We all experience stress sometimes a lot and sometimes not so much. Stress, your bodys reaction to change, can be related to positive changes like starting a new job or having a baby. But usually, when we talk about stress, we mean distress. This type of stress overwhelms your ability to cope and when its chronic or intense it can negatively affect your health, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.

Recognize the signs of stress

Stress, like many things, is easier to deal with when we catch it early. So, being aware of how stress shows up in your body and mind means you can use stress-relieving strategies before your stress gets out of control.

Common symptoms of stress include:

  • Irritability or anger
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal issues (stomach aches, constipation or diarrhea, etc.)
  • Insomnia or trouble staying asleep
  • Excessive worrying
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Grinding your teeth
  • Muscle tension (stiff/sore back and neck are common)
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Pessimistic thoughts
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling overwhelmed

You may also find it helpful to identify situations that you regularly find stressful (such as meeting with your boss) and behaviors that you engage in when youre stressed (such as overeating or biting your nails).

Ways to relieve stress in 10 minutes or less

Below, youll find a list of simple and quick ways to relieve stress. These are particularly helpful for acute stress and arent intended to be the solution to chronic or intense stress.

  1. Listen to your favorite music
  2. Get some fresh air
  3. Stretch or do some yoga poses
  4. Do a grounding exercise
  5. Disconnect from technology
  6. Talk to someone supportive
  7. Meditate
  8. Look at photos that make you smile
  9. Squeeze a stress ball
  10. Read for pleasure
  11. Walk, bike, or skateboard around the block
  12. Count to 10 slowly and repeat
  13. Dance
  14. Journal
  15. Write down 10 things youre grateful for
  16. Doodle, draw, color, or Zentangle
  17. Chew a piece of gum
  18. Watch a funny video on YouTube
  19. Punch a pillow
  20. Slow, deep breathing (I like the breathe bubble on the Calm app.)
  21. Read an inspirational quote
  22. Spend time with your pets
  23. Do 20 jumping jacks
  24. Do something nice for someone else
  25. Sit in the sun
  26. Visualize a safe, comforting place
  27. Pick some flowers (or pinecones or leaves or seashells or rocks)
  28. Give yourself a neck massage
  29. Take a shower
  30. Kick a soccer ball
  31. Diffuse essential oilsor use scented lotions or candles (Bergamot, lavender, and yuzu are a few to try.)
  32. Tend your garden; water and talk to your plants
  33. Hug a loved one
  34. Knit
  35. Savor a cup of decaffeinated tea or coffee
  36. Repeat a mantra
  37. Do a progressive relaxation exercise
  38. Make a list of your worries and identify which you can do something about

Make your own list of ways to relieve stress

When youre feeling stressed or anxious, it can be hard to think of effective, healthy coping strategies. Having a list of stress-relieving activities at hand can be very helpful. This way, youre ready whenever your stress level spikes.

I find it’s helpful to have a variety of stress management strategies. You will need to use different strategies when you are at work, school, or home. Sometimes you have more time and other times you are limited. And, of course, we have personal preferences and all find different strategies more or less helpful.

To get started, you can choose a few of your favorite ideas from the list above, write them down, and add or subtract ideas as you try them.

You can also print a PDF of my 38 ways to de-stress quickly and hang it on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. You want to have healthy coping strategies readily available, so you don’t have to think too much about it when stress is at hand. The more you practice them, the more automatic they will become.

This PDF is available as part of my free resource library. To access 30 free emotional wellness worksheets, tips, and articles, just sign-up HERE for my weekly updates and free resources.

2019 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved. Photo byYerlin MatuonUnsplash