Reduce Stress Quickly With 4 Simple Tips

stress Jun 09, 2023

There are times in your life when you know you are stressed. Like when the work deadline is 2 days away and you're not even close to being finished. Or when your to-do list is so long that it keeps you up at night.

And there are times when you wouldn't say you're stressed, but there's a nagging unease. You can't put your finger on it, but you're not totally content. Whether you can identify your stressors or not, you need some simple go-to's to reduce stress quickly.

Stress presents in so many ways that sometimes you're not even aware of it. For example, your pet is often a hidden source of stress. Yes, that adorable, furry, unconditional love bug is causing some stress even though you will defend him. When someone comes over to your house, does your dog bark like mad or jump on the guest? Do you approve of this behavior or is it stressful?

Your cat might walk all over you in the middle of the night causing sleep loss or knock things over so you have to clean up the mess first thing in the morning. It's these insidious forms of stress that we're constantly managing that prevent us from truly relaxing.

How Stress Effects Your Body

Our nervous system is divided into the sympathetic nervous system: the one responsible for the stress state and fight or flight; and the parasympathetic nervous system: the one responsible for calming the body and rest. Both are necessary.

We need the sympathetic response if an immediate danger is eminent, like a car coming straight at you. The problem is that with pressure to be uber productive at work combined with family responsibility and the stressors you're not even aware of, our bodies never really get out of the sympathetic response.

Chronic stress ages you. In the book, The Stress Prescription, researcher and author Elissa Epel discusses how stress shortens your telomeres. Telomeres are on the ends of your chromosomes. Short telomeres damage your mitochondria which is concerning because mitochondria are the batteries of our cells and provide energy. Feeling low energy? Look at how much stress you're dealing with.

But you can't escape all stress. And some bouts of acute stress are actually good for you. Brief periods of stress help the body become more resilient.

So what you need is easy strategies to bounce back from stressful periods. Epel's book reveals research-backed ways to reduce stress quickly.

Control What You Can and Let Go of the Rest
Write down everything that is causing stress. Do a brain dump of all tasks. After getting that out of your head, start deleting items off the list. Create room for priorities and things that bring you joy.

Next, make a plan for one thing you can control. Misbehaving dog? Call a trainer. Need time off? Request vacation. Accept a situation you can't change? Write down your feelings rather than pushing them away. Take action on one small thing to ease your stress.

Train for Resilience
It's true that a little stress is good for you. When you prepare your body to face stress, it builds stress immunity. So think of these next two suggestions as an inoculation against stress.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a short, intense workout. It's only 7-minutes long! Use a dual timer (I like the free Gymboss app) and set a work period of 30 seconds and a rest interval of 10 seconds. Cycle through exercises such as jumping jacks, climbing your staircase, and lunges.

If you'd prefer a less sweaty option, consider cold exposure. No, you don't have to sit in a bucket of ice water (although you could.) Simply turn the water as cold as you can stand at the end of your shower. Stay under for as long as you can up to 3 minutes. Feel the cold and relax into's not a threat!

With either option, you're training your body to handle stress and discomfort and building resilience.

Get Into Nature
Stroll without a goal. Take a walk alone without headphones and without the idea that you need to cover a certain distance or burn calories. Notice what you hear - birds, breezes, water. Notice the views and take in the plants, sky, colors, and light. Touch trees and feel the bark; smell flowers.

Being in nature is also mentioned as a way to reduce the negative head chatter in the book, Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It.

You could also attend a retreat by the lake and relax in the serenity of being near water.

Breathing is proven to reduce stress quickly and reduce anxiety in as little as 5 minutes. Try box breathing where you inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, and hold for 4 counts.

Or try the 4-6-8 pattern for 5 minutes:

  • breathe in for 4 seconds through your nose
  • hold for 6 seconds
  • breathe out for 8 seconds through pursed lips

Try just one of these and see how you like it. Hopefully one will land well with you and become a habit that recalibrates your day.

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