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In difficult moments, a lot of us can let the stress take over. It's easy to get caught up in the overwhelming feelings, which can make the situation worse. You might know that feeling—you could be dealing with a big project or problem at work and then you start to think about what would happen if you got fired and then it snowballs into wondering how you're going to pay your rent or support those who are dependent on you or how this is going to look on your resume… and on and on. Or you might be watching or reading negative news. Then, hours later, you're still doomscrolling and wondering about the fate of humanity.
All of this can sound dramatic, but if you can't say this has happened to you, then you're one of the lucky ones, and we're going to need your tips on how you keep your cool. For most of us out there, we've let stress get the best of us at times.
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Of course, when you let stress take over, it can really do a number on you. Your thinking, focus, and even rationale are disrupted. It can feel like you're losing control. And when left unchecked, it can lead to more anxiety, depression, and even some physical effects.
The good news is that there are a lot of coping strategies that can help you manage stress. In the long-term, finding self-care rituals that work for you, setting boundaries, and seeking help if you need it are ways to start. Having a long-term game plan for stress will change your everyday life for the better.
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But there are also moments when you just need some stress relief fast—for example, before you have to make a big presentation or go on a job interview, when you're sitting in traffic and running late to something, or even at times when the day's news cycle has left you exhausted and worried.
For those situations, there are a few tricks you can employ to put you in a better mindset and help you cope. We compiled a list below from some expert sources. Just remember: Stress relief isn't one-size-fits-all and depends on the person and the situation, but these thought-starters are worth trying. And if you have a quick stress-relief strategy that you don't see here, we'd love to know—send us a DM or comment @thethirty.
1. Focus on Your Breath
Just paying attention to your breath can help relax the mind, and you don't necessarily have to do a full breath work session to feel more refreshed and present. Having a moment to take some deep breaths is a quick and effective way to step away from a stressful situation, even just for a minute.
1. Inhale while counting to four
2. Hold the breath for four counts
3. Exhale slowly while counting to four
4. Hold for four counts
5. Repeat for five minutes or as needed
2. Go for a Walk
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Taking a short walk around the block can help clear your mind. Even if you can't get outside or you don't have enough time, make it a point to just get up and stand and walk around your space for a minute.
Journaling can be so helpful to your mental health. If you've had an overwhelming day, getting in a 10-minute journaling session can help you express your thoughts and emotions.
4. Talk It Out
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This is where you can lean on your support system. The Mayo Clinic says that talking it out with a trusted friend or family member might help you feel better. You'll just want to be mindful of what the other person is going through at the moment as well.
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Meditation has been proven to reduce and manage stress, providing you with a sense of calm and, perhaps, a different perspective. Even just a quick session can provide some much-needed mindfulness.
6. Think About a Mantra or Affirmation
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According to the Mayo Clinic, it's easy to lose objectivity when you're stressed, which can lead to many negative thoughts. Practicing positive thinking can really put you in a better mindset. Speaking or thinking affirmations or mantras can be a reminder of your resilience.
7. Do a Body Scan or Check In on Yourself
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Taking a moment to step back from a stressful situation and be aware of your body from your head to your toes helps with tension release and brings attention to some areas of discomfort that you didn't know about.
Alternatively, the simple act of checking in on yourself daily (or multiple times a day if needed) gets you in touch with your feelings and thoughts. Knowing these things may help you figure out how to take care of yourself and offers you an opportunity to be kind to yourself.
8. Release Tension
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The signs of stress are physical, too. When you get stressed, you often can feel hunched over, your jaw could be clenched, and your muscles can be tense. You can release tension with some self-massage—squeeze a stress ball, massage your temples, knead your shoulders and neck, or take a tennis ball and roll your feet over it.
9. Listen to Music
Studies have found that music can have a positive effect on stress response. So listen to something that's relaxing or a song that you know will put you in a good mood. And if you want to take it to the next level, why not dance out the tension and stress, too?
10. Stretch and Move
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