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Ruth C White Ph.D.

Stress

Stress Less in One Minute or Less

10 quick stress-busters to make you healthier and happier

Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash
Source: Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash

As you may already know, stress can be good for you and can help you succeed at tasks that demand your utmost attention; things like giving a speech or standing on the starting line of a race.

However, when it is relentless and never-ending, or too intense, stress can be bad for your physical, mental and emotional well-being. From crying jags to hypertension, trembling hands or diabetes, migraines or muscle tension, stress can take its toll on our bodies and minds. But perhaps 'stress management' seems like just another 'to-do' for your long list that never seems to end.

So take the reins of that runaway stress by stopping stress in its tracks. What follows below are ten simple, easy and instant strategies to make you feel less stressed. Just as we all have different sources of stress and respond differently - whether physically, emotionally or psychologically - we all have different ways of coping. Try any and all of these and keep a note of what works for you, so that when that feeling of dread or overwhelm starts flooding you, you can hold back the tide, even if it is just for one minute.

1. BREATHE.

Deeply. Slowly. In on a count of five, hold for one second, and then breathe out on a count of five. Breath is life, and how you breathe often reflects how you are living life. So live a life where you feel centered and calm and in control by taking a slow deep breath anytime you are feeling stressed.

2. SMILE.

Yes. Fake it. Research shows that when it comes to happiness, faking it does help you make it. Whether you feel happy or not, a smile makes you feel happier and it also changes the way people respond to you.

3. L.O.L.

Yes. Laugh out loud. Even if nothing is funny (but you will seem more sane if you are watching a sitcom or Netflix comedy special :-). Faking this also works at making you feel happier and more relaxed.

4. BE GRATEFUL.

Write down one thing you are grateful for. If you don't have paper, use the notes app in your phone to create a gratitude list. This shifts your perspective to the good in your life and builds emotional resilience.

5. SLOW DOWN.

Blink more slowly. Breathe more slowly. Talk more slowly. Walk more slowly. Just for one minute. When you slow down your heartrate also slows down and you avoid many of the physically uncomfortable sources of stress.

6. LOVE.

Tell someone you love them and enjoy the warm and fuzzy feelings that the related endorphins and serotonin of that sentiment releases. And your stress will be lowered even more if you get love in return.

7. VISUALIZE IT.

Think about the place that makes you feel most at peace. Close your eyes and bring that picture into view. Enjoy the peace that brings for one minute. Thinking there is ALMOST as good as being there.

8. THINK IT.

Believe it. Do it. Successful athletes know that believing they can win - and will win - is key to winning. But you need not be an Olympian to make this strategy work for you when you are afraid of failing. Whatever activity is causing you stress, close your eyes and imagine what success looks like. After one minute open your eyes and get to work.

9. SPEAK IT.

What we believe influences what we do and how we feel when we do it. So write an affirmation - a positive statement about yourself - and read it aloud when you are feeling doubt about your ability to succeed. (This is another action that you can do in the Notes app of your phone by creating an Affirmations list). You can write more than one which will give you lots of options.

10. STEP AWAY.

Avoidance works. Our stress responses are fight, flight or freeze. So for one moment, you can choose flight to reduce the amount of stress hormones that are flooding your body. You may not be able to run away to the Maldives at the weekend, but for right now, you can ignore your phone for a minute. Or get up from the desk. Or close the laptop. Don't worry, the world wont end in one minute but that one minute break can calm you down, clear your mind, and get you back to your high-performing self.

You cannot control what stressors come your way but you can control how you react to it. Stopping stress in the moment gives you control of your mind and body, and prevents the negative impacts that stress can have. So next time stress comes your way, take a minute to manage it your way.

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About the Author

Ruth C. White, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.W., is a stress management expert, diversity consultant, and mental health advocate, and author of The Stress Management Workbook and the forthcoming Everyday Stress Relief.