Stress Less in 2021: 7 Ways to Find Your Center

In a 2019 American Psychological Association survey, over 75% of American adults reported experiencing symptoms of stress, including fatigue, headaches, and sleeping issues. And after 2020, a year of unprecedented obstacles and unanticipated hardships, it isn’t a stretch to say that more people than ever have experienced or are currently experiencing stress. 

Stress has countless negative effects on health, such as:

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Low sex drive
  • Weakened immune system
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Fertility issues
  • Insomnia
  • Worsened depression

Not only does stress carry physiological symptoms, it may also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms. So, we wanted to share a few ways to destress when you’re feeling overwhelmed! 

1. Power Down

 

scrabble tiles spelling out "offline"

 

These days, we’re connected to the rest of the world to an extent that has only become possible in recent years thanks to technological advancements. While there are plenty of positives to come from this, there are also negatives to match. Constant emails, a stream of worrisome news, and disillusionment from social media are so commonplace that we might not even realize the toll they take on our mental well-being. A conscious step back from our devices can help remove stress triggers and give us the chance to rest.

Although it might not be quite feasible to fully abandon media, a temporary hiatus can allow you to focus on the present. Left with just your internal dialogue, you might find that it becomes easier to focus on and address immediate concerns. 

Tip: Set a timer for an allotted amount of time to dedicate to unwinding and detaching from technology. 

2. Mindful Breathing

If you’ve scoffed at the idea of meditation in the past, don’t worry – we’ve been there too. But one of the best and simplest ways to relax can simply be practicing some breathing exercises. 

Here are a few breathing exercises for stress to start with:

  • 4-4-4: Inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, and exhale for four seconds. Repeat this series several times.
  • Maximum: Breathe in deeply and continue until you can no longer take in any more air. Exhale and release the air as slowly as possible.
  • Positivity: Inhale for as long as it takes you to declare, “I am.” Follow up with an exhale as you speak aloud any positive statement that resonates with you, such as “strong,” “at peace,” or “grateful.” 

Most of the time, breathing is a thoughtless, automatic action. By consciously manipulating our breath, we are creating a stronger connection between our bodies and brains, which is a key aspect of effective stress management.

3. Stretch It Out

 

woman's child' pose yoga

 

Exercise is excellent for mental wellness, but not everyone has the time or desire to go all-in on a full-fledged workout. Stretching can be an excellent starting point to soothe physical manifestations of stress. 

When you’re stressed, your muscles are likely to be tense. For those under constant stress, muscles may remain tight for extended periods of time, causing headaches, pain, body aches, and stiffness. 

Take a few moments to test out these stress-relieving stretches:

Online tutorials have nixed the need to pay for almost any service. Feel free to make use of free online resources to learn more about doing these stretches properly. Remember, don’t force your body into any uncomfortable positions! These movements should be gentle to provide relief, not compound strain. 

4. Express Gratitude

Why do we only list what we are thankful for once a year? While we understand that “think positive” isn’t going to resolve every stressful situation, it can still be helpful to try to shift your mindset from negative to positive. 

All you need is a few seconds to start to appreciate the good things in your life – from recognizing small joys like feeling the sun on your face to reflecting on all the wonderful things your body does for you. The conscious practice of gratitude can make each obstacle a bit easier to overcome. 

5. Get Creative

 

man painting on canvas

Especially for those who don’t have the chance to flex their creativity muscles on a daily basis, trying an artistic activity can be especially cathartic. For artists who do it on the daily, try doing something for no purpose other than relaxation. Doing something creative for yourself, not for work or another individual, can be an enriching form of self-care.

Need some ideas to get you started? You might try:

  • Painting
  • Coloring
  • Drawing
  • Crocheting
  • Free dancing
  • Photography
  • Poetry
  • Cooking
  • Writing

No matter what the activity, the key is to find a way to express yourself that feels freeing and relaxing!

6. Switch Up the Setting

There are many reasons why people love to travel. An alluring aspect of it is leaving your familiar surroundings and putting yourself in new environments that heighten and engage your senses, giving your brain a break from focusing on the stresses of everyday life. But you don’t necessarily have to go far to experience that shift! Just stepping out of your office to stroll around the block can provide a stress-relieving change in scenery.

7. Pause

 

woman on couch with arms resting above head

How often do we start looking forward to the end of the day before it’s even half over? We tend to rush ahead to the next thing in our minds, which can cause us to check out of the present. If work is a source of stress, we might struggle to engage, counting down the minutes until we can clock out. 

Taking a moment to evaluate our emotional state can help rebalance the whole day. Rather than giving up on the remaining hours or wishing we were somewhere else, we can start to identify what makes us feel stressed or frustrated and address those conditions accordingly. 

Like choosing to practice positivity, checking in with yourself can help you reframe an aggravating moment or stress-inducing incident so that it doesn’t negatively affect the rest of your day. Even without realizing, we can easily fall into a bad mood that predisposes us to see everything in a negative light. It’s okay to be upset – but don’t write the rest of the day off! Pause to evaluate why you’re feeling stressed or disengaged, and choose to tune back in to what’s in front of you.

Centering Yourself

Consider giving these exercises a try the next time you find yourself stressed. Each of them are quick and easy to incorporate into your daily routine. After all, an ounce of stress management is worth a pound of distress.