Stress Therapy Take-Home Tips
Therapy for stress can be invaluable, but there are additional stress management techniques that you can also implement in your life without the help of a therapist.
If you’ve been struggling with stress, these are some simple, proven effective, actionable tips you can try at home starting today. Making a commitment to taking care of yourself is one of the best things you can do to control your stress levels. Try some or all of the following if you’re feeling stressed.
Prioritize your health
When you’re in good health, your body will be better-equipped to respond to stress. Diet, exercise, and sleep all play an important role in managing stress. Try limiting your consumption of things that could increase your stress levels too, like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
A lack of sleep can increase your stress levels, and unfortunately, high levels of stress can make it difficult to sleep, creating a destructive cycle. Studies show that getting just 60 to 90 more minutes of sleep each night can help bring stress down to a healthy level.
TIP: Setting a bedtime (and sticking to it!) can improve your sleep hygiene so you can get the rest you need and reduce stress.
Learn breathing exercises
When stress levels are high, breathing exercises can keep you grounded and calm you down. Deep breathing is easy, even when you’re overwhelmed, and research shows it naturally calms stress responses in the body. Focusing your attention on your breath can be a way to distract yourself from stress, too.
TIP: The next time you’re stressed, quietly try the 4-7-8 method. You can do it anywhere and you don’t need any tools or space. Best of all, nobody will know that you’re doing it, so whether you’re at work, in the car, or standing in a chaotic kitchen at home making dinner for your family, you can get relief from your stress. Simply:
- Slowly breathe in through your nose for a count to 4
- Hold your breath in for a count to 7
- Exhale slowly through pursed lips, making a whooshing sound, for a count to 8
- Repeat the cycle 4 times
Work on time management
It’s hard not to feel stressed when you don’t have time to get everything done. If you tend to put things off until the last minute, taking steps to improve your time management skills can be easy and effective. Establishing a schedule or a daily routine will help you use the time you have more effectively.
If you learn to prioritize tasks, you can take care of time-sensitive things right away. You’ll be able to plan ahead and work towards goals that you’ll be able to achieve.
TIP: Each night before bed, make a list of all the things you hope or need to accomplish the next day. Prioritize the top 3 – 5, depending on how long they’ll take, and then stick to that list the following day.
Things to consider putting at the top of your list can include any tasks that you put off or dread and those you know will take the longest. Being able to cross these types of things off your list as early as possible can do wonders for how the rest of your day goes and how stressed you feel.
Set aside time for yourself
Relaxation is essential to your physical and mental well-being. Unfortunately, when you’re busy, it can be hard to take time for yourself. Make a point of setting aside some me-time each day for relaxation exercises and techniques, even if it’s only 10 minutes. Self care is essential to your overall mental health and can allow you the space and time to mentally prepare for dealing with or processing your stress.
TIP: During this time, you could go for a walk, exercise, write in a journal, or meditate. No matter how you choose to use your time, making time for yourself every day can help you increase your energy levels and minimize feelings of frustration or anxiety.
“Mindfulness meditation, walking, deep breathing exercises, listening to relaxing sounds or music, or using positive affirmations can help decrease stress levels.”
The Luthas Center therapist Bisma Anwar, LMH
Be willing to say no (and not feel bad about it!)
It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you have too much on your plate. Learn to be assertive and set boundaries with the people in your life. If someone asks you to take on a task that you simply don’t have time for, it’s okay to stand up for yourself and turn them down.
TIP: Setting boundaries can be hard at first, especially if you consider yourself a “people-pleaser,” but with practice, it becomes easier. If you find that you have a hard time saying no in the moment, come up with some easy, standard, quick responses that you can use immediately.
Responding to requests with a simple “I’m sorry, I’m really maxed out right now. I’d love to help you, but I just can’t today” is straightforward and leaves no gray area for someone to argue or try to guilt you into doing something.