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Stressed Out? 31 Simple Ways To Unwind (That You Can Use Any Time)

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Self

Chill out and get on with your day!

You know what (or who!) pushes your buttons, just as you know how to chill out if you were to really put your mind to it. But just knowing doesn't cut it! 

Just when you need to chill out most, your poor brain is too pre-occupied and hijacked by stress to remind you. Your more rational and wise brain goes offline faster than you can say stress — and then your overwhelmed or triggered mind makes some thinking errors.


RELATED: The Scary Truth About What Happens To Your Body When You're Stressed


You underestimate your control and focus on the presenting challenge, instead of remembering your power to ground yourself in your values, set your priorities, and take action. Meanwhile, your brain’s negative bias, while quite appropriate when scanning for danger, limits your ability to put your stressors in perspective or see other possibilities.

You also overestimate your effectiveness. Just when you need to chill out most to refresh your fried synapses, you think, "I’ll just do a couple more things, so I’m done." But, it's downright delusional to think that you will get that much more done well when you are emotionally, mentally, or physically exhausted.

Your ability to accurately self-monitor is hijacked, creating this delusion which fuels further burnout.

The good news is you actually do have the power to make a difference in your stress level.

You can learn new tricks, habits, and skills to build your confidence. The secret is to choose a few favorites and commit to practicing them so they are part of your go-to best stress zappers.

Put on your research hat and figure out which ones work for you. Get creative. Think tweak, not total overhaul. Just make tiny tweaks and adjustments throughout your day, every day. Tiny shifts, resets, and renewals add up with compound interest to less stress and more energy at the end of your day, the end of your week. These tiny successes build your confidence.

Stress management is really energy management — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy management.

People, events, situations, and your own thoughts can trigger you, deflate you, or drain your energy. One 5-minute difficult conversation can pull the plug on your momentum — emotionally and physically. Recognize it, raise your awareness of what you need to refuel, and go to your chill out tool belt.

If you want to know how to relax and unwind, commit to trying a few of these 31 simple ways to stop feeling so stressed out:

1. Breathe.

Right now, take 3 long slow easy deep breaths. Repeat, as you breath, "I am enough. I have enough." The basic message of that nasty inner critic is that you are not enough for the situation and that’s why the stress feels oppressive.

What if your inner critic is just plain wrong? Stop believing those thoughts and practice some new ones! Working on your breathing is the fastest way to chill out your frazzled brain and body.

2. Scrunch or stretch.

Inhale and tighten up every muscle, as hard as you can — fingers, arms, shoulders, toes, cheeks, abs, and face. Now exhale and stretch every little part back out.

Get long, tall, and refreshed as you feel the blood start to bring in fresh oxygen and take away stale tension. 

3. Schedule a massage.

Nothing like having self-care on your calendar! Massage has been proven to bring down the tension. It’s amazing how mental stress translates to physical tension.

Sometimes, the faster way to relief is physical.

4. Try some reflexology on yourself.

Use acupressure to self-calm. Give yourself a 2-minute ear massage. Dare yourself to do this in the middle of a meeting!

5. Strike a few yoga poses. 

Yoga combines breathing and stretching to decrease stress (and tone!) Again, you can use your body to calm your mind, release the tension.

It’s not about the fancy lycra — yoga can be done at your desk.

6. Call a friend.

This is the kind of friend who helps you get your perspective back — or at least gets you laughing.

Connection is a basic human need, wired into your brain. And just when you need it most (stressed!) you tend to withdraw. Put a few folks on speed-dial and use that "call a friend" option.

7. Laugh.

Set the timer for 15 minutes and give yourself permission to surf silly YouTube videos. It's easier to get back to better concentration after you flood your brain with some refreshing chemical relief.

Laughter is the best medicine. 

8. Go outside.

Go outside for at least 15 minutes in the middle of the day — cold or not — get fresh air. Take a walking meeting. Eat outside. Or just circle the building and notice the outside world. This helps reset perspective, balance your brainwaves, and it removes you from the sea of stress clues so you can clear your head. Breathe!

9. Take a power nap.

Go ahead and put up a "Do not disturb" sign, close your eyes, and refuel for 20 minutes. It’s way more powerful for your brain than that cup of coffee. You are rebooting your system, replenishing the neurotransmitters, and improving your memory. 

10. Write down your top 3 worries.

What would you tell your best friend to do if they faced these? Just naming them is helpful, but thinking about them from another perspective can help you find new possibilities or at least regain a little perspective.


RELATED: Why Good Things Are Sometimes As Stressful As Bad Ones


11. Do a worry dump.

Start with a blank page and write down everything bothersome — big and little — rumbling around in your stressed mind. Keep writing. Take a breath, smile, and send yourself a little love.

Now, how would you like to spend your precious energy on these and the rest of life? How many can you just let go?

12. Make a success list.

Write down the 3 or 5 times you've succeeded in the face of any big or little challenge. What strengths can you own and bring to your current situation?

In the middle of stress, it's easy and even natural to focus on gaps, failures, and insecurities, even to the point of turning everything into a catastrophe.

Really, just because you blew it as a parent this morning, it doesn't mean your kids are going to need therapy for life. Bring to mind some parenting successes and strengthen your confidence and creativity.

