by making you feel more in control and limiting the pressure you may feel.
Find a daily routine that works for you. Sticking to a routine will give you the discipline to get more things done as well as prioritise some of the more important things in your life such as family, friends or hobbies.
Some people like to get up early to give themselves time to meditate, work out and spend time with their family before they leave for work. Others may like to ensure they leave work on time every evening to go for a jog. There isn’t a right or wrong, but the key is finding something that works for you.
To Do List
Make a list of what tasks and activities you need to do, prioritising them in order of importance. The key is to write down a list of small achievable tasks and not try to take on too much at any point as this may exacerbate your stress. For example, if you want to find a new job, the first task could be to update your CV, the second to write a list of recruitment agencies and the third to contact recruitment agencies.
Take it one task at a time, taking things slowly, and giving yourself plenty of time to break.
3. Socialise better
Make time to socialise with your family and friends. This may help you feel more positive, less isolated and take your mind off the stressful things in your life. Try to surround yourself with genuine and positive people who care about you – they may also be able to suggest new ways to reduce stress.
Sit at a table, go for a walk together, cook together, eat a meal, question the meaning of life, reminisce, play board games – there’s certainly plenty of ways to socialise and many of these don’t require a drop of alcohol or much money. Try to do something that makes you laugh as a good chuckle here and there will help release endorphins that make it easier for you to relax.
Negative people are toxic so why let them exist in your life? Now I’m not telling you to disown your family necessarily but take a long hard look at your relationships with others and understand whether they are people you really should be spending so much of your time with. You may have to be selfish sometimes. Don't forget the quote, "you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with".
4. Speak out and seek support
Stress is not something you have to go through alone and it is certainly not a sign of weakness (contrary to the beliefs of some men).
There is no shame in telling your family and close friends what you are going through and what is causing you to feel stressed. They are likely to be understanding and happy to help you out too. Perhaps they have gone through something similar in the past so can give you some tips on how to handle stress. Talking about your problems often makes them appear less imposing and more manageable.
If you are getting stressed at work, it is often best to talk with your line manager, colleagues you feel close enough to trust or the HR Department. Many large places of work also have support systems in place. Your wellbeing at work is important and good employers should have an interest in looking after yours. Likewise, if you are still at university, reach out to your tutors, student union or close friends who you feel comfortable confiding with. All universities will have support services through which you can speak to someone directly.
If you feel that you need professional support, then you should also arrange to have an appointment with your GP. They can check your overall health and provide referrals to access further treatment or recommend stress leave off work if necessary.
5. Be assertive
The inability to say no is something that can result in you taking on more stress unnecessarily. Whether its in your personal life or at work, you must put yourself first and let others know when the tasks, actions or commitments they are expecting from you are unreasonable or unrealistic.
Learn to manage the expectations of others, as committing yourself to things you may not be able to fulfil is only going to end in everyone being left disappointed and you becoming even more stressed. Push back where necessary and understand that compromise may be the best option.
It is also useful to be direct and straightforward when saying no, so that it is clear to the person you are communicating with. A vague no may be construed as a yes or maybe which may not be your intention.
6. Meditate or practise breathing exercises daily
Meditation, breathing exercises and similar relaxation exercises are not just for women. They are great and effective ways to manage stress and take your mind off the hectic world. Better still, when we go through the trouble of focusing on our breathing it can have positive health impacts including less stress, less anxiety, better focus and better sleep. When you breathe more slowly, your parasympathetic nervous system is activated, kicking you into relaxation mode.
Meditation for stress is a great technique for focusing your mind on an object, thought or activity so that a mentally clear and emotionally calm state of mind can be achieved. A frequently used technique is as follows:
- sit down in a quiet room with your back upright, arms resting on your knees and feet flat on the floor.
- once ready, close your eyes and focus on your breathing, the in-breathes and out-breathes. Take it easy.
- totally immerse yourself on being focused on your breathing.
- whenever you feel yourself becoming distracted, turn your focus back to your breathing.
Start with two minutes once a day, perhaps when you wake up, and build up as you feel comfortable – perhaps up to two twenty-minute meditation sessions each day. You may find an app such as Headspace or Insight Timer useful. These both have some free guided meditations.
