7 ways to deal with stress (and stress inducing situations)

Just like all of us that have reached this far in life, I have had my share of bad days. Some spent mostly moping around and feeling sorry for myself, but most of them spent trying to figure out what I can do to make that bad feeling I couldn’t quite understand just go away. After some time in therapy unlearning bad habits, and trying to learn functional ones, I have realized that these 7 things can make a bad day go to a good day. Or at least an OK one.

Breathing exercises

You’ve probably heard this one before. But believe me when I tell you they work. I have avoided panic attacks just by doing breathing exercises. The simplest and most effective one I’ve tried is inhaling silently through your nose to a count of 5. Hold your breathe for 3-4 seconds, then release from the diaphragm with a heavy exhale for 5 seconds. Repeat a few times until you feel your heart rate slowing down. 

Grounding

A technique used in yoga practices, but also effective for panic attacks and anxiety attacks. When your surroundings turn fuzzy and all you can focus on is the craze of your emotions bubbling up inside you, try grounding. This means feeling a connection with the ground; the Earth that you are on. Look around you, and focus on the static objects; a couch, a table, a chair, a bed. The point is to try to connect the energy of the Earth to your body. You can try walking barefoot, sitting outside, and keep your eyes open.

Logic

As any overly emotional person will tell you, it is easy to get wrapped up in whatever it is that is stressing you out, and forget that sometimes there may be solutions to your problems. Using logic is the best way to combat the emotional overdrive your brain is in. Take to yourself by playing out the worst case scenarios and finding solutions. Try identifying the problem and see if there is something you can do about it. If you have done everything in your power, then telling yourself this will calm you down. Which leads me to my next point…

Self soothing

Self soothing is a therapeutic technique used on individuals that didn’t get enough soothing in infancy. Parents or caregivers pass on self soothing to babies by patting their back or rocking them back and forth. There are ways you can teach yourself how to soothe yourself that mimic the same feeling a baby would when being soothed; calm, safety and relaxation. Talk positively to yourself, tell yourself that you will be OK even if things don’t work out 100% like you planned. Do things that bring you joy and calm you down such as listening to a specific song, going for a walk, writing in a journal, or doing something creative.

Water

This one is simple- surround yourself with water. Drink some water, take a bath or a shower or take a dip in the ocean! Staying hydrated is an important aspect of our health physically and mentally. A metaphorical cleansing with water can wash away the stress and make you feel rejuvinated.

Remove yourself from the situation

Sometimes, if you are engaged in a fight or emotionally hostile situation, the best thing you can do is calmly and respectfully tell the other person you need a break, and remove yourself from the situation. This way, you are protecting yourself and the other person from perhaps behaving in a way that will be hurtful or negative. It is completely OK to need some space to decompress and revisit the situation when you feel you have cleared your head and are able to deal with it.

Set boundaries

If the behavior of another person is what is making you stressed out, set boundaries. Figure out what behaviors make you uncomfortable and when you feel the other person has crossed a line. Inform them that this behavior is unacceptable to you by being direct, calm and sure of yourself. Make sure you are still being respectful of the other person- you can get your point across without being rude.

While these tips work, some take time to master, so the more you practice them the better you will eventually get at implementing them in your life. Remember, you are not alone, and more often than not, you are stronger than you think you are. It is important however to realize your limits and protect yourself. Self care is not selfish!

-SN

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