Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Stress is an unavoidable, normal bodily reaction to the challenges of daily life. Stress is a sign that you are alive; that you are pushing yourself and have care and concern for the people and situations that surround you.
Stress becomes a problem when the amount and severity of stress exceeds your capacity to cope. Some signs that stress may be taking a negative toll on your body and mind include exhaustion, chest pain, headaches, muscle tension, excessive worry, panic attacks, hopelessness, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, sadness, or engaging excessively in unhealthy behaviors (i.e. drinking/drug use, shopping, overeating, sex, or gambling).
Stress in unavoidable. However, consistent practice of healthy coping skills can reduce the detrimental impact stress can have on your overall well-being. Here are five 5-minute stress busters; 5 simple things you can do in 5 minutes or less to reduce the negative impact of stress in your life.
Engage in 4 sets of jumping jacks for 45 seconds on, and 15 seconds of rest. Intense cardiovascular exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) while increasing the feel-good endorphins (dopamine and serotonin). Exercise also forces you to be fully engrossed the present moment, giving your mind a welcome reprieve from your current worries.
The breathing method known as the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique has been scientifically proven to regulate cortisol, which controls your body’s fight or flight response. Find a comfortable position, and set a timer for five minutes. If you can, close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. By doing so, you are teaching your body to counteract the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system that occurs during stressful situations, which will help you to feel calmer and more at ease.
Writing is extremely therapeutic. Writing down the often big, scary, and chaotic thoughts that accompany stress can result in these thoughts becoming more tangible and less frightening than they were when they only existed in your head. Once you can see the problem more clearly, the solution doesn’t seem so daunting and out of reach. Try writing try a stream of consciousness style of writing, in which you write what is causing you stress for 4 minutes. Next, reread your writing and sort out what you can versus what you cannot control of the what you have written down. Recommit to doing your best towards what is within your control, and crumple up the paper to symbolize letting go of the worries that are out of your control.
4. Be Mindful.
Mindfulness is defined as engaging in a set of practices that anchor you to the present moment. Most stress results not only from the events themselves, but the negative projections into the future about how overbearing or overwhelming the stressor will be once we experience it. Being mindful to stay in the present moment can help you to slow down and clear away unnecessary, self-induced stress. Many of our worries never actually come to fruition. Take five minutes to pay attention to the sights, smells, sounds, touches, and tastes that surround. Repeat the positive affirmation “You are where your feet are” in an effort to remind you that you don’t have to be ten steps ahead of yourself; all you need to be is right here, and right now.
Many of us are guilty of taking ourselves far too seriously. Luckily, we live an era where we have endless entertainment at our fingertips, so why not take advantage of it? Type in your internet search engine, “Funniest animal videos”, “funniest TV bloopers” or “funniest stand-up comedy clips,” and give yourself 5 minutes to watch and laugh. Laughing helps to relieve your body’s stress response, relieve tension by relaxing your muscles, enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart and lungs, and increases endorphin production. It’s no wonder that they say laughter is the best medicine.
Stress can be crippling, but it doesn’t have to be. Take preventative measures to manage your stress with these helpful techniques, and you will be able to cope effectively with whatever life throws your way.