Stress management techniques and exercises

Stress is something everyone experiences. It's not a bad thing - in fact, some stress can be helpful, motivating you to try harder and improve yourself. Too much stress, though, can have numerous negative consequences.

People become stressed when they feel they have too many or too difficult of responsibilities than they can handle, and it can have a wide range of health effects. Stress can weaken your immune system, cause cardiovascular complications and cause disruptive mood swings. It may also lead to insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure and muscle pain, according to the American Psychological Association.

Unfortunately, people can't always control their stressors. However, they can control their stress.

Here are some effective techniques and exercises most anyone can use to lower their stress levels:

Exercise

Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Beyond keeping your body in good condition, working out can help keep your mind healthy, too. Exercising causes your brain to produce endorphins, which are natural chemicals that serve as painkillers, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It also helps you sleep better, which can also help you reduce stress. Additionally, working out can be a self-confidence booster and help level out high emotions.

If you don't already schedule time throughout your weeks for regular exercise, there's never a bad time to start. Consider joining a gym, attending a spin class, investing in a treadmill or simply going for a brisk walk around the block. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get a minimum of 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise per week.

Socialize

When stressful life demands become overwhelming, they can begin to keep you from engaging in the activities you enjoy doing. One way to tame your stress is to give yourself permission to step away from the stressors and do something fun. Socializing, whether getting together with old friends, making new ones or spending time with family, can be an important component to good mental health and lowered stress levels, according to MentalHelp.net.

Stress

Getting together with a friend can help reduce stress levels and improve happiness.

If it's been a while since you've taken time to connect with others, make an effort to reach out to someone today. If you have friends or family that live nearby, plan a coffee date, a game night or a group dinner. Or, if you're new to town, introduce yourself to your neighbors, take a class or join a community group to meet new people. If you haven't caught up with your long-distance friends or family in a while, plan to catch up on FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangouts. You'll reduce your own stress, plus your loved ones will be happy to hear from you.

Meditate

Meditation is an ancient practice that can greatly benefit the modern adult. Engaging in meditation on a regular basis can reduce stress and help you handle new or challenging situations more gracefully.

There are multiple ways to practice meditation, Mayo Clinic pointed out. Some of the most popular meditation styles include:

Guided or imagery meditation

Usually led by a guide either in person or through a recording, guided meditation encourages you to form a mental image of a relaxing atmosphere. This is usually up to the individual's discretion, choosing the sights, sounds, smells and textures that calm him or her.

Mindfulness meditation

Through mindfulness meditation, the individual focuses on awareness of the present moment. This includes focusing on the breath, and becoming aware of emotions and thoughts. It's important to not let the natural thoughts and emotions that come up to affect the meditation. Instead, the individual acknowledges them without judgment and lets them pass by.

Tai chi

This Chinese practice is a form of martial arts that's slow-moving and focuses on assuming specific poses at the individual's own pace while maintaining controlled, deep breathing.

Time management

Taking time away from your stressors to do things like socialize, exercise or meditate can work wonders at reducing tension and stress. When you're done with these activities, you may be able to approach your work, school or life demands with a fresh disposition or a new mindset.

However, there are times when high stress can be better avoided through a more thoughtful approach to your day. Managing your time wisely can help you plan ahead for tasks or events that take more time, or help you visualize your day to help you effectively plan. To improve your time management skills, The Balance recommended:

  • Prioritize your daily responsibilities. Allow yourself to focus on the most important tasks.
  • Learn to delegate. There are other people in your life - your co-workers, children, siblings or spouse - that can help with certain tasks. Ask them for help when you need it.
  • Set a schedule. Developing a routine that works for you can help you stay on task and respond to unanticipated circumstances better.

Stress is a natural part of life, and one that can actually be beneficial at times. However, too much stress can negatively impact your quality of life. Using one or more of these methods can help reduce stress levels for a happier, healthier lifestyle.