Stress management techniques

Friday, March 18, 2022

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For years, chewing was how I managed stress. I never thought I would find tools to manage stress outside of food but I did. The day it happened was right after lunch. I was in the middle of the most stressful situation I am yet to experience as a professional. 

Everything happened fast and I had to act. There was no food around. All I had was a bottle of water. So I drank it. I faced the source of my stress. When it was all over, it felt like I woke up from a nightmare. My face felt like a bunch of people hit it really hard. My heart was steadfast although hurt. My soul was going to be okay.

When I think about that day, I noticed that I went through everything without the help of food. I was surprised I had that ability. What a discovery!

That awful day gave me the confidence that I can manage stress without food. Ever since then, I decided to add to the list of stress management techniques. Here are some stress management techniques that work for me.

Please know that my goal is to tell you to try the ones that work for you. I also want to tell you that people out there are biased towards certain techniques. If what other people are pushing does not work for you, keep trying the techniques that will give you the freedom you need.

Prayer - I often start with prayer because God hears and answers. There are a lot of Scriptures about praying during stressful times. Philippians 4:6-7 is a good one: "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Bible Reading - My mind lines up with God's words when I read my Bible. My perspective changes. My spirit is encouraged and my stress really decreases. 

Books - I remember being so stressed one day and telling myself 'go to the public library.' The fact of being surrounded by books was encouraging. I found a few new books to read. I felt relaxed as I learned new things.  

Journaling - This is my go-to technique for times of stress. I simply write whatever comes to my mind. I often use journaling to empty my heart of worry. I list the things that are concerning me. It is easier to be more factual about the source of my stress after I journal. 

Question - I recently learned to ask questions when I feel stressed. I simply say "oh, I feel stressed. I wonder why I feel this way." Once I figure out the why, I can conscientiously find a solution. If the "why" is out of my control, I look for smart ways to find a solution for the stress.

Crochet - I learned to crochet as a child. I worked on it when I was so stressed out, I was not functioning really well. The counting, the repetitive movement proved soothing. Having a final project was nice too. It did look like a kid worked on it but who cares, my stress was gone.  

Exercise - Regular exercise is a stress reducer. I firmly believe that when you are stressed, you shouldn't shy away from exercise.  Exercise clears my mind and helps me to get ready for whatever the day has to offer. There are multiple sources of research that prove that exercise is a great solution to combat stress. 

Go for a walk - I heard someone say that God gave us joints so we can move our bodies. Walking is a natural way we can move our bodies and manage stress. I am not saying you need to walk across America. Even if you decide to walk outside and take a deep breath, you will be free from some of what's weighing on you. Start small and add to your steps. Find a new place or a familiar path. Whatever you do, just walk. 

Talk to a friend - Friendship is God's way to help us manage stress. The simple act of sitting down and talking to a friend adds a lot of joy to our days. I can't tell you how many times I would be so stressed in the morning. By the time I came back from seeing a friend, the stress was completely gone. You don't have to talk about what's bothering you if you don't want to. You do have to show up and talk.  

Go to counseling - Counseling is a great way to discover tools for healthy living. Every time I go, listen and do the work, I rise stronger and better. 

Take deep breaths - This was the first stress management strategy my father ever taught me. It works. There's nothing weird about it. You just take a few deep breaths and keep going. 

Rest - When you are already busy, how do you get more rest? Start small by incrementally adding 15 minutes to the hours you sleep at night. Instead of browsing mindlessly, mindfully taking 15 minutes to take a screen break. Rest is inner wealth and power. A rested mind can make better decisions during stressful seasons. 

Watch a comedy - Laughter is great medicine during times of stress. I purposefully add laughter to stressful days. It may be a new comedy or something old that delights my heart. Stress is a malady, laughing helps.

Picnics - The kids and I created the habit of having picnics. We go to a park, sit and eat a few snacks. Sometimes we walk. The kids may go to the playground. Whatever is stressing me out may follow me to a picnic at the park but never stays long.

Music - I recently learned to create different song lists. I have one for running. Another for Christmas time. I even have one for times I need motivation. Think about uplifting music. Organize it in a song list so you can play it when your heart needs some comfort in the form of melody and lyrics. 

Bake for others - Every time I share baked goods with others, my heart gets so uplifted. If I need to do something about others, baking is often a good choice. Baking for others often brings a smile to their faces. I sometimes take baked goods to a group of people. Baking is a way of showing others we care. Stress disappears when I bake, which is lovely.

Learn a foreign language - My brain takes a break from stressing when I learn a foreign language. I'm not sure if you thought about this as a stress management tool but it works for me.

Practice Gratitude - Steve Harvey said that gratitude is one of the most overlooked and key principles to success. I successfully use gratitude to manage stress. While I am not grateful for the source of my stress, I am grateful for so many things in my life. Expressing gratitude is an unexpected way to manage stress. 

There are more techniques I could share but I encourage you to start your own list. I am thankful that chewing is no longer the only item on mine.