Stress Management 101 – Strategies & Techniques to Reduce Stress

On the first Stress Management 101 session, we put together an overview on stress management to give you a better understanding on what stress exactly is. In this article, we're going to introduce some highly effective stress relief techniques that you can practice and use, starting now!

For many of us, relaxation means lying in bed and browsing Instagram posts at the end of a stressful day. While it gives us some peaceful moments, it does little to reduce the damaging effects of stress. To effectively combat stress, we recommend a combination of short-term stress relievers that help you calm down when things heat up, and long-term ongoing habits that reduce stress before it begins to feel overwhelming.

Short-Term Stress Relief Techniques

Short-term stress relief techniques are the things you can do to feel calmer in the middle of a bad situation or a problem. When your body's stress response is triggered with the "OMG" situations, you can reverse it with the below quick relaxation techniques. 

1. Count your breaths

A basic starting point is to find a place to sit that is comfortable and begin to relax and breathe deeply via your abdomen, at the same time counting with each breath. Count "one" as you inhale and "two" as you exhale. Then "three" on your next inhalation, and so forth.

This can help you focus on the present moment, rather than your busy endless thoughts. It also helps to slow down your heart rate and relieve muscle tension.

2. Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a 3 - 5 minutes process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body. With regular practice, it gives you an intimate familiarity with what tension and relaxation feel like in different parts of the body. This can help you to you react to the first signs of the muscular tension that accompanies stress. And as your body relaxes, so will your mind.

1). Get comfortable in a quiet place. Take a few minutes to breathe in and out in slow, deep breaths.
2). When you’re ready, shift your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels.
3). Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.
4). Relax your foot. Focus on the tension flowing away and how your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.
5). Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing naturally and slowly.
6). Shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.
7). Move slowly up through your body, from your feet to your calves, thighs, hip, abdomen, hands, chest, shoulders, all the way to your head. 

It may take some practice at first, but it can be done at virtually any time or place once you are familiar with it!

3. Aromatherapy

Studies show that certain types of aromatherapy can be effective for stress relief, the most popular scents are rosemary, lavender, peppermint and lemon.

Once you have the aromatherapy going, it's passive stress relief--you don't have to do anything except go about your regular activities as you normally would!

If you often face stressful situations at work, the best way to have aromatherapy stress relief is an essential oil roller, or a room spray. A lavender oil roll-on or the smell of a peppermint room spray can do wonders to help you unwind from tough moments.

4. Take a walk

Even a short one of 5 minutes will help! A walk means a change of scenery and a little exercise at the same time. Getting your body moving and shifting your focus can give you a quick boost in mood and an opportunity to get into a new frame of mind.

Long-Term Stress Relief Habits

Having long term habits to combat stress is vital, as it does wonders for your well-being and health in general. Forming healthy habits is always a great way to reduce stress and feel a lot more balanced and grounded. Try adapting to a new habit for a week and see how you feel; it can make drastic changes to your life.

1. Meditation

Meditation is the most useful technique to reducing stress almost straight away but for long lasting effects and further clarity, calmness and happiness, you would need to aim to mediate most often, this could be twice a week or every day, but getting started is the main thing and keeping it up to feel all the effects. 

Check out our Meditation 101 session here, to enjoy the healing effects of meditation!

2. Exercise

You know exercise is good for your body, but you may forget that exercise is healthy for your stress levels as well!

When frustrating situations build up, you can feel stressed out or experience different levels of anger. Exercise provides an effective release of these negative emotions, turning the negative emotions into motivation for increased health and well-being.

Also, exercise decreases the "stress hormones" like cortisol, and increase endorphins - your body's "feel-good" chemicals, giving your mood a natural boost.

3. Self-care

Looking after yourself is mandatory and has a lot to do with reducing stress. The act of small tasks that lead to self-care can dramatically improve your life quality in the long term. 

Practicing self-care in the form of getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, forming a morning ritual, and staying away from things that aren't good for your body. You may not feel the power of these small habits in the beginning, but they do help you stay healthier and happier if you make them stick for more than one month.

How to Practice Emotion-Focused Coping

Emotion-focused coping is the techniques to reduce your negative emotions when you are dealing with stress. 

1. Journaling

Start by journaling for 5 - 15 minutes.

You can write down the negative emotions you are experiencing as a way to process them and let them go. You can then write about positive emotions as a way to shift your attention. You can also keep a gratitude journal - record the things that get into a better mood, for the next time you need it. 

2. Reach out

It is important to talk to people you trust, such as your friends, family, partner or even a support group which will make a difference to how you feel in the long run. For many people, nothing beats a patient ear and a shoulder to lean on when the going gets tough. Just the act of telling a supportive friend about what's really stressing you can make problems seem more manageable, and can make you feel less alone in dealing with them.

3. Focused Meditation

Certain types of meditation can help you focus on the good things you have in life and gradually become more positive and optimistic for life changes. 

Solution-focused Coping is Essential

Solution-focused Copying is to find the very problems/reasons that are causing the stress in the first place. For example, if you are stressed out by living up to different people's expectations, one of the solution-focused coping strategies can be creating boundaries.

Solution-focused Coping directly attacks the stressors you face while indirectly helps you lower your negative emotions, hereby it's an essential strategy in stress management. 

A Word from Zenkle

Stress and anxiety are common experiences for most people. Embracing whatever it is you're going through is the first step of letting it go.

It's always easier said than done. It's not difficult to learn the basics of these stress management techniques, but it takes regular practice to truly harness their benefits. With some useful strategies, patience and practices, stress can definitely be manageable!