It’s no secret that stress can have harmful effects on our bodies and minds, but unfortunately for most of us, it’s simply unavoidable. So what can you do? Try one or more of the following techniques to help you manage it.
1. Keep a Journal
Journaling is a helpful tool for managing stress. Here are a few of the reasons:
- It provides an opportunity for quiet reflection about your feelings and emotions so that you can sort out, clarify and better understand them.
- It provides a private outlet for expressing difficult emotions, such as anger and frustration, without hurting someone you love.
- It can help to release your negative thoughts and emotions so that you can move on to a happier, less stressed state of mind.
- Writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, therefore reducing the impact of the stressors on your physical health.
- It boosts your immune system, which helps your body to withstand the effects of further stress.
To get started, decide whether you’d like to use pen and paper or your computer. If you prefer your computer, try on online journaling platform like Penzu. Next, find somewhere quiet and comfortable, where you won’t be interrupted for 10-20 minutes. To begin your journal entry, write the date, and then simply write whatever comes to mind! There are no set rules. Forget about punctuation, grammar and spelling. If you need more structure, here are some things to write about:
- What’s bothering you and why.
- Things you would like to change or things that could improve the situation.
- Why the stressors bother you, how they make you feel, and how you might respond.
- Your thoughts, hopes, fears, frustrations, and any other emotions you are experiencing.
Above all, be honest in whatever you choose to write! You’ll feel better and learn more about yourself. For more helpful tips, check out my article on journaling.
2. Prioritize Positive Relationships
Research has found that having positive connections with others can help relieve harmful levels of stress, and that caring behaviors trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones. 
There are many ways to increase and strengthen positive relationships in your life. Here are some ideas for social support networks and boosting your connection with others:
- Take a coffee break with a friend at work.
- Stop to chat with a neighbor.
- Call a family member or a friend you haven’t talked to in a while.
- Visit your church.
- Volunteer for an organization that has a mission you admire.
- Join a gym to connect with others who love Zumba, Yoga, CrossFit or whatever type of exercise you enjoy as much as you do.
- Look for a Meetup group near you.
- Sign up for a class in something that interests you.
3. Take Time to Breathe
According to the Kellie Marksberry of the American Institute of Stress, “deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body—it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.” 
A simple breathing practice to try is called Sama Vritti, which is a yoga pranayama (or focused breathing technique) also known as “equal breathing”. It’s easy to do and can be practiced anywhere. Here’s how you do it:
- Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair, or you can lie down if necessary.
- Close your eyes and breathe normally, focusing on your breath. Breathe in and out several times.
- Breathing through your nose, inhale as you slowly count to four, and then exhale for another count of four.
- Continue this pattern for several minutes. You can vary the number you count to, but be sure to inhale and exhale for an equal count.
4. Get Active
Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, and stimulates the production of endorphins, the chemicals in the brain that elevate your mood and act as natural painkillers. Endorphins are also responsible for the feelings of relaxation and optimism you may experience with more intense workouts.
To manage your stress and feel better in general, try adding some physical activity into your daily routine. Any type of exercise is fine – just choose something you enjoy and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
5. Improve Your Sleep
Sleep. Elusive to so many of us, but so important! Lack of sleep not only increases your levels of stress hormones, it also impairs your memory and concentration and disrupts your body’s normal metabolism.
Check out this article on ways to improve your sleep:
Try these techniques and find out what works for you, then build it into your life on a regular basis. Please comment below and let me know which ones work for you!
 The health benefits of strong relationships – Harvard Health. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2016, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships
 Take a Deep Breath. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2016, from http://www.stress.org/take-a-deep-breath/