11 Practical Ways to Combat Stress
Because of the different symptoms attached to stress we rarely realize how stressed out we really are. Many illnesses are linked to, or at the very least, are aggravated by stress. It can affect us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
I read on Wikipedia that “Humans experience stress, or perceive things as threatening, when they do not believe that their resources for coping with obstacles (stimuli, people, situations, etc.) are enough for what the circumstances demand. When we think the demands being placed on us exceed our ability to cope, we then perceive stress.”
And Stress.org states that, “The focus in recent years has been on preventing such problems, which makes more sense. This involves identifying the sources of stress in your life and finding ways to avoid them or reduce their impact.” Hence, why it was necessary for me to create this post.
As I was lead to share with you practical ways to combat stress for April’s Stress Awareness Month (I know I’m late), I was reminded of the many ways I’ve learned to manage my stress. All the things you’re about to read I’ve had to grasp during the past three years. Between getting married, moving in with my husband, us moving to Hawaii (5,000 miles away from fam & friends), being new to military life, the climate making my allergies rage, and having a predisposition to depression…the list goes on. Basically a variety of things played a part, and adjustment after attempted adjustment, they caused me to have a serious mental breakdown. No lie! I finally had to seek help and combat the stress that had flared up in my life.
I love the Pinterest graphic that says “choose joy daily”. I have to constantly remind myself not to let it (whatever IT is) steal my joy. It has been a challenge to find what works for me and I’m constantly trying new ways that will lead to solutions. Through trial and error I learned what was and what wasn’t working. That is why I created these 11 practical ways to combat stress containing some tips and tricks to help you manage your stress.
First, make sure it isn’t health related. You might think your job, environment, or relationships are causing you stress but the root can be something going on with your body, physically or mentally. Prior to a visit with your doctor to explain your symptoms, make a list of everything you’re experiencing so you don’t forget anything. The more symptoms the doc is aware of, the better he/she can help you. Along with symptoms, check out this list of life events that can contribute to your stress.
Secondly, plan ahead. Have a stress relief routine you can always count on to help you through those rough days. Even if it’s something health or life related, you can manage the stress by using my tips below.
The #1 way to combat stress relief is through prayer. Prayer is very important for managing your day-to-day life. It helps you release everything that is weighing you down while bonding with God in a refreshing way. The best times to pray are in the morning and at night. The morning helps set the tone for your day and at night before bed helps you put out any of the day’s burdens.
When you form a habit of praying regularly, you no longer allow negative things to take root in your mind. Even if your stressors aren’t eliminated you can count on prayer to give you a fresh perspective on the circumstance.
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7 MSG)
I hate working out. It’s something I constantly feel guilty about. That’s because I know it’s one of the top ways to stay healthy and combat stress; be it physically, emotionally, or mentally. Think about what your needs are, diet wise and routine wise, then create a plan. For some it might be Pilates and stretching and for others it will be high intensity. A nice run will do wonders! No matter how much I fight it, after I go running or jogging I always feel great after.
This is definitely an area I need to get better at! I am nothing close to an expert so I’ll suggest you seek out a trainer, a gym, or an online accredited resource to get your fitness on track. I will say, there are some great apps worth looking into like 7 Minute Workout, Best Bust, Brazilian Butt, and Amazing Abs.
Go for a walk
If you’re not ready to take on a strenuous fitness routine, another great way to remediate your stress is by going for a leisurely walk. I never realized how relaxing walks can be until I began dealing with my mental health. Anytime I felt anxiety rise up or I found myself under immense stress I found solace by walking a botanical garden in the North Shore of Oahu. I went there to breathe.
Nature has a way of redirecting your focus off the small details of life (although I don’t think any detail is too small) and focusing on God’s everlasting beauty. A dose of oxygen and Vitamin D doesn’t hurt either!
Find a beautiful, peaceful place you can take short or long walks. Commit to a certain amount of time each week or certain days as a way to get ahead of your stress. But know that when you feel the surge of tension, a simple walk can help ease the pressure. Just make sure you don’t spend your entire walk thinking about everything that is wrong. Focus on the wonderful around you and the positive in your life.
Sometimes you need a pep in your step as you’re getting ready for your day and other times you just need music that will uplift your mood. It might be to zone in and relax or to zone in and get energized. When you sense the stress mounting and your worries piling up, have a list of tunes you can count on. You know what gets you in a good mood, you know the tunes that lift your spirits up. Stay plugged in!
I don’t listen to music as much as I think most people do, however I have certain go to tunes that lifts my spirit up. My favorite apps to use are Pandora, iHeartRadio, and iTunes. I love to listen to Christian music; I alternate between Rap (Lecrae), R&B (Mary Mary), Jazz (Kirk Whalum), Gospel (Hezekiah Walker), Contemporary (Hillsong United), and Worship (Laura Story, Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger, Lauren Daigle, or Kari Jobe). I also like to listen to 80s music, 90s R&B (can you say Total Radio?), Maze & Frankie Beverly, Clean Bandit Radio, and Telepopmusik Radio. On rare occasions I listen to Country music or Rock (Kings of Leon Radio). Just some suggestions if you happen to share my taste or are looking for something new. 🙂
If like me you often find yourself trapped in your thoughts then I highly suggest you get into the habit of journaling. While writing can be hard for some, it helps release stress. Writing your thoughts and feelings down can prove to be therapeutic. There are different ways to journal depending on what you’re going through. I alternate between writing a prayer, a praise, a complaint(s), a dream, an aspiration, a struggle, or a recap of my day.