13. Declutter.

Find a little thing you can just dominate — like tackling cleaning out one drawer with a vengeance. This gives you thought time and a sense of control of something! 

14. Calm your senses.

Light a lavender candle, close your eyes, and just notice the power of scent to change your mood. Your brain is programmed to take in clues from your entire world, not just your conscious stream.

Use your other senses to help find your groove.

15. Tune in to good vibes.

Turn off alerts and turn on relaxing music. It’s no mistake music is used in medical situations to help patients deal with their challenges.

16. Relax your brainwaves with binaural beats.

Binaural beats are sounds delivered to your ears in 2 different frequencies and they have been shown to affect your brainwaves. There are Pandora stations and apps dedicated to this. Use earbuds!

17. Take back your lunch.

Really, take 20 minutes to pause, breath, nourish, change your scenery, or connect with someone will fuel your productivity for the rest of the day.

No, you won’t lose your edge or your job! You'll ramp up your effectiveness and decrease stress.

18. Take a walk.

A 20-minute walk will recharge your brain to handle your challenges. Rhythmic activity resets brainwaves and ramps up the associative centers of the brain — think smarter!

Extra credit: go outside.

Extra, extra credit: go outside with a friend.

19. Listen in.

Use one of the zillions of guided meditations available to find a few minutes of peace. Check out Buddhify or Insight Timer for a voice and message you find helpful, with a range of time options from a minute to an hour.

Take this powerful, powerful path to the resilience of mindfulness while waiting for an appointment, during a 5 min break, or at days end.

20. Write a 'thank you' note.

Focusing on gratitude is good for your mind and heart — a true stress antidote. It only takes a minute to dash off an email of appreciation and you’ve created a positive shift for 2 people.


RELATED: 4 Signs That Your Body Needs You To Deal With Your Stress & Anxiety ASAP


21. Do just one thing at a time for the next 25 minutes.

Try the Pomodoro method when stress is compromising your focus. Chunking your focus between pauses is brain-friendly. You’ll feel more effective and confident. You’ve got this!

22. Take technology out of your bedroom.

It increases your stress and you must get sleep to be resilient. Create your new bedtime regime. Get creative and learn to put yourself to sleep the way you know works for you. You have to help your brain shift from the zoom of the day to the peaceful state, so you’ll awake refreshed and more resilient.

23. Vow to go to bed just 15 minutes earlier.

To help you relax, try listening to a guided visualization right before bed to help your brain wind down. 

24. Keep a gratitude journal.

Writing and reflecting reduce your cortisol and create a more stress resilient mindset. Gratitude improves health and productivity.

25. Get it on.

Sex reduces stress hormones, lowers blood pressure, and creates better sleep. Not to mention it feeds that human need for touch and connection. Maybe waiting for the stress to die down to feel sexy is backwards?

26. Have a chat with your inner critic.

Give them a name and thank them for motivating you and keeping you safe. (They've been cracking the whip on you for years!) Then assure them you have it from here.

You have many "voices" in your head and you are not crazy, but when you are stressed, your inner critic gets louder. It’s up to you to practice finding your more benevolent and effective voice.

27. Practice faith, whatever that is for you.

Joining others or creating rituals to remind you of your deep and wide beliefs gives you resilience. You can’t live without food and water, but never discount that spiritual energy sustains you.

Feeling connected to your purpose and your place in a bigger world is the ultimate stress antidote. It is the driver of intrinsic motivation and your most powerful force. 

28. Close your day well.

Take 5 minutes to capture your "undone's" and loose ends so you don’t have to fret overnight. No matter how smart and organized you are, keeping things in your head is asking your brain to keep working all night.

29. Keep track of your progress daily.

Focusing on progress makes you happier and more successful on the way to your goals.Your goals are key motivators, engaging your emotions and pulling your forward.

But keeping track of the tiny successes along the way fuels your energy and keeps you from being stressed by the gaps.

30. Read Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.

Release the stress of perfectionism and never measuring up to unrealistic ideals. What if your upgrade your expectations for yourself or others to a more realistic version? I don’t mean compromise your greatness. I mean get real and motivate yourself with what matters (intrinsic motivation), not some frustrating fantasy. 

31. Never be afraid to ask for help.

Our whole culture is almost allergic to this, but this is the most important. We really like to help others, so let someone help you and you both feel better instantly. There is no shame — it’s the human advantage used to be your resilient best!

Perfectionism is self-sabotaging, but an oh-so-common challenge for high achievers. Your imperfections and mistakes are a critical part of your wisdom and humanity. Learn to be the best you and what that looks like in your life.

Tweak your way back to energy and confidence, happiness and health–back to chilled out and ready to handle what life throws you. Never underestimate the power of one tiny act of self-care to help you manage the crazy demands of this 24/7 existence!

Make your own list of go-to stress zappers and post them everywhere you need them to remind you that you've got this. Put them on your to-do list every day and take immense pleasure in checking them off.


RELATED: 5 Toxic Ways Stress Affects Your Love Life (& How To Stop It From Ruining Your Relationship)


Cynthia Ackrill leads stress and leadership workshops in many settings from coaching and leadership programs to women's conferences. Want to learn more strategies to tackle your stress and put more YOU in your future? Contact her or visit her courses and resources on her website.

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