5 Effective Strategies for Reducing Stress This Year

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If you’re seeking a way to feel more relaxed in the new year, perhaps you’re interested in exploring alternative practices beyond the typical suggestions of exercise and sleep. Five additional techniques CNN explored this year could bring some variety to your stress-management toolbox.

Chronic stress levels have been linked to a variety of health issues, including depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure, according to wellness expert Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Stress is a normal response to high-stakes or unexpected situations.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Karmel Choi, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, stated via email that stress can also manifest as “frustration or anger,” which can have an effect on interpersonal relationships.

According to Dr. Monica Vermani, a clinical psychologist and author, finding happiness and managing stress requires a sense of balance and the ability to handle challenging situations that can drain our energy.

“Maximizing our energy levels … allows us to be fully present and equipped to handle any challenges that may arise,” Vermani emphasized.

Starting the new year with a dedication to taking care of ourselves is a great way to begin on a positive note.

Implementing five simple routines can help you achieve that goal.

Play around

Life can become quite serious once you enter adulthood, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the joy of play that you experienced as a child.

Indeed, as we grow older, participating in play continues to be crucial for managing stress and enhancing overall happiness.

A study published in March 2013 of nearly 900 university students revealed an interesting correlation between playfulness and stress levels. The findings indicated that participants who exhibited a more playful nature tended to have lower levels of stress compared to their less playful counterparts.

Students with a playful nature tend to employ healthier coping strategies that directly address their stressors, rather than resorting to avoidance or escapism.

It’s entirely up to you how you choose to incorporate play into your life. Are there any activities from your childhood that you miss? Do you have a new hobby that you haven’t had the chance to fully indulge in yet?

Considering these factors may provide you with a path forward, just like the National Institute of Play’s quiz, which can help you identify your play personality.

Once you understand it, make sure to consistently prioritize time for leisure in your schedule.

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Do something mindless

Indulging in some quality TV time might seem counterintuitive to a wellness-focused lifestyle, but there are moments when it can be just what you need to unwind and destress.

Dr. Victoria Garfield previously told CNN that those who find it difficult to meditate or engage in other mindfulness practices may benefit from engaging in amusing pursuits such as binge-watching or lounging on the couch.

Garfield holds a senior research position at the Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Aging at University College London.

It is advisable to avoid using screens within an hour of bedtime to ensure a restful sleep, which in turn aids in effectively managing and responding to stress.

Sigh

Letting out a deep sigh may seem like an indulgent reaction to stress, but a recent study published in January has suggested otherwise. Among the various breathing and meditation techniques considered, one type of breathing known as cyclic sighing was found to be the most beneficial.

One way to practice cyclic sighing is by taking a deep breath through your nose, pausing briefly, taking another deep breath to fill your lungs completely, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth.

Dr. David Spiegel, author of the study and director of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford University School of Medicine, told CNN in March that “cyclic sighing is a relatively rapid way to calm yourself.”

A number of experts, performing this technique three times in a row can provide immediate relief from feelings of anxiety and stress.

Try progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a highly effective mind-body relaxation technique that can be done anywhere you can sit or lie down for as little as five minutes.

Through the practice of active muscle tensing and relaxing, PMR is a beneficial technique for individuals seeking assistance in enhancing their focus during meditative breathing exercises.

Here are the detailed instructions for how to do it.

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Embrace the power of gratitude

Studies have found that even during challenging times, practicing gratitude can help reduce stress and improve mood.

And there are various methods to achieve this, like maintaining a gratitude journal where you record a few things every night before going to sleep, or creating a gratitude photo album on your phone.

The photos could capture a wide range of subjects, from cherished memories with loved ones to personal achievements, breathtaking sunsets, or even heartfelt conversations.

Consider directing your attention towards them during challenging times rather than engaging in negative online content or making comparisons with others.

According to Choi, stress has a way of narrowing our focus and making us oblivious to the positive aspects of life.

Based to Choi, when our stress levels decrease, we become more open to recognizing positive moments and the various opportunities that exist around us.

 

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