So you’ve had a stressful day…week…month, well, it feels like it has been going on as long as you can remember. Stress is kicking your butt!
You have no plans to change your job, family members, or win the lottery, so for the time being you’re stuck in this situation. Your shoulders have eked their way up to your earlobes, your neck muscles are whimpering, and your head is beginning to throb. Here are 10 ways to handle stress – fast!
1. Just Breathe.
Try this simple breathing technique.
Find a quiet(er) place.
Sit down or lean against the wall, close your eyes, and try to clear your mind.
Consciously lower your shoulders.
Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of four, hold it a second or two, and then slowly blow out your breath through your mouth for a count of seven or eight.
Repeat a few of these cleansing breaths until you feel yourself begin to relax.
If you cannot move to a quieter place, then simply breathing as stated above (even in the middle of a crisis) can still help in a stressful situation.
2. Take a trip to the watering hole.
Drink some water, preferably with lemon – dehydration can cause rapid heart rate, muscle cramps, lack of energy, dizziness, confusion, dark urine, (and if bad enough, kidney failure). Lemon will add vitamin C which will also battle stress. Stay hydrated!
3. Sniff a little magic in a bottle.
Essential oils can be a little magic in a bottle. One of my favorite sayings from Young Living Essential Oils blend called Stress Away – “Because drinking wine at 10 am is frowned upon.”
Essential oils work great with the breathing technique above. In today’s environment, you have to be careful with “sharing” scents, especially in an office environment. What’s so convenient about this option is that you can carry a little bottle with you in your pocket, or place a few drops of essential oil on a tissue or handkerchief that you can tuck inside your shirt. I simply open a bottle of lavender essential oil and set it on my computer keyboard. I am able to catch a whiff of lavender every once in a while, and sometimes I pick up the bottle to inhale slowly and deeply a few times when the stress starts getting to me (in combination with the breathing technique above).
For a great explanation as to how essential oils work, check out this website – shape.com.
I did a little research to find out which essential oils top the list as being recommended for stress. After checking out lots of websites, the number one spot, hands down, is lavender. Here’s a list of the top 10 essential oils that were most frequently mentioned as beneficial for battling stress:
- Ylang Ylang
4. Drink a cup of tea.
Tea brings time to a crawl…
[Taken from this quote: Tea brings Time to a crawl, its frantic pace resuming on noticing our empty cups. ~Terri Guillemets, “Tea Time,” 1994]
I have a couple of go-to teas to help with relaxation (or tummy issues) that I have used over the years, but I am expanding my horizons when it comes to battling stress and anxiety. I read several posts on the benefits of tea for relaxation. I noticed the ingredients that are found in teas designed to relieve stress and anxiety are Passionflower, Kava Kava, Gotu Kola, Linden Flower, Chamomile, and Eleuthero. I personally drink a cup of tea with Valerian before bed, which is known to help with sleep.
One study showed that Passionflower was equally effective as taking a medication for anxiety, and without the side effects.
Eleuthero has been shown to have anti-stress effects, support the immune system, and help with chronic fatigue, but it usually must be taken over time (no miraculous results from one dose).
Linden Flower has been used to treat indigestion, anxiety, and to help the immune system.
Kava Kava has been shown to reduce anxiety and help with sleep – it has also been in the news for causing liver damage, but there’s more to the story. The bad rap came from research conducted with participants that consumed the wrong parts of the plant or other substances that affected liver function, and many countries have since reversed the ban, deeming the research results were in error. If you are still not sure about trying kava, here are a couple of links you can check out for further explanation – konakavafarm.com and kalmwithkava.com.
You’ll also notice some relaxation teas contain Fennel, Ginger, and Cardamom which can help with digestion (happy tummy = less stress).
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Traditional Medicinals Organic Cup of Calm – contains Passionflower, Chamomile, Lavender, Peppermint, and several other calming ingredients.
The Republic of Tea Get Relaxed – contains Organic Rooibos tea (I love this blend all on its own), Linden flowers, Passionflower, Eleuthero, Chamomile, Lavender, Rose petals.
Pukka Relax – contains Chamomile, Gotu Kola, Fennel, Ginger, Cardamom, Marshmallow Root, Ashwagandha, and Licorice.
Yogi Calming – contains all organic ingredients including Chamomile, Licorice Root, Gotu Kola Leaf, Hibiscus Flower, Fennel, Lemongrass, Cardamom, Orange Peel, Barley Malt, Rose Hip, Natural Plum Flavor, Lavender.
My husband is a huge fan of Yogi teas, we have a cabinet full of them for whatever ails you, especially those related to digestive issues, immunity support, detox, colds/throat, and stress relief.
5. Soothe the savage beast.
Listen to relaxing and/or stress reducing music. When a boatload of stress “hits the fan”, I have been known to turn on some tunes (I love Liquid Mind), sip a relaxing cup of tea, and take a few deep, cleansing breaths with lavender essential oils under my nose to surround myself in a cocoon of relaxation. Music soothes the soul, let it carry you away to a peaceful place.
So what else can you do to relax in the short term?
6. Talk it out.
Grab a friend to vent.
Reaching out to one or two people who are sympathetic to your stressful situation can be a real lifesaver. Sometimes talking it out allows you to bring your feelings to the surface and get them off your chest. Think about who you know, someone you can trust, a respected friend, colleague, or mentor, they may be able to listen and then help provide constructive ideas to help you better manage your situation. Be sure to pick a positive person to speak with, hanging out with Debbie Downer is NOT going to help.
7. Somebody needs a hug.
Find a buddy to hug. Seek out a friend, significant other, or even a four-legged friend (dog, cat) to hug, cuddle, or spend some relaxation time with. A nice bear hug or two can reduce stress and make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. And research has shown that owning a pet can reduce stress, depression, social isolation, and lower your blood pressure!
8. Tickle your funny bone.
Laughter has always been known to knock stress down a few notches. Laughter has been credited with reducing tension, helping your cope, elevating your mood, and even reducing pain by producing endorphins! So watch a funny video and bring on the giggles!
9. Chuck it.
Cut it out or shut it down! Step away from the stressful situation, take a quick stroll around the office or get outside to breathe some fresh air. Then, while you have a moment to yourself, think of the things that are causing your stress and get rid of as many as you possibly can.
SAY NO to the time-sucking, stress-inducing people and activities in your life. You do NOT have to do everything for everybody. You DO have limits (sorry, had to say it). Slow yourself down, spend your time wisely. Otherwise, chronic stress may cause you to experience other types of health issues including: high blood pressure, headaches, body aches, chest pain, fatigue, skin break outs (even shingles), difficulty sleeping, stomach upset, under eating or overeating, depression, and relying on self-medication such as drug or alcohol abuse.
You owe it to your current health, your future health, your family, your SELF to be the happiest, healthiest, most well-adjusted person you can be.
10. Heat it up, cool it down, and stir it around.
Use Heat/Ice/Massage to reduce muscle tension.
Additional steps you can take to unwind the tension in your body include using heat/ice and massage, but first, a few words…
I think it is important to share that not only am I a Registered Nurse, I am also a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT). So, the following recommendations are based on my experience. If you can afford to pay for a good massage from an LMT, then by all means please do so, but if you need some easy techniques to use at home for stress relief, these are a safe bet.
And I must always say…see your doctor if you have symptoms that last more than a few days, especially pain, you want to be sure nothing else is wrong. Sometimes pain is caused by an injury or inflammation, you may want your doctor’s advice to be sure you’re choosing the right method. If you know your muscle aches are from stress, read on…
If stress is causing you to have head/neck/shoulder aches, you may think of taking a pain reliever. But if you are at home, using moist heat across the achy areas is a more natural option because it helps relieve the tension in your muscles that is causing the pain.
Some heating pads come with this option, but you can wet a towel, ring it out, fold it up and throw it in the microwave (but be VERY careful not to heat it too much!). As the outside of the towel loses heat, refold it so it is inside out, that allows you to make it last longer with fewer trips to reheat it in the microwave. Try moist heat compresses for about 20 minutes to the affected areas. You can also soak in a warm bath, but that’s not always an option. Why moist heat? You can set dry heat and moist heat at the same temperature, but moist heat will yield better results because it actually penetrates into the tissues and increases blood flow.
Once your muscles are warmed up, you can then do a little self-massage with oil or lotion, something scented with lavender (or other essential oils) has the added benefit of relaxation aromatherapy. If you find a knot, gently press directly on the knot for a minute or two, gradually increasing the pressure, but not enough to cause a lot of pain. Sometimes the pressure will allow the muscle to release, but not always, so don’t go digging too hard.
You can also try some stretching after moist heat, caution is the key. Slowly turn your head side to side a few times, then chin to chest, and finally ear to shoulder on both sides. Be gentle with yourself, don’t force your head or neck to move much further than it can. If you continue with the moist heat and stretches a couple of times per day, over time you may improve your range of motion and reduce the muscle tension.
Though I usually recommend moist heat, sometimes ice works better for pain. The only way to know what works best for you is to experiment. Ice is effective for swelling, inflammation, and pain from muscle spasms. Ice is usually recommended as the first line of treatment when you have had an injury, especially since it helps to reduce inflammation. But if you have had an injury, please, please, please, be sure you have talked to your doctor first before trying any of these techniques, okay?
There are long term changes you can consider to sock it to stress, like making sure you are eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and making meditation a part of your daily routine.
You can also consider taking supplements/vitamins to replenish your body when you’re under a lot of stress. I found a great article by Dr. Tasneem Bhatia on Dr. Oz’s website, it explains which ones to take based on specific problems you may be experiencing, like insomnia, headache, pain, anxiety, fatigue, etc.
Whether you try a few (or all) of the 10 ways to handle stress, let me know which ones seem to have helped the most. If you have additional ideas you’d like to share, please leave a comment below and let us know what works for you.