Invest in a pretty journal if it helps or a pocketbook size journal so you can write at work or on the go. I suggest manually writing, but if you’re more comfortable typing in your computer that will work too. Date and time your entries so you can go back to them and gain insight. It will either hep you connect dots or fill you with gratitude. If you have a hard time expressing yourself it might feel difficult at first but keep at it, you’ll surely reap the benefits.
Scents of Smell
A huge stress relief for myself and my husband are scents. I usually end up glued to the candle aisle at the store because I’m so busy smelling everything! I can’t get enough of plug-ins, candles, air freshener sprays, and my recent fave–essential oils! On most days I use my diffuser with oils specific to my needs. It’s especially useful when I’m stressed out. One of my fave companies, Eden’s Garden, has an essential oil blend called Stress Relief. It contains a synergy of Bergamot, Blood Orange, Grapefruit, Patchouli, and Ylang-Ylang oils. I will start blogging more about how oils have been helpful for me and the different DIY recipes I use.
Figure out what works for you and use it to your advantage. For me I love when my home smells like cinnamon so anything with those ingredients makes me feel at home and instantly calms me. Pay attention to how your sense of smell plays a role in soothing and calming you. For instance, think of a spa. The moment you walk through the doors you are welcomed by the scent of tranquility. But it doesn’t have to end there. From your beauty, hair, and body products to your home environment—each scent can work for your benefit.
There are times when you just need to hang out with a good friend to chat with her and seek wisdom concerning your problems. Pray together, cry together, and laugh together. Make sure you go to someone that keeps it real, yet offers much compassion. You want a healthy point of view without judgment.
Sometimes you might not even want to be around other people but I encourage you to at least get up with one of your closest friends. When it’s all said and done you will feel much better.
If you’re having an extremely difficult time finding stress relief it might be time for some counseling/therapy. I suggest seeing a psychologist first so they can evaluate you and provide you with tools as well as possibly refer you to help groups. A lot of churches offer one on one counseling and there are tons of Christian psychologists to choose from.
Don’t knock it ’til you try it. I avoided seeking this type of help for many years. I didn’t believe it would be of benefit, but I was so wrong. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life. I wish I had gone sooner. I recently stopped my treatment seeing that I’m in a great place and moving soon, but I feel comfortable now knowing that it’s in my best interest to get the help. Not only can you gain a load of wisdom from talking to an expert, you also learn the signs to look for when you are spiraling out of control.
Take this stress test by Mental Health America. It’s not a diagnosis but a look into what you might be dealing with and how serious it might be (this stress test is not to be confused with the test that monitors your heart’s stress).
Reading is my absolute favorite! I love to read autobiographies and Christian books. I’m inclined to autobiographies because they give me a different perspective on an individual and their life. Usually their story is either inspiring or so tragic that I swell up with gratitude.
The bible and Christian books are super nurturing to your spiritual life and are helpful in realigning your way of thinking. Stress is often made worse by your thoughts. Reading a Christian book will remind you to look at the world and your problems through God’s eyes. It is a resource to the Source of peace and tranquility.
If you don’t like reading try videos or audio books. Your preferred genre might differ from mine, but always remember to choose a tool that is life giving. There are so many books and videos that will aggravate your stress problem. If you want to know what I mean, check my Why Fifty Shades of Grey is Bad for You! video post.
Honestly, I’ve felt just as good from a facial as I did from a massage. Same thing goes for when I get a reflexology mani/pedi (my favorite!). A reflexology service is when pressure is applied to certain points in your body that help with your bodily organs and health concerns. A massage, a facial, a mani or a pedi can all help ease your tension.
A great way to treat yourself is with Groupon deals! They offer discounted local massages, facials, and other services. Not only will you save money and feel relief, you’ll come out of there looking rejuvenated!
Alternatively, you can create your own spa at home with products like a handheld massager and a foot soak. Also try visits to a chiropractor or acupuncturist. I’ve heard excellent reviews from family and friends for both services.
Soak in a Bath
I used to hate taking baths. I’ve always preferred showers and it wasn’t until this past year that I’ve embraced taking baths. A lot of the credit goes to Lush because I look forward to relaxing in their awesome bubble bars and bath bombs. I now use bathtime as my own personal spa night. I turn on my diffuser with oils, I light candles, I use a bubble bar or bath bomb (containing oils specific to my concerns), I read a book, and I play soothing music.
I always use the beginning of my bath to read a book that is going to put me in the right mindset, whether it’s to relax or to get inspired. My favorite Pandora stations to listen to during my bath are Seal, Sade, Kem, Billie Holiday, Total, and Walter Beasley.
It’s important for you to be intentional during your bathtime. Focus on things that bring you joy, anything positive that has happened to you lately, or if you can’t come up with anything–visualize it! 🙂 When any ill thoughts come to mind, cast them away immediately. Look at bathtime as a way to treat yourself to the stress relief you deserve and as a way for you to show love to yourself. Cleanse yourself of all that is stressful, and bathe yourself in all that is peaceful and loving.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (Philippians 4:8-9 MSG)
Bonus Tip: Breathe! When you feel the stress mount, take a couple of minutes to take deep breaths. Inhale, Exhale, Repeat. It’s extremely helpful when applied to any of the 11 Practical Tips above.
Do you currently use any of these tips to combat your stress? In what other ways do you ease your stress? Please share your tips, tricks, and insight by leaving a comment below!