Breathing exercises can be great for when you feel stressed. Whenever you notice yourself getting stressed during the day, take a few seconds to focus on your breathing.
- breathe in for four seconds,
- hold your breath for four seconds
- breathe out for four seconds
You should find that this is a great relaxation exercise helping you calm down during stressful times.
7. Get your sleep
Most adults need around 7-8 hours of sleep however many of us do not achieve this. Sleep is an essential human function which helps us recharge our brains and bodies. A lack of sleep can adversely affect our stress levels and ability to cope with stress.
Lack of sleep makes us less patient, more agitated and more prone to stress. It can also cause other problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, weakened immunity and makes us more likely to cause accidents and make mistakes at work through cognitive impairment.
The good news is that there are some things which can be done to combat sleep deprivation. One way is prioritising sleep over other activities. Set a fixed time in your routine to fall asleep and give yourself an hour or so before then to wind down and prepare to fall asleep. This may involve turning off all digital devices and reading a good book and listening to some music. Many people find sleep masks or blackout curtains as well as ear plugs great for removing visual and audio distractions.
If you are concerned about your inability to sleep, insomnia or any other sleep related issue then you should go and see your GP who will be able to recommend the most appropriate treatment.
8. Give yourself time off
It is important to give yourself regular breaks from your hectic lifestyle and work.
After completing a chunk of work, a workout, or making a difficult decision, don’t begrudge yourself a little pat on the back as no one else is going to do this. Take five minutes off to pour a glass of water and chat to some colleagues, read a chapter of a book, or go on a walk through the park.
Give yourself the odd day off during the course of the year to relax, collect your thoughts and reset. Perhaps you could change the scenery and go down to the seaside, go for a hike, or see a friend who lives more than a short distance away. Such a reset down can also give you the chance to tackle the lengthy list of smaller tasks and activities which you have kept delaying.
Take your holidays, making sure that you have a change of scenery. This will help you take your mind off work and hectic life and give you the ability to recharge and be better able to face up to stress. When going on holiday tell your boss that you will not be answering or responding to calls or emails, then switch off your phone and toss it in a drawer.
9. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise has many positive health effects and will help you release chemicals called endorphins into your brain. These hormones help buffer your body’s stress response hormones and trigger a positive feeling in your body. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress. It should reduce the intensity of your emotions and feelings, helping to clear your thoughts, and making it easier to sleep.
One of the great things about exercise is that there are so many ways in which it can be done. You can join a spin class at the gym, swim in the sea, play football with your mates, or go one a brisk walk through the park.
10. Eat healthily and take stress relief supplements
If you are feeling stressed it is likely that your digestive system is getting strained. This can lead to appetite fluctuations and digestive problems. Eating a healthy balanced diet gives your body a solid foundation to protect and fight against the impact of stress by reducing oxidation and inflammation.
Stress causes many key vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B's, magnesium and zinc to become depleted. A good stress relief supplement can boost the essential vitamins and minerals that are required to keep your body functioning normally and help your body fight stress.
Make sure you get plenty of foods that are high in nutrients such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, cereals and wholegrains. High nutrient foods help keep your blood sugar levels stable and your metabolism functioning smoothly.
During stressful times many of us resort to comfort foods such as pizza, ice cream and beer. Ironically these foods are high in fats and sugars which are generally bad for us. Sugar is high in calories, which increases the risk of obesity and associated chronic diseases such as diabetes. The blood sugar swings and inflammation it causes are also linked to depression.
Avoid foods high in fats and processed foods as these are also linked to depression and other stress related illnesses. Processed foods contain high-levels of hydrogenated or oxidised fats which can restrict production of fats essential for protecting your cell membranes and nerves.
Finally, avoid caffeinated drinks as they act as stimulants and release more stress response hormones such as cortisol. Also avoid nicotine and alcohol.
11. Listen to music
It’s time to invigorate your sense of hearing. At least a couple times a week, shut yourself in a quiet room, put your headphones or speakers on, close your eyes and play 20 minutes of your favourite music.
