Top 10 Tips for Relieving Acute Stress

By Stephanie Sullivan

Despite your best efforts to reduce demands and stress triggers from your environment, inevitably stress will arise at times, as we cannot completely control or eliminate it. The good news is that there are effective ways to reduce your feelings of stress. One of my clients once said to me “I don’t know how to turn off stress, but I do know how to turn on relaxation”. This is great! What she did not realise is that you actually turn off stress by turning on relaxation, because it is physically impossible for your body to be in a stressed and relaxed state at the same time. Below are my top 10 tips for reducing your feelings of stress in your mind and body. 

1) Breathe – Breathe! Breathing is one of the quickest and most effective ways to reduce feelings of stress. With approximately one minute of simple, deep breathing, you can effectively turn off the stress response in your body (physiologically), slowing your breathing and heart rate, decreasing your blood pressure, relaxing your muscles, and moving into a relaxed state. One of the easiest breathing techniques is the 5-5-7 method. Simply breathe in deeply through your nose while you count to five, then hold the breath while you count to 5, then exhale slowly through your nose while you count to seven. Doing this five times takes ~45 seconds, and ten times is ~90 seconds. 

2) Self appreciation / reassurance – Stress can arise when we feel overwhelmed, or feel unsure in our ability to handle a situation. Therefore, it is helpful to reassure and remind ourselves that we are capable of handling the situation. Try thinking about a time or example when you previously handled a difficult or stressful situation well.

Say to yourself, I have encountered something like this before and I can handle this.

Even if you have not encountered something similar before, you can still reassure yourself and instil confidence in your ability to handle the situation by just saying aloud “I can do this. I have got this!” 

3) Practise empathy – If there is someone involved in triggering your stress, try to think of that person in a different light (with empathy instead of anger or frustration). Try to think of what may be going on in their world or mind. Some examples might include “they must be having a difficult time as well”, or “they may be having a difficult day”, or “maybe they are hurting or unsure of themselves”, or “someone else may be putting stress on them and so they really just need some help or reassurance”. 

4) Go for a walk or run – If there is a stressful situation happening around you, going for a walk or run is a great way to remove yourself temporarily to have a break, get some fresh air, burn some energy, defuse, gather your thoughts, increase endorphins (“feel-good” chemicals in your brain), and return in a much better state of mind. 

5) Get outside (fresh air, nature and sunshine) – Even if you are only sitting outside, getting some fresh air and sunshine is great for stress relief. Sunshine provides valuable vitamin D to help lift your mood. The new surroundings and natural environment can help change your focus and thoughts. Focus on the new sensations surrounding you (the sounds, smells, warmth, light, colours, trees, birds, insects, etc.). 

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