I have struggled with stress and anxiety since childhood. As an adult, practicing healthy ways to manage and reduce my stress is a priority.
I have struggled with stress and anxiety since I was a child. Growing up, I didn’t know there were strategies I could learn to help me cope. My usual way of dealing with stress was to withdraw from the world. It wasn't a healthy approach, but it worked.
As an adult, I have learned much healthier ways to address my stress and anxiety. I still step away from people when I need to, but the strategies I now use enable me to enjoy life more, rather than hide away.
Ways I Reduce My Stress and Anxiety
1. Sleep with a weighted blanket
2. Have a creative outlet
3. Drink herbal teas
4. Turn on a sound machine
5. Use essential oils
6. Pick my battles
7. Treat myself kindly
8. Simplify and minimize
9. Have a support system
10. Practice yoga
If you don't think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.
— Kris Carr
1. Sleep With a Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets are made with tiny glass or plastic pellets which apply deep pressure to your body to help you feel calm and secure. The blanket weight you choose will depend on your body weight as well as your personal preference. For example, I weigh 115 lbs. and use a 12 lb. blanket.
Studies have shown that weighted blankets assist people with the following conditions:
- sensory processing disorder
I’ve been using my blanket for almost a year and sleep better than I have in a very long time. Sometimes I’ll even use it while watching a movie because it makes me feel so snug and safe.
Mine has a removable, machine washable cover so it's easy to keep clean.
2. Have a Creative Outlet
Having an artistic activity to engage in is a wonderful way to release tension and lift your mood.
For me, that outlet is writing. There's nothing I enjoy more than sitting at my laptop creating an article on a topic I'm passionate about.
Even just looking forward to hitting my keys lifts my spirits and puts a smile on my face while I'm at my day job!
How about you? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
Some creative activities:
- playing an instrument
Perhaps there is something you enjoyed doing many years ago. Maybe you're afraid to pick it up again because you're so out of practice. Don't allow your qualms to hold you back. You're likely to improve your skills again with continual practice.
3. Drink Herbal Teas
There's nothing like a hot cup of tea to help me relax. I normally drink green tea in the morning and enjoy different herbal varieties in the evening when I need to unwind.
I'll sip on it as I check my emails, balance my checkbook, or make important phone calls. It's definitely my perfect companion when I re-watch Downton Abbey episodes (while snuggled up in my weighted blanket, of course).
Herbal teas are well known for their natural calming effects.
Natural tea varieties to relieve stress:
- Passion Flower
- Lemon Balm
4. Listen to White Noise or a Sound Machine
My sound machine enables me to sleep like a baby through the night. It simulates nature sounds like a waterfall, rain, and the ocean, and also has a static sound (white noise) option. I turn it on when I go to bed and turn it off in the morning. Since I live near train tracks, it has been a real life saver for me!
Sound machines also work well for calming pets during thunderstorms, fireworks, and other loud noises. I even turn mine on when I want to focus on my writing because it blocks out noises from outside that cause my dog to bark.
I also use my sound machine whenever I nap or want to create a calmer atmosphere in my room.
5. Use Essential Oils
Essential oils have been used for centuries to combat stress, anxiety, and depression, among many other conditions. I buy mine online at Edens Garden, but thare are many other reputable distributors who sell them.
Some essential oils known for their calming effects:
- Ylang Ylang
Ways to use essential oils:
- Dilute a few drops in water in an oil diffuser. Let the diffuser run continually overnight or for a few hours at a time throughout the day.
- Place a few drops on your wrist or behind your ears.
- Add a few drops to your home-made skin moisturizer.
- Keep a portable diffuser in your purse and in your desk drawer at work. Just take a few sniffs when you're feeling stressed.
- Dilute it in a spray bottle to use as an air freshener.
6. Pick My Battles
I used to allow everything to get to me. Consequently, I was always stressed out.
I've learned to pick my battles.
For me, this means deciding what is most important. These are the issues I'm going to focus on because they are worth my time and energy. They're the matters that ten years from now, I'll be glad I addressed.
Picking my battles also involves distinguishing between the things I can change and the things I can’t. There are certain things that will never change, like humid summer weather, no matter how much I grumble about them.
I've learned not to sweat the small stuff.
Examples of small stuff:
- You order a plain hamburger through the drive-through and get a cheeseburger.
- Your dentist calls you to change your appointment day.
- Your dog chews your sock.
- You spill your coffee on the counter.
- The grocery store is out of your favorite ice cream flavor.
Small stuff is annoying but it's usually not worth getting wound up about. In the great scheme of things, it's like a few crumbs on a table. Don't sweat it.
7. Be Kind to Myself
Do you beat yourself up when you make a mistake? Do you tell yourself you're a failure and will never move on to a better job? If you're single, do you believe you are unlovable? Perhaps you are not verbalizing these thoughts, but you are adopting attitudes that reflect them.
