Stressful moments come in all shapes and sizes. You might have a disagreement with a close friend, sibling or parent. Tempers flare, and you find yourself feeling anxious and upset. Tests or projects in school bring another kind of stress, worrying about deadlines and making the grade. The way you recover from a stressful situation is just as important as how you make your way through it.
Take a Deep Breath
Your body’s response to stress is hardwired deep in your brain. Almost every living thing on the planet has a stress response that experts refer to as the fight or flight response. When you are under stress, you may notice that your heart beats faster and you feel anxious. Your brain has released hormones that signal your body to get revved up for action. In addition to a faster heartbeat, your body also releases energy that prepares your muscles to snap into action. When you take a deep breath, you are reversing the signal and telling your body to slow down. This meditation app explains that when you intentionally take a few deep breaths, you will start to feel calmer and are able to think more clearly about the situation.
Be Gentle with Yourself
Part of recovering from a moment of stress is learning to let go of it. This personal injury lawyer describes how traumatic situations can leave you with mental damage that can develop into anxiety, PTSD, or depression. Make sure you don’t retraumatize yourself by replaying the event over and over in your head. When you recognize that you are thinking about an upsetting event, instead of replaying it in a first-person view, try to replay it like a movie in the third person. This can give you some distance from the event, watching things play out in a safe way.
It can also be helpful to spend some time in silence. When you realize that you are replaying the event, focus on your breath so you begin to control the thought pattern, recognizing that you are just thinking, and the event is not really happening again. Finally, take some time to read a book, watch a show or do something that will give you some distance from the stressful moment.
Go for a Long Walk
Because your body prepares for action when you are under stress, physical exercise can help you recover from stress. Going for a long walk, taking a run or dancing can help your body process the hormones and use the extra energy that is part of the stress response. Going out in the fresh air also encourages you to breathe more deeply, which will slow things down. Blue Zones describes how walking in the woods is seen as an important way to deal with stress in some cultures. There is something about being surrounded by tall trees that reminds you about how small your problems are in the grand scheme of things.
Make Healthy Choices
Sometimes, when people are under stress, they try to use food, drugs or alcohol to calm down. These may supply short-term relief, but they can cause serious long-term problems. