A Comprehensive List of Ways to Overcome Stress that Really Work
We can’t get rid of stressful situations in our lives. Work, relationships, parenting, finances, politics, wars, the news, sickness, and the list could go on and on of the things that can bring stress into our lives. When I finally realized that I couldn’t get rid of the stress-inducing circumstances, I began learning how to rise above the stress to a place of peace. It can be done. I’m not always good at it, but I have learned to deal with stress in my life and you can, too.
- What Causes Stress
- What are the Symptoms of Stress.
- How I Deal with Stress
- Ask for Help
- How to Deal with Stress Spiritually
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**Please note that I am neither a medical doctor or a trained psychologist. The above list is of ways to manage stress is a personal list of ways I have found to help me deal with stress. I hope that this list helps you, but do not take it as medical or professional advice.
What Causes Stress
Stress is a person’s response to the demands others, one’s environment, society and one’s self puts on him/her. We may have new stress that lasts a short time (acute stress) like a sudden illness or an accident, or we may face stress that has been going on for a long time (chronic stress) like a difficult relationship.
We also have external stressors and internal stressors. External stressors are major life changes like:
- Moving to a new house
- changing jobs or retiring
- Death of a loved one or divorce
- Your environment like a messy house or loud noises
- Unpredictable events like a surprise party
- Workplace demands
- Uncomfortable social events
- Relational events like getting into an argument with your child
Internal Stressors include:
- Things you believe
- Feeling Out of Control
What are the Symptoms of Stress.
When stress keeps piling up, it can make it more difficult for us to deal with short term stress and starts having long term effects.
Stress comes with a myriad of symptoms–all unique to the individual. But there are symptoms which are common with many people some of which include this list from Mayo Clinic:
- Overeating or undereating
- Muscle tension or pain
- Restlessness Angry outbursts
- Chest pain
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Tobacco use
- Change in sex drive
- Irritability or anger
- Social withdrawal
- Stomach upset
- Sadness or depression
- Exercising less often
- Sleep problems
How I Deal with Stress
Go to Your Happy Place
Going to your “happy place”–even if only in your mind can bring a momentary sense of peace. It helps us to take a step away from the circumstances of life which can help us see it in a different light.
What’s your “happy place?” Mine used to be clipping recipes from magazines and gluing them onto recipe cards. Don’t laugh! Haha. I started collecting recipes–and magazines with recipes to clip–when I was about 12. In my defense, we didn’t have Pinterest to collect them or Google to search out every imaginable recipe then. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago–when I found myself setting up a card table in the middle of our living room–announcing that I was going to “my happy place”. I was stepping out of my world of the financial crisis when my husband had lost his job and we could no longer afford to live in our home–and stepping into a safe place where I was in control and which was full of possibilities. It didn’t cost me any money and didn’t hurt anyone. I could still care for my family and I could walk away from it at any time. It wasn’t a long-term solution, but it gave me a reprieve so that I could later go back and face reality.
Get into Nature
Getting outside and getting in the sunshine, breathing fresh air, being around plants and trees, maybe walking barefoot on the lawn–all these things release stress. When I’ve lived in town, I’ve gone barefoot through the yard and stood or sat under a tree in my yard. Here’s my daughter getting into nature when we lived in town. Going for a leisurely walk through the park or botanical gardens.
I just love the photo I found above. Looks like a lady who is not prepared for the woods, but I can imagine the peace and wonderment she’ll find when she gets to sit up in that mossy bough. It makes me chuckle. Maybe it’s her happy place!
When I was going through a particularly stressful time a few years ago, a doctor told me, “If you’re exercising for your body, you exercise 3-5 times a week. If you’re exercising for your mind, you do it every day.”
Just like laughing, regular exercise reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and releases endorphins, according to Harvard University.
Don’t always take a situation to its worst possible end. My husband and I are polar opposites when it comes to this. He generally assumes the best about people, their motives, and outcomes. I, on the other hand, am more skeptical and see the potential problems. But neither of us is completely wrong and neither is completely right. While we both need wisdom and try to avoid pitfalls, we also need to see all the ways that the situation could turn outright. When I consider and picture positive coming from a situation, it not only brings some peace and hope, but I also start to see action steps to help make that positive end a reality.
Take your worst fears and take them to the worst ends, if you want. Think about how you would deal with it in a positive way. Now think of all the positive things that could happen in your situation. There are so many positive possibilities! What steps can you take toward making those positive possibilities happen?
The thing that helps me most to get into a positive frame of mind is to be thankful. I really hate the idea of thinking positive just for positivity’s sake. It seems so disingenuous. But being thankful–now that is a real game-changer.
Stop now and think of even 5 things you’re truly thankful for. … Really. Do it. …Now, don’t you feel even a tad happier? Thankful-mindedness turns our focus to what is right and good in our lives. For most of us, we have much more to be thankful for than to worry about.
