10 Ways To Get REAL With Yourself About Stress (So Life Doesn't BURN You Out)

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how to reduce stress

Are you overwhelmed by stress?

If you said yes, then you are like many Americans. Research shows that 60% of people in poor health have high levels of stress, and 22% of people in general report living with high stress levels.

So, what are you stressing about? Money, work, kids, relationships and the list goes on.

I think the biggest lesson I have learned being a Marriage & Family Therapist is, we can’t go back and we can’t predict the future.

If you stress about any of these things and you don’t stop, you are putting your health at risk.

You focus on what you don’t have, rather than what you do have.

Allowing yourself to live with the "never enough syndrome" makes it very hard to manage stress. Once you buy a house, you want a bigger one and so on. It never stops.

This only leaves you feeling depleted and overwhelmed.

To help you break the stressful cycle, here are 10 tips to help you reduce stress:

1. Start your morning with positivity.


Rather than focusing on your to-do list, start your day with three affirmations.

They can be simple — I am enough is one of my favorites.

Think of all the things you have done.

Many people wake up in the morning and the stress begins. Slow down, have a cup of coffee and stay away from the news. Read or write in a journal instead.


2. Get out of your head.

We all have an internal dialogue.

It goes on in your mind all day long and it is usually your worst critic.

It tells you, you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, thin enough or you don’t make enough money.

As long as you keep telling yourself these things, you will never feel good. You will always feel stressed out and less than you really are.

Learn to accept where you are and who you are.


3. Listen to music.


Take a music break and listen to music that leaves you feeling good.

This will help get your mind off what you are stressed about and help keep you in the present.

All you have to do is listen to the music and use your imagination.


4. Take a walk.

This does not mean run over to the nearest Taco Bell on your next break.

I mean go to the beach or a park — someplace peaceful.

Stop and really notice your environment.

What beautiful things do you see? What weird things do you see? Is the sun out or is it foggy?

Put your phone away, feel your feet hit the ground! Smell the roses, as they say.

There is so much out there. Don’t miss out on it.


5. Find a place that brings you peace.


Where do you feel most calm?

Is it near water or in the Redwoods? Maybe, you have a place in your house or you have a pet that helps you feel relaxed.

Wherever it is, go there. Then, stay for a while.

Take a few deep breaths and clear your mind.

Stay in the moment. Feel the wind or air against your skin.

Remember this moment and keep the memory close. Then, when you are at work and feeling stressed out you can visualize this memory.


6. Eat nutrient-rich food.

Food is fuel for the body.

Forget the fast food that you have been eating — there aren’t many nutrients in it, and they are high in calories. And they will just leave you feeling bloated and fatigued. Bad for your gut AND your brain.

Load up on protein and go light on the carbs and make sure you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.

This will help you focus better and decrease your stress.

Also, make sure to drink enough water. You don’t want to get dehydrated!


7. Take a nap.


I know you think this sounds unrealistic. You have so much to do — how can you fit in a nap?

But power naps really do work!

You don’t have to take one every day, and it could be for just 20-30 minutes.

We all feel a little sluggish in the afternoon after lunch. If you can, use that time to shut your office door and close your eyes for a bit.

You'll wake up totally refreshed and recharged.


8. Make time for fun.

What happened to fun? So many adults have gotten away from having fun.

You spend so much time judging yourself, worrying about the future, that you forget to put fun on the calendar.

You can spend time with friends and take silly pictures, play with your pet or go on a weekend getaway.

Start to work fun into every day.

Start simple and small. Set aside 10 minutes to watch funny videos on YouTube or listen to songs that make you laugh or write in your journal some funny things you have seen people do.


9. Stop relying on caffeine to get you through the day.


There is nothing wrong with a second cup of coffee, now and then.

But, you don’t want to rely on it.

And if you are prone to anxiety, then you want to avoid it all together as it can increase anxiety and stress.

I think back to the days before Starbucks, when there were no to-go cups. You sat with your friends and had a cup of coffee at the cafe, talking and laughing.

Think about that the next time you go for that second or third cup of coffee all by yourself.

Take a break and invite a friend. You can still go to Starbucks, but stay there and sip your coffee.

And don't think you're exempt if you don't drink coffee — caffeinated sodas also count.


10. Talk about your problems.

This can be so hard for some of you.

But why is that? Are you worried people will think you can’t handle life or think ill of you?

We ALL go through highs and lows in life.

There are NO exceptions.

When you hold in your problems it can lead to physical problems, depression, and anxiety and you're more likely to stay stuck and fixated on your problems.

You don’t have to solve your problems right now. And, you may find there really isn’t a solution. That’s alright too!

What is important is that you aren’t holding them in.


You may not be able to control your environment, but you can control how you react to it. This is a key element for knowing how to reduce stress. 

When you are taking better care of yourself, you are more likely to react calmly to the environment.

At the end of the day, remind yourself of the good things you did for yourself today.

You'll find that your worries and stresses slowly slip away. You may even sleep better

And you will be much happier.

Lianne Avila is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Mateo, CA. She has helped many people just like you, reduce stress. For a free phone consultation or more information, please visit