Three Ways to Lower Stress

By Amy Hayden, WebMD Health Coach

Believe it or not, some stress is good for us. It keeps us motivated to do what we need to provide us food and shelter. However, too much can wear us out and if chronic, it can be detrimental to our mental and physical well-being. So, finding ways to keep stress in check is important.

Here are three ways do this:

1. Develop a daily routine
Many things can contribute to better stress resilience or a lower sense of stress. Try some of these things that can become valuable and positive parts of your everyday life:

  • Meditation trains the brain and body to relax and focus on the present instead of all the “chatter” in our heads. Even five minutes a day can be helpful. Check out Health Coach Todd Gulizia’s post on mindfulness for tips on this.
  • Yoga builds muscle and improves balance, mental focus, breath capacity, flexibility and centeredness amidst the comings and goings of the world.
  • The movements of tai chi use both sides of the brain by moving energy in one direction with one hand and another direction with the other. This facilitates a focus on the present moment, breath awareness and balance.
  • Qigong uses symmetrical movements and breath to increase energy or to relax, balancing the mind and body.
  •  Virtually any type of exercise can reduce mental, emotional and physical stress. It also releases positive brain chemicals that can boost moods and, of course, burns calories for a balanced weight.

2. Slow it down
We live in a fast-paced world. Instead of letting yourself get caught up in trying to keep up, seek ways to slow down.

  • Eat mindfully by paying attention to every bite. Having a little reverence for where the food has come from and how it is nourishing your body by chewing longer can help you recognize you’re full before you’ve overeaten.
  • Focus on breathing slower and through your nose instead of relying on shorter, shallower mouth breaths. This tells your brain all is well and it’s safe to relax in the moment. Breath awareness can help us make better decisions, react more positively to stressors and better differentiate between states of stress and relaxation.
  • Drive slower whether on short or long trips and you’re likely to feel less angst when that inevitable slowdown in traffic occurs. You might even want to find opportunities to let another car go in front of you instead of pushing to keep your spot in the traffic line.

3. Get social
Everyone needs to connect with other people and have a little fun as well. Make a conscious effort to do this whether it be a picnic in the park, game night, a movie or a walk around the neighborhood or on a local trail. Be sure also to balance your social time between friends and families—it’s good to have time away from a spouse, partner or kids as well.

In the end, finding ways to lower and better manage stress is about taking care of yourself. And, that’s helpful for balancing different parts of your life so you can be your best for each one of them.

You deserve to be able to stop and eat a meal, exercise or take a mental break. We’re instructed to put the mask on ourselves first on a plane in case of emergency so it only makes sense to do this in other areas of our lives as well.

If you were to make one change to improve your self-care, what would it be?

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Amy Hayden, WebMD Health Coach
Education & Certifications

Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
Master of Science in Health Promotion Management
Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)
ACE Certified Health Coach
ACE Behavior Change Specialist
ACE Weight Management Specialist
UMASS Basic Skills for Working with Smokers