You might not be able to change what is stressing you out, but you can control how you react and respond to stress. If you notice that you’re showing signs of stress, here are some things you can do to help yourself:
1. Leave the room.
Getting up and removing yourself from the stressful situation can be a huge help. A brief change of scenery can help put some distance between you and your overwhelming feelings. If you’re in class, take a quick walk to the bathroom. Buried in homework? Take 60 seconds to walk to the kitchen for a glass of water.
Pick something small: your desk, your closet, or your to-do list are all great choices. Spend 20 minutes focused on tidying up—it will help you feel in control of something and give you a sense of accomplishment.
3. Do some breathing exercises.
Think about how you breathe when you’re relaxed—like when you’re about to fall asleep. Slow and deep, right? Forcing yourself to breathe this way is one of the best ways to bring on calmer feelings. Try 4-7-8 breathing to start: inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. Breathe2Relax and Breathe are two good apps for guided breathing exercises.
4. Write it out.
When your feelings start to bubble up and get overwhelming, putting them on paper can help you untangle them. Try a stream of consciousness exercise: 10 minutes of writing down all your thoughts without hesitating. Or make a list of things stressing you out—seeing them reduced to bullet points can help you think more clearly.
Meditation triggers your body’s “relaxation response” – the complete opposite of the common stress response of “fight or flight” . It slows your breathing, blood pressure, and pulse—all things that go along with being in a calm state of mind. Learn the basics here. You can also try apps like Calm, Sanvello, and Headspace.
6. Watch something funny.
Putting on a funny show or video will help take your mind off of everything going on for a little bit. And laughter really can be the best medicine! It’s known to reduce mental stress and bring on feelings of relaxation.
One of the best ways to handle built-up stress is to physically release it. Lace up your sneakers and head outside for a run--your feet pounding against the pavement is sure to help you get some frustration out.
8. Write down 3 things you’re grateful for.
Showing gratitude is known to improve mood and help you better handle adversity–so not only is it a good way to reduce your immediate stress, but it can help you keep your future stress level down, too. And when you write down a few things you’re thankful for, you can always look back at your list when you start to feel that stress bubbling up again.
9. Talk it out.
Sometimes when we’re stressed, everything little problem seems like a big deal. Talking to a friend, parent, teacher, coach, or someone else you trust can help you get out of your own head and see things from a different point of view. Try using the NotOK app to help you reach out to others when you’re feeling overly stressed. Click here for tips on how to start the conversation.
10. Light a candle or diffuse essential oils.
Scents can trigger very powerful emotional responses, and some are particularly good at inducing relaxation. Try lavender, lemon, and jasmine scents – all known for alleviating tension.