Focus on listening to your music mindfully, immersing yourself fully, and trying not to let yourself get distracted or fall asleep. This should allow you to get your mind off your other troubles and focus on something you love! In the process, your sense of threat or being under attack should be lowered, helping to normalise your cortisol levels.
12. Keep a gratitude journal
It’s easy to forget the good things in life and be focused on the negative. A gratitude journal will enable you to recall the positive and wonderful things in your daily life, giving you a greater appreciation.
A common way to keep a gratitude journal is to keep a diary on your bedside table and write three things - no matter how large or small - you are grateful for every night before you fall asleep. Studies have shown that such an exercise increases satisfaction levels, enhances mood and lowers levels of low mood and depression.
13. Turn off your phone and other screens
Do you find yourself staring at screens for no apparent reason? If so, you could be one of the millions of people who suffer from screen addiction.
It’s hard to go very far in your day without being confronted with a screen. Smartphones, work phones, laptops, adverts, tablets, self checkouts and the list goes on. Screens are simply everywhere! And it seems like most of us can’t get enough. A recent study showed that the average smartphone user touches their phone 2,617 times per day! With emails, calls, texts, WhatsApp and social media, no wonder many of us feel as though we are under a constant barrage of communication making it hard to switch off and chill out.
Humankind are social creatures and crave social validation from our peers. Approval makes us feel worthy and so we continuously set out to seek it. When we see a Facebook post of old friends appearing to have the time of their lives, we may start to question why our own life is not as great. This may make us feel inadequate, stressed and depressed.
Two commonly used first steps in overcoming screen addiction is a screen free hour every night before you go to sleep and a screen free day every week.
Screen free hour
One hour before you intend to go to sleep turn your mobile off or into night mode and turn all other screens off around the home including tablets and televisions. Use this hour to allow your body to wind down: listen to some music, read a book, play a board game, talk to your family or write your gratitude journal.
Screen free day
Choose one day of the week, perhaps a Saturday or Sunday and turn off all your screens. It may sound daunting at first, but use this time to reacquaint yourself with people and the great outdoors. Many people have reported health benefits including feeling less stressed and anxious by having the chance to switch off from technology.
14. Be mindful
Humans are born mindful. However, in this modern world we are quickly forgetting this skill as we grow older. Being mindful is essentially being attentive and present in whatever you are doing. It allows you to take your attention off ruminating, and other distractions in your daily life. Similarly to meditation, the benefits include less stress, less anxiety, better focus and better sleep.
So next time you are cooking a meal, enjoying dinner with a friend or walking to work, make sure that you are being attentive and present. Use and pay attention to all your senses, focusing on how they make you react. Bring back your attention whenever you get distracted.
15. Learn something new
A great way to reinvigorate your mind is to learn something new. There are countless things you can learn or even relearn. Here are some ideas:
- learn Italian
- take up a paragliding
- learn how to play the piano
- learn how to grow vegetables
- learn how to paint impressionist paintings
- learn how to cook Thai food
- take a greater interest in science, philosophy or history
There’s really so much you can choose from.
Learning something new is likely to be fun, develop your creativity and after some commitment give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. This should help boost your self-esteem. It may also give you the opportunity to socialise, make new friendships, and give you a new perspective on life. Learning something new is often linked to increased happiness and improved wellbeing.
Don’t worry if you don’t like the first new thing you choose to learn. You can either stick it out for a bit and see whether it improves or alternatively try something completely different.
So there we have it, fifteen proven ways to relieve stress naturally. Although I wouldn’t necessarily advocate implementing all of these at once - as this may prove overwhelming - you may find it useful to choose the techniques which are more suited to your circumstances.
On the whole, they are all based around leading a healthier and more balanced lifestyle, which lays strong foundations for you to manage your stress levels. If you want that little bit extra to make sure you are covering all your corners especially when it comes to diet then you can consider trying out our stress relief supplement.
It may also be possible to find yourself benefiting from a virtuous cycle as some of the stress relief methods mentioned above help with others – for instance exercising helps to improve your sleep which helps your ability to get organised. This effect can play a big part in lessening the health risks of stress and how stress affects your body.
This article was created for informational purposes only and does not necessarily represent the views of For Chaps Ltd. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.