I asked 17 psychology experts to share their best stress relief tips.
“Stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system because this relaxes the mind and the body. There are several ways to do this, such as breathing from your diaphragm. My favorite method is to lightly run one or two fingers over my lips. Parasympathetic fibers are spread throughout the lips, so touching them stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s remarkable how this simple gesture produces an immediate sense of calm in the mind and the body.” – Toni Bernhard, J.D.
“I go outside. There’s something about natural light that’s tremendously soothing to me. Any weather will do, except maybe pouring rain. But sun, clouds, snow…all good. I try to be mindful of my surroundings, noticing the trees against the sky, grackle on a lawn, the patterns of clouds. It just takes the edge of.” – Sophia Dembling, Psychology Today Blogger.
“First take a deep breath, or two. Remember, even if you can’t control the event causing the stress, you do have some control over your response to it. As an old Yiddish saying goes, “You can’t control the wind; but you can adjust your sails.” – Mindy Greenstein, Ph.D.
“One of the most effective tools that I prescribe in alleviating stress and anxiety is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). PMR works exceptionally well in combating the somatic symptoms associated with chronic worry and many physiological symptoms (such as gastrointestinal problems) that are endemic to social anxiety. Also very portable.” – L. Kevin Chapman, Ph.D.
“My most effective stress relief comes from speaking with friends, but only the ones I know have my best interests at heart. They are great listeners, supportive, and almost always come up with strategies to cope with the stressor or, at the least, put it in perspective for me. If nothing else, they point me in a better, less stressful direction.” – Susan Newman, Ph.D.
“Don’t rush into problem-solving mode. Whenever you feel the need to go faster, think of that as signal to slow down.” – Barbara Markway, Ph.D(link is external).
“Learn to sit quietly, and listen to yourself. Listening to yourself helps you to get to know yourself. Knowing yourself is the first step to managing yourself, and your stress” – Lynne Soraya, Psychology Today Blogger.
“Make sure that you schedule some “me-time” for self-care. It will reduce your stress, increase your productivity, and boost your happiness!” – Amy Przeworski, Ph.D.
“When you are exhausted you may have a tendency to push yourself harder when you need to recognize that tendency and do opposite action.” – Nancy Rappaport, M.D(link is external).
“When you become aware that your stress level is high, immediately slow down whatever you’re doing by about 25%. Whether thinking, surfing the Internet, cleaning the house, doing errands—change your pace so that you’re now moving in slow motion. You’ll feel the stress slide right off your body and out of your mind.” – Toni Bernhard, J.D.
“Get regular exercise, and vary your exercise routine to prevent boredom.” –Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D.(link is external)
“Music is a great tool for stress relief. Pop in your headphones and listen to something that will transport you somewhere else. And if you can, learn to play a musical instrument and use that as part of your own personal therapy program.” – Art Markman, Ph.D.
“My best tip for dealing with stress is first to decide if I am the source of the stress or if the stress is caused by an external situation. If the latter, I try to speak up about the help I need or set a boundary by being assertive. If I am the source of the stress through creating hurtful imaginary dramas, for example, I try to make my self-talk more compassionate in a process I describe here: I find that the more I can surround my negative thoughts with compassion, the easier it is to dissolve them and move on.” – Meg Selig, Ph.D.
“You may not be able to change the situation that caused your stress, but you can change your reactions. Looking for the silver lining, seeing humor in your predicament, or regarding the situation as a test of your faith are all ways that you can manage your emotions and get through even the most stressful hassle.” – Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D.
“Remind yourself that you’re doing what you can right now given the circumstances and your resources. Practice flexibility so that you can take advantage of opportunities for change.” – Fran Vertue, Ph.D.(link is external)
“There is only the present moment. If you fill your cup with past regret and future anxiety, there is no room for anything else; you only end up robbing yourself of the joy found in every breath with which you are blessed. Empty your cup—if you are safe in the present moment nothing can hurt you unless you allow it.” – Michael J. Formica, MS, MA, EdM.(link is external)
“When experiencing day-to-day stress I find it helpful to focus my attention on my immediate surroundings. For example, I may focus on the particular colors and shapes of objects in my environment. Doing this can help shift attention away from “hot” thoughts to “cool” (emotionally neutral) thoughts, to induce a calmer mental state.” – Scott McGreal, MSc.
“A great way to get stress relief is to learn to recognize when you’re in rumination mode. Ruminating while in a low mood impairs problem solving. People often believe that overthinking will lead to problem solving insights. It generally doesn’t. If it’s hard to stop overthinking, use some of the previously suggested tips for reducing your physiological stress relief or shifting your attention.” – Alice Boyes, Ph.D.
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