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Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA


15 Ways to Successfully Reduce Stress

Smaller goals yield bigger results.

Source: Olivier26/DepositPhotos

Although April is “National Stress Awareness Month,” given the world, we currently live in, every month should have that designation. We are bombarded and over-stimulated by digital technology, news stories, and images, personal experiences and professional challenges that make it impossible to live a stress-free existence. Now more than ever, we need ways to attend to and navigate the inherent and inevitable sources of stress that permeate our daily lives and interpersonal interactions.

As a therapist, I am constantly struck by the emotional, physical, and mental impact that stress has on my clients as well as my colleagues. Regardless of the presenting problem or the workplace setting, negative stress finds its way into the equation and inevitably needs to be identified and addressed in treatment.

When we are looking for ways to dial down our stress levels, we need to take baby steps first.

Over the years, I have noticed an interesting paradox when it comes to employing strategies for stress management and stress reduction. If the assignments feel too daunting and are not genuinely doable, that winds up creating an additional source of stress! Therefore, when we are looking for ways to dial down our stress levels, we need to take baby steps first. Setting ourselves up to succeed increases self-confidence and reinforces the notion that it is possible and achievable to manage something that often feels out of our control.

Here are some potential ways you can begin to reduce and navigate stress in your life. Notice that the goals are small and deliberately designed to be attainable. However, if these suggestions need to be negotiated or simplified even further, allow yourself to customize them so they become even more realistic and doable.

  1. Choose two nights a week and go to bed 1-2 hours earlier than usual.
  2. Say “No” to 1 request per week to have less on your plate.
  3. Delegate 1-2 tasks per week to reduce a state of overwhelm.
  4. Choose a window of time to “power down” and avoid all digital technology.

  5. Spend 10 minutes a day making a gratitude list or documenting "happy” moments.
  6. Increase your awareness about healthy eating and staying hydrated.
  7. Commit 5-10 minutes a day to notice or participate in nature.
  8. Experiment with increasing movement in your daily life.
  9. Once a day stop, notice, and attend to the physical sensations on your body.
  10. Take 10 minutes to practice deep breathing, guided imagery, mindfulness or meditation.
  11. Once a day listen to music, breath in a scent that soothes, read positive affirmations.
  12. Spend 10-15 minutes de-cluttering a space at work or at home.
  13. In your mind’s eye revisit a memory of a peaceful vacation site or watch a nature video.
  14. Consciously choose to say “Yes” to one act of self-care.
  15. Consciously choose to do one act of kindness for someone else.

Once you begin to gain some mastery over the strategies that resonate for you and seem to be helping, you can slowly up the ante. Increase the number of times per week you engage in the behavior or increase the number of strategies you incorporate into your daily life. Any lifestyle change or addition is meant to reduce stress, not increase it or overwhelm you. Therefore, it's important to choose suggestions or experiment with new ones that feel comfortable. Give yourself permission to stop and replace a strategy with something else if it’s not working. And recognize that choosing to do something else is a success because it reduces stress and is an act of self-care in and of itself!