10 Easy solutions to stress

Reader's Digest Editors 27 July 2022

It's almost impossible to totally avoid stress, but these top tips will help you to get it under control so that it doesn't take over your life

Does stress send you spinning? Don't let it wear you down. Instead, take pre-emptive action to get it under control—before it controls you. Here are some concrete ways to nip stress in the bud.

1. Lean on other people

Friends

Studies of both animals and humans show that social contact can help tone down the body's physical response to stress. It can even boost immunity. So cultivate a network of people you can turn to.

"Cultivate a network of people you can turn to"

Share what's bothering you with a friend and ask for some helpful advice. Avoid people who always need something without giving back or who are always short with you.

2. De-clutter your world

Stop hoarding old magazines and throw away those old receipts you no longer need. Clutter-free surroundings will help prevent the frustration of not being able to find something you need and give you the reassuring knowledge that everything's in its place.

3. Eliminate last-minute rushes

Leave the house 15 minutes early for appointments, set up a system for paying your bills (ask your bank about automatic bill paying), refill your prescriptions a week ahead of time and stock up on birthday cards whenever you see ones you like. A little advance planning can spare you a lot of headaches!

4. Keep a journal

Woman writing in journal

Reflect on your day, your emotions and your personal goals. Include everything that stresses you, so you can start to recognise patterns and take appropriate action. Writing is also a great way to relax and put things into perspective.

5. Get a massage

Massage not only relaxes tense muscles, it decreases the level of stress hormones in the bloodstream and stimulates the release of serotonin, a brain chemical associated with relaxation and a feeling of wellbeing. Studies show that massage can even lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

6. Get organised

Set aside a place for bills, paperwork and letters. Store items you use most often in accessible places. Spend five minutes straightening your office or main living area at the end of the day. Keep a long-range calendar and a short-range to-do list. Check off items as you finish them.

7. Make time for yourself

relaxing bath

Give higher priority to your "relax and renewal" time. Include it in your schedule at least every other day. If you have to cut out an activity to make time for your hobby—or a warm bath—then do it. Or spend some time alone reading or listening to music you love.

8. Cut your to-do list in half

Most of us set the bar too high. After you've written your to-do list, decide what's most important to you in the long run, then cut the list in half. If you can't eliminate certain tasks, try to have someone else do them. For instance, hire a neighbourhood teenager to mow the lawn or skip cooking and order takeaway.

9. Laugh a little

When you laugh, you send chemicals called endorphins to your brain that ease pain and enhance your feeling of wellbeing. Laughter also stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles and boosts your resistance to infection.

"It's nearly impossible to stay tense while you're laughing"

If you laugh for 20 seconds, your body gets the same amount of beneficial oxygen—very good for stress relief—as it does in three minutes of aerobic exercise. Plus, it's nearly impossible to stay tense while you're laughing. Find cartoons, videos, TV shows, writers and comics that make you laugh. Share jokes with friends over email.

10. Avoid crowds

Schedule your journey to avoid traffic, go for lunch 15 minutes before the usual rush, make Thursday, not Saturday, your night out, shop for groceries on a weeknight and order your clothes and medications through the mail.

If you feel you’re experiencing more stress than you can manage, you may want to talk to your GP about getting help.

Read more: 8 Signs stress is making you sick

Read more: Stretch yourself: Remain limber as you age

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