Stress often has a cyclical way of working: the more stressed you are, the less likely you are to feel like you can take a break for yourself. And as our digitally connected lives get more packed with deadlines and responsibilities, it can feel increasingly difficult to take care of ourselves.
But finding positive ways to manage stress is not just a luxury reserved for some; it’s a necessity for all. Whether stress comes roaring in, or creeps up when you least expect it, it can have all kinds of negative effects on your mind and body. Stress has been linked to everything from trouble sleeping to aches, pains, and a weakened immune system. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help your mind and body relax. What you can do:
- Stop and breathe: even simple breathing exercises can help relax the mind and ease tension in your body. There are various deep breathing techniques you can try. See what works best to steady your body and mind.
- Practice guided imagery meditation, which taps into your imagination to help relieve stress and pain. Kaiser Permanente offers several guided imagery podcasts that anyone can access online.
- Practice mindful meditation, which is a form of meditation that helps you to focus on the present moment.
- Try progressive muscle relaxation. This method of tensing and relaxing your muscles works in-step with your breathing to reduce tension.
- Take a walk or do something active that gets your body moving. Walks in nature are especially effective at centering us and reducing stress levels.
- Get a massage. Massage has many benefits to the mind and body, including increased relaxation and decreased tension.
- Increase your sleep. Sleep deprivation has been shown to make you less resilient when dealing with stressors.
No matter how you choose to deal with relieving stress, it’s also important to put in place systems that help reduce your level of stress in the first place. Whether that’s saying “no” to tasks you cannot take on, writing down your worries, or finding better ways to manage your time, a good place to start is by assessing your stress level. And while talking to friends and family can be an effective way of navigating stress, counselors and mental health professions are also invaluable resources in helping you find better balance.