Stress feels like it happens so fast and then takes so long to go away. It’s an instant of something that bothers you or gets you worked up, then you spend the next several hours trying to not to scream while you stare at your computer. We all know that stress isn’t good for us—although short-term stress can motivate us, chronic stress puts our bodies into something of an emergency state. Over time, chronic stress can affect your immune system, your mood, your sleep patterns, and even your gut. I’m all about that motivation of short-term stress. However, many of us experience long-term stress that’s effectively damaging our bodies. For the stress that’s entirely unnecessary, the my-boss-decided-to-leave-early-and-I-have-to-pick-up-the-workload stress, here are the top six ways you can stop that stress quickly and begin to feel normal again before you have a meltdown.
This technique of de-stress is the simplest, but it’s also the most effective. Trust me, it works. Being in tune with your body helps immensely when it comes to stress. The next time you receive a stress trigger, pay attention to the way your body reacts. You can usually feel your heart rate increase, your breathing quicken, your stomach churn. This is all part of your physiological response to the stress. It’s part of what made our ancestors fight or run when a threat came into view. It’s entirely natural and will help you to survive in life-or-death situations. But let’s face it, your boss leaving is not a life-or-death situation. It may feel like it in your body, but it’s not. So here’s how you can stop your body from acting like it is. Breathe. Stop whatever you are doing and just sit there and take a deep breath. I don’t mean just any deep breath—I mean a deep, conscious breath, one in which you are 100% aware that you are breathing. Push everything out of your mind and focus entirely on that breath. Then do it again. Do it as many times as you need to until you feel your heart slow down, your mind begin to clear, and your body return to normal. I have gotten through some intense situations by doing this!
It seems silly to leave the office—or wherever you work—and go for a run or something but that’s exactly what I’m telling you to do. Your body just experienced a surge of hormones that make it think that danger is imminent. One of the best ways to burn off that adrenaline rush is to exercise. Whether you go for a brisk stroll around the block or sprint to the nearest 7-11, exercise is going to help you feel normal again. Even if you just do a few jumping jacks in your office or pretend to fight off an imaginary creature, it does help. Exercise can help relieve mental stress. This is why it’s even more important to incorporate exercise into your life on a daily basis—it’ll help you to handle stress better when the time comes. So whether you do yoga in the morning or go for a run in the afternoon, exercise is going to help you blast that stress and calm down.
- Think Positively
Of course, this one seems futile. Who the heck is going to think of anything positive when it feels as though their world is crashing down around them? Me! In times of trivial stress or intense stress, sometimes the simplest, yet true, thoughts are the most soothing. For instance, some thoughts I think when I encounter a particularly stressful or emotionally upsetting situation include:
- My bunnies are safe and happy
- I have a family who loves me
- My car works just fine
- I have a house to live in
- I have food to eat
- I am healthy
You get the point. These positive affirmations put things into perspective. They help me to realize that the true sources of stress or anxiety for me—one of my rabbits or a family member being sick (they’re the same thing, right?), my car breaking down in the middle of nowhere, not having a place to live, food to eat, or a healthy body—are all not actually happening right now. And you know what? Even if I got a call telling me that the results from a medical test came back abnormal, at least my bunnies are still safe and happy. It pays to think positively.
- Call a Friend
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have many friends. This tends to be a positive thing. The friends (friend?) I do have are the truest blue and I adore them. If you’re the type of person who’s much more socially interconnected than I am, calling a friend can help calm you down. Of course, this depends on whether or not your friends would be available at said time. However, it can help immensely. I had this friend named Stephanie in college and she was amazing. Our friendship was this blossoming, nurtured thing and we talked daily. If something ever got me out of character, I’d call her—and she’d almost always answer—and we’d hash it out. It was a completely effective stress reliever and I always felt so much better after talking through that stressful situation with a friend. Social support can help, according to research.
Taking your attention away from the situation at hand can help you relieve stress. Reading a good book—even if it’s just for five minutes—helps redirect my attention and look at the stressful situation with a more even head. If you’re at the office, take this time to read an article that has nothing to do with anything (read: unicorns) or you can even watch a cute video about baby hippos on YouTube. Regardless, redirecting yourself to something you enjoy can help. Find an article, book, or video you enjoy and just take a few minutes to enjoy it. It’ll help you forget about your stress and when that stressful situation comes back into focus, it won’t seem so bad. Because you know, you just watched a baby hippo bite somebody’s leg and it was so freaking cute.
- If All Else Fails, Get Some Tea ASAP
If I know nothing about anything else, I know what a good cup of tea is. A good cup of tea is the thing that brings you back from a dark place. It’s the thing that soothes you before bed, dries your tears after a breakup, and generates laughter among friends. It’s the thing you need to keep with you at all times in case something tragic or unexpected happens. Tea allows you to take a second to process what just happened while sipping on something warm and comforting. It’s the warm glow in a dark world that we all need. Something stressful just happened and the breathing didn’t work, you can’t exercise, your friend didn’t answer the phone, you found nothing comforting to read, and your positive affirmations didn’t feel so positive? Get a cup of tea. I promise you’ll feel more ready to tackle the world afterward. Some of my favorites include peppermint, lavender, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and licorice. Keep in mind that tea with caffeine might not be the best thing right now for your stress! (Read: stick to herbal teas.) So there you have it—calming down after a stressful trigger isn’t difficult. You can do it using these simple, effective techniques to bring you back from the edge of a panic attack. As someone who has experienced many panic attacks, these are the techniques I’ve found most helpful. I hope they help you too! If you’re worried that your level of stress isn’t normal or if you’re suffering from chronic stress, talk to a doctor in your healthcare network to determine how you can cope. Maybe you have high blood pressure and stress is even more harmful for you, or maybe your anxiety is coming from somewhere else. Always take care of yourself and be informed about your body!