Stress is a reality for all of us. But it doesn’t have to lead to overwhelm. There are many ways to reduce the amount of stress in your life — and to revise how you react to it.
Below, four clinicians share their best tips for shrinking stress and anxiety.
1. Exercise. “Do anything that allows energy to be expressed,” said Ryan Howes, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist in Pasadena, California. He suggested everything from walking to running to lifting to playing dodge ball.
2. Write down your worries. “Moving your worries from your head to paper is a great stress reducer,” Howes said. “Part of the stress is worrying that you’ll forget what you’re worried about.” Writing it out helps you forget momentarily, he said. It also can improve your sleep, he added.
3. Sit with the anxiety. Sometimes the best approach is to stop fighting and feel the anxiety – if the angst is mild to moderate, Howes said. Breathe, and simply say to yourself, “This is anxiety that I am feeling,” said Christina G. Hibbert, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and expert in postpartum mental health.
“When you allow yourself to feel the anxiety without resistance, you may find it’s not as intolerable as you think, and you may even learn more about the root of your anxiety,” Howes said. Hibbert also encouraged readers to remember that anxiety is just another emotion. “[It is] not who you are and certainly not determinant of who you will be today.”
4. Remember that there are no problems, only situations. How we perceive situations turns them into problems, Hibbert said. “We can choose to turn our ‘situations’ into ‘problems’ or we can learn to see them as something else — life experiences, lessons, or perhaps a time to practice our best coping skills,” she said. “Changing your views about your life situations allows you to determine just how much ‘stress’ you allow into your life.”
5. Focus on the here and now. Stress typically strikes when we’re stuck in the past or fretting about the future, Hibbert said. She suggested the following strategies to focus on the present: