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10 Surprising Tips for Managing Stress

Effective stress management has become more important than ever. What do you normally do when stress is getting to you? Many of us turn to exercise or talk to a therapist when feelings of anger, anxiety or frustration arise. But did you know that taking a different route to work or sleeping on a fresh set of sheets can also help alleviate stress?

Try some of these unusual techniques the next time you need to clear your mind or calm yourself down.

Focus on Your Breath
When you’re stressed, your heart rate can increase, which can make you feel even more stressed. Try this simple exercise:
Focus your attention on your heartbeat for a few seconds. Then put your hand on your belly to feel it rise and fall as you breathe, and say, This is my body breathing. As you inhale and exhale deeply, notice your heart rate slow and feelings of calmness grow.

Rewrite Your Script
Ever have the same negative thoughts so frequently that they become a never-ending tape-loop, playing over and over again in your mind? I’ll never get everything done. I know they’re going to fire me. I’m going to get sick.

When you start thinking worst-case scenarios, ask yourself if your concerns are based on facts or emotions. If the latter, imagine that these thoughts are part of a script that you’re writing, then change the lines. This can help create some distance between you and your worries, and remind you that you are in control of the story of your life.

Or … Channel Your Inner Storyteller
As an alternative, invent a fairytale ending to your “story.” It’s an entertaining distraction and can help you recognize that fantasies—both bad and good—are just that. The reality of your situation probably lies somewhere in between.
Tune Into a New Voice
If you can’t turn off the stressful negative talk in your head, try replacing it with talk that’s positive. Music can help, but listening to an audio book or an interesting interview can provide you with actual dialogue to focus on.

Control What You Can Control
Worrying about major life or world events is one kind of stress, but equally as bothersome are the daily, chronic stressors that cause aggravation and tension. To avoid irksome traffic, take an alternate route to work that might be longer but less crowded. If you find yourself too wound up to sleep after watching the evening news, skip it in favor of a lighthearted sitcom.

Find the Funny
Research shows that laughter reduces stress hormones and triggers some of the same mood-boosting effects as exercise. So do whatever tickles your funny bone.

Make Time for Play
Watch young children at play. They truly live in the moment, not worrying about the future or the past. Take a cue from them and play at something in which you can become totally engrossed.
Start a card game, set aside time to do a craft project or draw a picture. Not an artist? No problem. Pick a simple image, like a tree or have fun doodling in a notebook. Don’t worry about how it turns out, simply focus on the act of drawing—the way your pen or pencil moves across the paper as the image takes shape.

Nurture Another Living Thing
It is easier to limit the time spent focusing on your own stressful thoughts when you’re busy attending to something or someone else. Bake cookies for a neighbor, play with a pet or get outside and garden.

Engage Your Senses
Senses play a role in your levels of stress. Gentle music, calming scents like lavender and dim lighting can alleviate stress.
And touch is no exception. Wearing something soft, splurging on a cozy set of sheets or even just keeping a piece of your favorite fabric in your pocket to hold or stroke occasionally can make your feel comforted and relaxed.

Try Some Tools
Traditional meditation tools—prayer beads, gongs, chanting—can help you focus and relax.
Or experiment with different apps you can download for your smartphone or tablet. There’s even a Zen rock garden app that lets you rake the sand with your fingertips.

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