Dandelion in sunset

Five Quick Hacks for Reducing Stress

It’s a scary thought, but virtually everyone I know is under pressure with deadlines, high performance expectations and responsibilities.

Speak to any parent, and they feel a sense of failing the never-ending scroll of perfect parenting “do’s and don’ts” (big fat yawn and face plant).

And pretty much no student ever said “yeah uni is cruizey” or “I have a real handle on this semester”. The norm tends to be “uni is too much!”

And re work…. is there any career that’s relaxing?? I feel like every career I hear about is either high pressured, demands ridiculous hours or has extremely high performance expectations. Maybe there are some exceptions, but this seems to often come at a price of trading some of your sole.

And yes I know, there are some examples of real life human Buddha’s who have a zen life with the money means to survive, but the majority of us are feeling swamped and paddling around trying to keep our head above the water.

Given life is pretty damn busy, it’s no wonder stress is one of the most common mental health concerns.

I know for me personally, I am sent over the edge if a few crappy things occur altogether on the one day or pile up over a few days like a “stacks on” (but in a very unfunny way).

With an overload last year, I’ve been forced to learn and master (hooray!) strategies for reducing stress. And I can proudly say, with lots of practise I’ve become pretty good at managing stress. Now, my strategies for reducing stress are just as comforting as cuddling a hot water bottle on a cold night.

While there are many effective stress management strategies out there, my “go-to’s” seem to work no matter what the stress load.

Five quick hacks for reducing stress

Listening to sounds. This is a type of “grounding technique” taken from mindfulness, which requires you to notice surrounding sounds. As the word “grounding” suggests, listening to sounds anchors you in the present moment. This instantly reduces stress, which is typically future-focused. As well, the act of listening to sounds forces you to switch your focus.

Consider real catastrophes in light of your stressful situation. That is, think about something really terrible happening, like a loved one being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Then, imagine what you would think of your stressful situation. This strategy works a treat at bringing things into perspective; it’s like splashing cold water on your face.

Do the opposite. Your stress tells you to “fight, flight or appease”. Depending on the situation, you may react by vigorously writing an email, making a call to scream down the phone or driving like a lunatic; none of which will help you achieve a desired outcome. Instead, do the opposite – listen to a relaxing song, make a cup of tea, take a shower, go for a walk. You may think this is crazy, but doing the opposite is like hitting “pause” and then “reset” on on your brain.

Check in with yourself. Stress tends to accumulate more stress and ends up being a giant snowball that is so big it could squash you. Therefore, it can be helpful to step outside your stressed state of mind and ask yourself a simple “check-in” question: “how important is this in the scheme of things?”. This question allows you to quickly prioritise the situation and hopefully let it fall down the rungs of importance.

Take some deep slow breaths. I feel like every psychologist tells you to breathe deeply and slowly – I have to admit, I cringe when I give this advice, because I can hear how cliché it sounds! However, this strategy is the perfect antidote to stress, as it forces the body to slow down and counteract all that adrenaline. I talk about my favourite breathing exercise in blog post How to Stop a Panic Attack.

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help with Stress?

We are a team of Melbourne-based psychologists who are experienced in providing therapy for stress. We use frameworks and techniques from therapies proven by research to be effective in reducing stress, including, Cognitive-behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and other mindfulness-based therapies. Contact us if you would like some professional support to work on a plan to reduce stress in your life.

Beyond Blue also offer some helpful blog topics on stress and anxiety and if you’re feeling like a good self-help book, I recommend Rewire Your Anxious Brain by Catherine Pittman and Elizabeth Karle.