If so, you need to be kinder to yourself.
Ways to be kind to yourself:
- Don't put yourself down when you make a mistake. Last I checked, only God never makes mistakes.
- Be patient with yourself.
- Accept yourself for who you are.
- Tell yourself you are beautiful (or handsome).
- Be mindful of your strengths, skills and talents.
- Never take on a victim mentality. Feeling sorry for yourself is unproductive.
- Work on bettering yourself in areas you need help in, such as by reading therapy books.
- Remind yourself that mistakes and failures have taught you valuable lessons that have helped you grow and learn.
- Treat yourself to activities you enjoy, especially after you complete a project. For me, it's watching a good murder mystery or going out for a bike ride on an awesome trail!
8. Simplify and Minimize
Ah, these are truly two of my favorite words in the universe.
They don't mean living in a cave with only a pillow (although they could) but rather, living a simpler lifestyle with fewer possessions.
Simplifying and minimizing have enabled me to let go of so many things that used to weigh me down.
When you reduce and eliminate, you inevitably have less to deal with, thereby automatically lowering your stress level.
- Give away or sell things you own that you no longer use or enjoy.
- Make easier meals.
- Spend less time on electronic devices.
- Set clear boundaries (with people, your money, and your time).
- Move into a smaller home.
- Consider ways you can reduce your daily living expenses.
9. Have a Support System
Do you have somebody you can talk to when the going gets tough?
This is important.
Ideally, it's nice to have someone you can meet for coffee or dinner regularly, such as once per week. This gives you something to look forward to when concerns come up. It's also fun to get together with a friend when there isn't anything troubling you!
Even if it’s somebody you can talk to by phone, it's important to know there's someone you can count on.
So many people today don't have family or friends they trust, so when they go through tough times they feel very alone.
Here are some ideas for meeting like-minded people:
- Attend a church or another religious institution where you can meet people who share your values and beliefs.
- Plug into a small group Bible study or study of another religious book.
- Find a meetup group in your area that shares your interests.
- Join a book club.
- Volunteer for a cause you believe strongly in.
10. Practice Yoga
I never paid much attention to yoga until several years ago when I suffered several debilitating injuries which left me in constant pain. Desperate for relief, I gave yoga a go and discovered that it was very effective in helping to relieve my chronic neck, shoulder and back pain.
Once I started yoga, I was hooked. Besides helping me recover from my injuries, I notice it helps me feel calmer and more relaxed overall.
Tips for practicing yoga:
- Play calming music, such as instrumental or classical.
- Create an environment free of clutter.
- Turn off all electronic devices.
- Keep water nearby.
- Have a regular daily time set aside to practice yoga.
Additional Ways to Combat Stress
- Play instrumental music
- Practice forgiveness and gratitude
- Take a weekend getaway or day trip
- Walk or play with your pet
- Take long walks
- Spend time in your garden or outdoors
- Pray or meditate
- Keep plants or flowers inside your home
- Eat a healthy diet
- Get plenty of rest
I don’t use all of these strategies every day, but I use most of these strategies most days. They have made a world of difference for me.
The main thing is to know that you are not alone in feeling stressed and anxious, and that there are plenty of ways to de-stress and relax so that you can live life more joyfully.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Madeleine Clays
Lisha C on June 14, 2020:
This is a great article on ways to help reduce stress and anxiety. It really reflects on how much you have struggled with it. Thanks for sharing your tips to help cope.
Madeleine Clays (author) on July 10, 2019:
Thanks for your comments, Lucy. I, too, wish I had learned some of these strategies earlier in my life. It seems to be true that self-distraction is effective, as it takes our focus off of ourselves and our troubles. One of my favorite things to do (besides writing) is to go out for a long bike ride in the early morning or evening.
Madeleine Clays (author) on July 10, 2019:
Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer. Yes, I also love using essential oils! My favorite is lavender.
Lucy from Leeds, UK on July 10, 2019:
Great and direct read! Many of these tips are centered around the idea of self-distraction, which I also believe is imperative when it comes to combating inappropriate levels of anxiety.
I like to view anxiety and nerves through the lens of Darwinism; we have evolved to be nervous and on-edge, as this once conferred us with the ability to defend our families and outrun predators. Since modern living has eliminated these life-threatening risks, much of this anxiety is just a hindrance and no longer serves us. It pops up the night before an interview, or in a busy town centre. Learning to use our senses to redirect our flow of thought (e.g. through a creative outlet or carrying essential oils) can help massively.
Desperately trying to 'calm down' never works, as it generates a second fear - the fear of the anxiety itself! I ended up developing full-blown panic disorder from years of ordering myself to 'stop being nervous', when I could have implemented strategies like these.
Jennifer C on July 09, 2019:
I love essential oils for reducing stress. They work great for me. These are all good tips and advice for anyone. We all have so much stress in our lives.