I’ve heard it called a lot of different things, but speaking true, positive, motivating, and meaningful things over yourself (and over those you love) is powerful! If you’re new to making positive self-projections, you may feel silly doing it. Funny how we don’t feel silly about saying bad things about ourselves. I remember my grandma, when she would make even little mistakes, saying to herself, “You dummy!” I remember it most when I was a teenager and I would try to get her to stop saying it. She didn’t see the harm and believed it to be true. But I will tell you that it made me sad and sure didn’t help her feel better or stop making mistakes! We are so used to criticizing ourselves, but what if we became our own cheerleaders?! Few of us have someone to follow us around telling us how wonderful we are. Haha! But God said that we were “fearfully and wonderfully” made! Let’s agree with God and declare how wonderful we are!
Have a Heart-to-Heart Talk with a Great Listener
Often what we need in our journey of overcoming stress in our lives is a great listener, and it isn’t always easy to find one. If you have one in your life, be thankful. If you don’t, do your best to find one. It may be a family member, a friend, a pastor, or a counselor. I encourage you to give them permission to speak “into” some truth, too. If you’re having trouble seeing past your stressful situation, ask them to share their perspective or to help you see the situation in another light. If you’re having trouble being thankful, ask them what they see in your life that you could be thankful for. These insights can be invaluable to help you redirect your thinking.
Getting my thoughts all down on paper–or typing them into a word document–can really help me to calm my mind and get perspective. Sometimes the thoughts and worries swirl through my head so that I have trouble thinking straight. If I can get all those thoughts out for me to see, I often come to better conclusions than if the thoughts continue to swirl. If I keep in mind the questions and ideas in this article about finding truth, what am I afraid of, what am I thankful for, pray–then my journaling is very helpful!
You don’t need a fancy journal. Don’t wait until you’ve purchased that special notebook. Much of my journaling is either done on my computer, on notebook paper or printer paper.
It’s important to make time for fun. When we have a lot going on in our lives that takes our attention and causes stress, it’s so helpful to take a break from that and do something totally different that we enjoy. Often, enjoying an activity with others who can have some light-hearted fun with us will enhance the stress-relieving effects of taking a break. But even if you have to–or want to–spend time alone, still take a break to enjoy something fun. What fun activities could you do?
- Go to an amusement park for the day
- Go to the lake or ocean and go swimming or sunbathing
- Take a day trip to a town or city near you.
- But even if you have to or want to spend time alone, still take a break. What fun activities can you do by yourself?
- Listen to a comedy special or funny movie, podcast, etc.
- Splurge on a spa day
- Go to the movies at an actual movie theater. Go ahead and buy the jumbo popcorn or big box of Juji Fruit.
The effects of laughter on the body and mind has been studied quite a bit. Two ways that it helps with stress is that it reduces your stress hormones, like cortisol, and releases endorphins–your “feel good” hormones, according to University of St. Augustine.
Change Your Diet
Ali Miller, “The author of The Anti-Anxiety Diet, says that refined carbs such as these spike blood sugar and then cause it to crash, increasing stress and anxiety. Choosing healthy foods — including healthy fats such as avocados, eggs, and walnuts — has the opposite effect, creating a “favorable hormone signaling in the brain, which supports satiety, mood regulation, and sleep and energy balance,” reports Every Day Health. Read more to learn how to add foods into your meals that will help your body deal with stress.
Herbal Stress Relievers
Nervine and Adaptogen herbs can help the body and mind deal with stress for many people. Some herbs that help with stress are chamomile, lemon balm, holy basil, lavender, passionflower, and many more.
One herbal tea that I have found really helps to calm my nerves when I’m stressed is Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer Tea. Drinking a cup in the afternoon helps me to release the tension that is building up from the events of the day and refocus.
To sleep, drinking Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea has been a great routine to help me wind down and get sleepy enough to fall asleep quicker. They now have a bunch of flavors. My son really likes the Yogi brand teas for sleep and stress. Here is a bundle of several of their stress blends.
Physical Touch and Intimacy
Physical touch with someone we care about can do a lot to relieve stress. It can be a simple hug, holding hands, sitting close on the couch, or touching their arm when you’re they’re talking to you.
“Touch can strongly transmit a sense of being accepted and cared for — the emotional benefits. Touch also confers physiological benefits. In one study, partners were found to have lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone…” reports NeuroScienceNews. “Research evidence tells us that the presence of intimacy in our lives — feeling understood, accepted and cared for — strongly influences our overall physical and emotional well-being.”
Ask for Help
Okay, I admit that while I know this one is super important, it’s hard for me to ask for help. I haven’t always asked for the support that I needed, especially when my children were young and I was at my end. Sometimes we don’t know who to ask for help, but even a friend or family member can’t help with the kids or go to work for you, it can help to talk to them to get ideas for how to improve the situation.
Sometimes it would help so much if someone just picked up our child from school or helped with the dishes. Simple things that can start to feel overwhelming when they are stacked on top of other stressful situations.
