By Pia Todras, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist, Psychological Services
When you read the term “spring cleaning,” you probably think of thoroughly cleaning your house in the springtime. Isn’t it refreshing to tidy your house? Doesn’t it feel good to get rid of the clutter? This spring, why not also clear some stress out of your life? According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, only 37 percent of Americans feel they are actually doing an excellent or very good job of managing their stress (Stress in America Survey, 2008). Top sources of stress include money, work, the economy, family responsibilities, relationships, family health problems, and personal health concerns. There is a body of research that shows that untreated chronic stress can have a negative impact on individuals’ mental and physical wellbeing. Therefore, it is important to find positive, healthy ways to manage stress as it occurs.
Here are some simple stress management techniques that psychological research has shown to help reduce stress in the short- and long-term.
Breathe. Deep breathing increases relaxation. Try this: put your hand on your lower abdomen and inhale slowly through your nose. As you inhale, your abdomen should expand. Try for a count of five. Hold your breath for a couple of counts, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Try for a count of five.
Exercise. There is a ton of research that shows that exercise benefits your mind just as well as your body. A 20-minute walk, run, swim or any exercise that gets your heart pumping in the middle of a stressful time can provide an instant reduction in stress.
Meditate. Meditation produces a deep state of relaxation and a calm mind. When you meditate, you clear away the clutter in your mind that contributes to your stress. Meditation can help you gain a new perspective on stressful situations, build skills to manage your stress, increase self-awareness, and reduce negative emotions. Research has shown that meditating, even for only a few minutes, can have immediate positive effects in reducing stress.
Smile and laugh. Recent research has found that smiling can help reduce stress and even make you feel happier. There also appears to be some truth to the saying, “laughter is the best medicine.” There have been many benefits associated with laughter, including stress reduction, improved immunity, and soothing physical tension.
Get social support. Contact a trustworthy friend, family member, or colleague. Research shows that when people have other people they can turn to, they are better able to handle major life stressors, as well as everyday stress.
While these techniques are helpful in reducing everyday stress, JCFS offers a variety of services that can be helpful if stress becomes overwhelming. Some such services include individual, group, family and couples therapy. For information about these and other services available at JCFS, visit us at jcfs.org or call, toll-free, 1-855-ASK-JCFS.