But it won’t help you right at that moment when you notice your stress levels approaching high tide.
Thankfully there are many ways to stem the tide of stress in your day—quick, straightforward approaches.
Here are six sound, perhaps surprising manoeuvres for you to combat stress today:
1. Rise to a physical challenge.
Stress fuels worry and overthinking, which in turn worsens stress, which then worsens your negative thinking, and so on.
Stand up and balance on one leg. If that’s too easy, try it with your eyes closed.
This effective trick gets you out of your head and into your body. It deflects your focus away from your negative thought loops to meet the physical challenge. It will sharpen your concentration too.
2. Dose up on bonding.
The bonding hormone Oxytocin eases stress.
Get a morning hit of calm chemistry by hugging or kissing any or all available household members, including pets. Even imagining a hug with a loved-one can have the desired outcome.
Simple altruism may be more appropriate outside the home. Help out a colleague or a stranger in the street for an alternative positive effect.
3. Use some Mindfulness magic.
Stress activates survival mode in your brain and body, and it feeds on itself, ramping up and up.
Overpower your internal panic merchant with a basic Mindful activity: choose any mundane task that presents itself and pay close attention to every moment.
Feel the weight of the kettle in your hand, watch the water colour with tea and the steam rise. Notice the pang in your chest that wants you to hurry up, but choose not to react. See your tea-making ritual through with full mindful focus.
Your steady concerted effort to engage your senses, to observe yourself and your momentary activity, will wrestle mind and body back to a calmer state.
4. Try method acting.
Who would you prefer to feel like right now? A friend or character who exudes calm, confidence and control? Or perhaps you can recollect a time when you yourself possessed such qualities.
Act the way you wish to feel.
You know that experience where a picture, memory or song evokes a sudden powerful change in the way you feel? This is the power you’re harnessing, except instead of waiting for an external stimulus to trigger you, you’re taking the lead.
Call on your inner thespian, tap your recall and feel the difference that you want.
This method is a potent stress salve worth practicing.
5. Really connect in real time
On a day that hurtles along, thrashing you about in its wake, connection is an anchor.
Make a point of making eye contact whenever the opportunity arises. Notice that time slows just a little when you do. For double points, smile. Even if you don’t feel like it, chances are that the smile you get in return, will make you feel like it.
Instead of letting that call from a liked or loved one go to voicemail (because you think you don’t have time), answer it. Suspend your stress for a moment and listen. Listen and respond. Again time will slow, if you let it.
Once you master this intentional contact and experience it’s anchoring effect, make a habit of connecting with someone on your busiest, most pressured days. These real, real-time encounters can stop you from getting washed away with the stress current.
6. Change Channels
Stress gives you a one-track mind, making everything look like catastrophe. To regain a balanced perspective and see beyond the circumstances presently plaguing you, change channels.
Pause your high-pressure programming and opt for a brief interlude of artistic expression instead. Don’t panic – no skill or inspiration required, and anything goes. Sing your favourite song, in your head if you must. Play music and dance, inwardly if you must. Colour in your to-do list or decorate it with doodles.
Even a brief, barely-perceptible creative burst will release tension and coax relaxation.
Each of these powerful tricks works in a similar way. Each one acts as a circuit breaker that can halt your stress reactions and even counter them. They activate non-stress brain circuitry or chemistry. Make a little time and find the will, and any of them will help to turn the tide of stress.
Which will you use today?