If you really don’t have someone you can ask for help, consider talking to a local minister or priest or rabbi. Call a counseling program or psychologist. Ask your doctor for a recommendation. Ask at your local community action if they have resources. You will be amazed at how many resources are available in a community that most of us don’t even know about. If you can’t afford counseling, ask at your local free clinic. There is often financial assistance.
How to Deal with Stress Spiritually
Find out the Truth
— Sometimes I want to believe that ignorance is bliss. Not knowing something can, at times, buy me a little while of peace. But there always comes the day of reckoning when I learn the truth and have to deal with it. Finding out the truth in a situation really is the best thing. But by Truth, I don’t just mean the Facts. Sometimes the truth involves understanding another’s viewpoint–understand how he thinks and responds and why. What are the influences on his decisions and actions? If we’re dealing with a past event, we need to realize that the “facts” as we know them are coming through our own personal lens. Finding the truth will involve a little research and learning all the factors.
Sometimes I worry when I don’t know the truth or all the facts. I make them up or assume the worst. I’m a big picture thinker and I can see all the potential problems that a decision or action can make, so my brain explores all the possibilities. Let me tell you that, that doesn’t lead to a peaceful night’s sleep when your kid is out and not responding to messages! When finding the truth, we may need to circle back to once again finding hope.
Find out what’s hindering yourself from believing the truth
Sometimes I need someone else to help me see the truth because I just can’t see it for myself. But what if I still can’t believe the truth? I’ve learned that when a person can’t receive the truth you’re giving them, it is often because they are believing a lie. Some people would say that, that is truth for them. Okay, whatever. But if you are believing that you are ugly and worthless, I’m going to tell you right now that you are believing a lie. And what I’ve found is that before I can believe the truth–especially about myself–I first have to choose to let go of the lie. I go so far as to renounce the lie out loud. I take the lie and every angle and aspect of it and break it off of myself. And then I proclaim the truth over myself. It would look like this:
I renounce the lie that I am fat and ugly. I renounce the lie that says my stretch marks or acne scars or wrinkles make me ugly. I renounce the lie that looking older makes me more ugly. I renounce the lie that I am undesirable. I renounce the lie that I am not beautiful. I renounce the lie that being over the ideal weight makes me ugly and undesirable. // I receive the truth that I am beautiful. I declare the truth that I am made in the image of God and I am perfect and lacking in nothing. I am beautiful and desirable.
What lies are you believing about yourself? Maybe you need a friend or counselor to help you look in the mirror, so to speak, and see what you’re believing. These wrong thoughts can bring a lot of stress into our lives.
Let Go of Fear
Sometimes I can’t see the truth or the possibilities–or even be thankful–because when it comes down to it, I’m afraid. When I find thoughts circling through my head of what-ifs, I do best to stop and ask myself “What am I afraid of?” This is one of those times that it can be okay to look at the worst-case scenario. I have had to take the worst case and then pictured what my life would be like if that happened and then picture myself going on in a positive way. I don’t accept that worst-case scenario. I don’t dwell there. But I take the power out of it by empowering myself–seeing that I have the choice of how I will think, how I will respond, and how I will live. Because I am a Believer in Christ who has given me the authority, I renounce the fear. I think of the positive possibilities and what I want to have happened. I find promises in Scripture about it, I choose to believe God, I pray towards that end, I declare it and prophesy it.
Pray — and Release the Things We Are Not in Control of
Prayer is not last on this list because it’s the last thing to do if all else fails! Prayer matters and prayer changes things. Science has proven that prayer matters even if your experience hasn’t. (Sorry, I don’t have references, but I’ve read many secular scientific studies over the years stating how prayer helps in the healing of patients, etc.) Praying about your situation in faith–believing and trusting God–will help. It helps to release the things we are not in control of. It helps to look to God for help. He says that when we call to Him, He will answer.
One common prayer that has been made popular by AA and other organizations is the Serenity Prayer.
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Change Your Focus
We need to be aware of what we are focusing on. If you’ve gone through and done some of the things on this list, you should be ready to change your focus. Instead of thinking about what I’m afraid will happen, I start thinking about what I want to happen. Instead of thinking about all of my problems, I think of what I’m thankful for. Instead of thinking of all the reasons why I can’t do something, I think of steps I can take to reach my goals.
You May Also Like my Articles:
Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
NeuroScience News: Simple Touching Fosters Wellness and Relieves Stress For Couples
Every Day Health: The Ultimate Expert-Approved Diet Plan for a Happier, Less-Stressed You
This comprehensive list of ways to deal with stress can help you overcome normal life challenges. It isn’t meant to be medical advice. If you are still struggling to overcome anxiety, fear, anger or depression–or if you have sudden physical ailments that you can’t explain, I encourage you to talk with a professional counselor, psychologist or medical doctor. You may want to get evaluated to see if you have vitamin deficiencies or a chemical imbalance, etc.