We can’t always avoid stress.
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to stay away from frustration, we can’t entirely prevent things from getting to us.
We don’t necessarily have to be the ones causing the stress or directly be involved in it; various arbitrary events could stress us out, like traffic, a flight delay, or receiving unexpected news.
When such startling situations occur, our bodies instantly react before we can take the time to think about what happened—our hearts start pounding, or we start shaking a leg. Our bodies immediately reveal that something has considerably affected us.
When our bodies send out these signals, we may not be able to swiftly eliminate the symptoms—but we can be aware of their presence and find ways to cope with them.
Stress is one the leading causes of death and heart disease in the world. Oftentimes, we regard it lightly because it seems unbelievable that a few minutes of stress or frustration could have long-term effects on our health. However, the truth is that if we don’t control our stress, then it will control us.
There are many ways to avoid stress. However, I would like to discuss the things we can do when stress catches us off guard. Wherever we are and no matter what we are doing, we can always find accessible ways (that actually work) that can reduce the intensity of our stress.
Whether you are at work, home, on vacation, or with friends, the following techniques require no more than five minutes, and they can help regulate your body and state of mind.
Writing about what is stressing us out can help us cope with tension better. You can carry a small notebook with you in your bag, or you can simply access the notepad on your phone. No professionalism needed here. Simply write what you are feeling and thinking at the moment as if no one is ever going to read your words. You can write about the incident that has caused you frustration or what you think should have happened (you don’t even have to save the document or keep the paper).
Writing saves us the time of going through the situation in our heads over and over again. If anyone checked the notepad on my phone, they’d think I’m not right in the head—I often pour gibberish onto the pad and just vent. There’s a chance I might not even remember or understand what I wrote, but the truth is that it makes me feel better at the time.
When we write, we separate ourselves for a few moments from the situation; hence, we stop identifying with it. We might find an easier solution later if we read through what we wrote, and we may see things from another perspective—or simply feel better.
Reconnect to your body.
Focusing on anything that has to do with your body is enough to alleviate any tension you might feel. Since the symptoms of stress are present in the body, we need to regulate them from the inside out.
If you’re at home, you could exercise, go for a run, or do yoga until your body calms down. Most importantly, always remember to relax your body when you’re angry. Bring your attention to your face muscles, and check where you’re tense. You might be grinding your teeth, frowning, or glaring in the distance.
Then, go down to your shoulders, hands, and legs. Are you shaking? Are your shoulders tight? Relax your muscles, and bring attention to your breath. Place your hands on your abdomen and breathe, while making you’re sure it’s inflating on every inhale. This type of breathing reduces the symptoms of stress since it boosts the oxygen in our bodies.
Change your current location.
How many times have you caught yourself thinking, “Ugh, I’m so angry—I just want to leave right now…”? Yes, do leave. This is a simple, yet beneficial way to instantly de-stress. In moments of anxiety, change your location (five minutes are more than enough). Moving away from the place where the stress took place changes our state of mind.
Getting fresh air or changing the scenery clears out one’s head. If you are working in an office, take a five-minute break, go for a quick walk, or even just go to the bathroom. If there’s nature around you, walk among trees, go down to the beach, or try to focus on the birds singing or flapping their wings. The color green is calming, so always try to connect to nature wherever you are. Even if we are indoors, we can open a window and watch the sky, the sun, the clouds, or the stars.
Bonus: “5 Mindful Things to do Each Morning.”
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Unsplash/Imani Clovis
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Callie Rushton