5 Ways to Reduce Stress Now

Calming image of beach

Can you remember a time when you could completely relax and rest even though you were surrounded by work, chores, errand lists, to-do lists, and family demands? Maybe you can let it roll off you easily. Maybe you’re one of those lucky people who can catch a quick power nap anywhere and wake up refreshed and ready to take on the world. Or maybe you have trouble not only napping but even just sleeping through the night. Individual and ongoing demands in our lives may result in feeling “stressed out,” and we can experience various physical and emotional imbalances, like insomnia, migraines, pain, mood swings, depression, and weight gain or loss.

What is stress? From The American Institute of Stress: “The term ‘stress,’ as it is currently used was coined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” Through experimentation, Selye found that short-term stressful situations can impact the stomach, lymph system, and adrenals. He found that chronic or long-term stress can result in heart and/or kidney disease, stroke, and rheumatoid arthritis. He later defined stress as “the rate of wear and tear on the body.” Selye’s research attracted much attention, and ‘stress’ became a well-used buzzword for many situations.

There can be good stress, such as winning an award, being offered an exciting new job, or getting engaged. But we most often identify stress with things that are not so good: bills, relationship problems, or the boss from you-know-where.

Some research shows that increased stress can lead to increased performance. But, and this part is essential, only to a certain point. Maybe that’s our breaking point, and that point is different for each of us. So we each must recognize our own warning signs and limit how much stress we are exposed to.

And we don’t want to get stressed out about being stressed out! So what do we do when we see warning signs, or worse yet, miss the warning signs and reach a breaking point? There are many well-accepted methods to reduce stress in our lives. Here is the countdown of five things you can do that can immediately reduce your stress. Mix and match to find the best fit for you.

5. Stretch your body. Simple stretches in comfortable ways can reduce your stress. Respect yourself and work within your limits. Try reaching toward the ceiling, interlace your fingers and reach forward to stretch your back, clasp wrists behind you and stretch open your shoulders and chest, and release. Slowly roll the chin down toward the chest and then roll the right ear toward the right shoulder, back to center, and left ear toward the left shoulder. Roll the shoulders forward and backward. Be gentle; we’re trying to reduce stress, not get in a wad because we can’t stretch as far as we want. Please don’t force it. Be kind to yourself. A few minutes of gentle stretches can refocus your negative thoughts back to the positive.

4. Physical activity. Go for a walk, get to the gym, enjoy a run, go dancing, get on a bike, play tennis, go for a swim, find an elliptical machine, play racquetball, climb some stairs, do some pushups, play basketball, find a personal trainer to inspire you to move your body. Go to a Yoga class. There are so many excellent ways to get some type of physical activity into your day. Ask yourself what is possible for you when you need a break from something stressful and try it. And then try to devote some time to yourself, setting aside at least 3 times each week to be physically active.

3. Spend time in nature. I saw a great billboard with a big picture of a cute puppy with the quote, “Go! Outside!” That, exactly! Try getting outside for 5 minutes. Or at least look out the window if you can’t get outside at the moment you are stressed. I’ve seen several authors credited with a great quote: “Spend 20 minutes each day in nature. Unless you’re too busy. Then spend an hour.” That’s how important it is! There are several nature challenges online, such as spending 30 minutes in nature each day for 30 days, which might even inspire you to create a long-term habit. Simply breathing fresh air can make a difference in how you feel. Bonus points for combining this one with number 2!

2. Breathe. Yes, but we’re doing that already, right? Hopefully true! But this type of breathing is just a little different. Pay attention to your breathing. As you breathe normally, simply notice. Notice the air coming in as you inhale, where it goes in your body. Does your chest rise? Does your belly rise? Is the air cool in your nostrils? Maybe there’s a little space of time between the inhale and exhale where you are completely still? And notice as you exhale, is the air that is leaving your body a little warmer now? Which deflates first: belly, ribs, or chest? Can you empty every bit of air out? Are you still for a nanosecond before the inhalation? Maybe try slow, comfortably deep breaths. Fill the lungs a little more with each inhalation. Take at least 5 slow, comfortably deep breaths before coming back to your normal breath. Did you have any idea all that was going on when you breathe? Of course, we don’t notice it all the time – but even just 2-3 minutes of mindful breathing is a quick fix to immediately reducing your stress.

1. Tapping. You knew this was coming as #1, right? EFT Tapping alone can help reduce your stress level in about one minute! Try the basic recipe, using setup statements like “Even though I have all this stress about _______(fill in the problem), I am doing the best I can. Even though this stress is building up about _________, I choose to feel calm about this now. Even though I have all this stress right now, I accept myself, and I’m okay.” Do a round or two on the tapping points in the basic recipe about “this stress” until you get your intensity level down to below a 5 on a scale of 0 to 10. Keep tapping until it is lower; then, once it’s a 3 or below, you might try some positive statements such as “I choose to release this stress now. I am feeling much calmer about things. I am ready to let it all go now. I choose to do what I can and let go of the stress. It is safe for me to release this stress now.”

You can learn more about how to use EFT tapping, including step-by-step instructions, in my book called Emotional Freedom Techniques: The Art of Managing Stress Through EFT Tapping.

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas for quickly reducing your stress. If you find yourself constantly stressed, review what’s going on in your life that you might be able to change to make it better. Even just one change can make a difference.

Keep Calm and Tap On!

Please remember: It's important to contact a professional if things feel too big for you, whether it be a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or certified EFT practitioner. Never discontinue your current medications without first consulting your doctor.