Stress can be defined as something that is under an uncomfortable amount of pressure. In this case, that something is a someone and it’s you! And you’re tired of it. But now what? What can you do to slow down this stress? The following have worked well for clients of mine:
Tip #1: Write down thoughts and feelings.
You might not be much of a writer or blogger but writing down bothersome thoughts and difficult feelings is literally getting them out of your head and onto paper. With practice, it can get easier. And soon, you’ll just think about your journal, as your thoughts and feelings alleviate.
Tip #2: Say no and yes intentionally.
I often see people say yes to things they absolutely don’t want to do. Your friends invite you to a movie, but you know you need to save your money for that last bill… but you also don’t want to tell them no and the stress hits the fan. Saying no gives you the opportunity to say yes to the things you can and want to do. Here’s a simple three-step model:
- Acknowledge what the person is asking by repeating it back to them. This tells them you are listening.
- Give a short explanation of why you are refusing their request. Try not to go into story mode, make it simple.
- Say the word “no.” Try to stay away from the wishy-washy words like well, maybe, um, perhaps, possibly, kinda, etc., as these words seem unsure, which could express to the requester that you are guilty and may want to say yes.
Remember, saying no allows yourself more time for what you’d really like to do.
Tip #3: Ask the golden question.
Many times when we’re put under stress, it’s very hard to ask ourselves what we can do to get out of this rut. With this in mind, a great question to ask yourself goes as follows: “What advice would I give someone in this same situation I am going through right now?” As it turns out, this separates the problem from yourself in strategic fashion. This divide may clear up cloudy thoughts because most people enjoy giving their two cents toward others’ issues, so why not pretend to give advice?
Tip #4: Ground yourself.
Yes, ground yourself, but not literally. For those whose stress levels spike instantly, grounding is a fantastic technique that can help you refocus on the present. Give this a try:
- Name 5 random objects around you that you can see.
- Name 4 things near you that you can touch.
- Name 3 things you can hear.
- Name 2 things you can smell.
- Name 1 thing you can taste.
Alternatively, grounding techniques can be extremely creative and customized. I’ve had the opportunity to use a stress-reducing grounding technique—let’s call it The Halo. Just imagine a glowing beam of light (e.g., a halo) over your head: close your eyes and slowly imagine it moving down your body all the way to your feet. Bring the halo back up your body and over your head again. This seems to alleviate any tension throughout the body.
Tip #5: Pamper yourself.
When is the last time you took yourself out on a date (and no, you aren’t really alone)? Hanging out with yourself by doing something that brings out the joy in you might be the self-care you, your mind, your spirit, your body, and soul need. Pampering yourself is telling all entities of your body that it’s time to relax, let go of what’s been bothering you, and saying yes to just being. Be intentional though! Don’t attend a birthday party because it was scheduled in the calendar and call that pampering yourself, that doesn’t count! Take a mental health day, call an old friend who lifts you up, take yourself out on a date, and see your favorite movie with a favorite drink, see stand-up comedy, give back to others, etc. There’s so much you can do to bring inner joy out, even when stress seems to be the main subject of your day.
Jacob Kountz is a Marriage and Family Therapist Trainee and Clinic Manager of a CSU in California. He has experience in family therapy training, parent-child relationships, couple therapy, and social skills for highly anxious clients, depressed clients, and disconnection between family members. Additionally, he runs a mental health blog.