Stress can manifest itself in many ways in our body. Take a minute to focus on your shoulders: are they relaxed, stiff or strained? How about your jaw – is it loose or clenched? Tight or tense muscles, headaches, increased heart rate, uneven breathing, or a rise in body temperature are all common physical responses to stress. Stress may also be felt in the mind in the form of racing thoughts, worrying, sadness, irritability or anger. Chronic, unmanaged stress can lead to serious health issues, that’s why managing stress is essential to healthy living and improving your quality of life. Here are nine things you can do in your immediate environment to create a stress-free zone and manage stress effectively.
1) Add personal touches
Having some of your favorite things around you will help you feel relaxed when you walk into your home or office. Surround yourself with pictures of family and friends that remind you of good times, play your favorite music softly in the background, or add pops of your favorite color to your workspace or at home.
2) Keep your home and workspace clean and organized
Our brains cannot focus properly if too much is going on around us. Several studies have shown that clutter can cause stress. Removing an overabundance of stuff from your immediate environment can help curb anxiety.
3) Take a break!
Set an alarm on your phone or use your smartwatch to remind you to take time to stretch, do a breathing exercise, meditate or go for a walk. It’s important to find pockets of time to care for yourself, especially if you have a very demanding schedule.
4) Add plants
Having plants in the workplace has been proven to reduce stress, curb absenteeism, decrease blood pressure, cultivate positive feelings, and increase productivity and creativity. Researchers have compared participants’ interactions with plants and the completion of computer-based tasks. The results revealed that interactions with plants left people feeling calmer and more comfortable.
5) Practice good communication skills
Poor communication can often lead to confusion and tension at the workplace. Practice effective communication skills by speaking respectfully, having clarity of thought, and keeping an open mind when asking questions, making suggestions or giving feedback.
6) Establish a routine
Most people thrive when they are in a routine. A predictable routine makes it harder to overlook a task or a commitment, and knowing what’s coming next is comforting for us all. While having a to-do list helps in establishing a routine, it’s important to make sure this list is realistic. Take it a step further by prioritizing tasks and determining what is manageable and realistic to achieve day-to-day.
7) Put a limit on your screen time
It’s a good idea to devote a portion of your day to unplugging from your electronics – be it your tablet, mobile phone or computer. In the age of constant connectivity, the need to reply to texts, emails or comments on social media adds to our already lengthy to-do lists. Consider your availability and manage expectations around your response time for work emails that come after hours. Having a quiet time before bed is vital to eliminate the stress of the day as it allows you to clear your mind, step away from daily worries, set them aside, and sleep well.
Exercise is good for the body as well as the mind. Regular activity is a very productive way to deal with stress. A brisk walk or light jog provides you with an opportunity to clear your mind and organize your thoughts without distraction. The feel-good hormones produced during exercise can also help you better cope with stress and face the day more confidently.
The benefits of deep, mindful breathing are often underestimated. While breathing is fundamental, it is also something we take for granted without realizing it. Taking a moment to consciously breathe can combat the flight-or-fight response to stress that is often activated when we are feeling overwhelmed. Next time you feel anxious or stressed, take deep, soothing breaths to quiet the mind and bring your heart rate down and see how you can counteract the hard-wired biological stress response.
Make healthy lifestyle changes to manage your stress effectively.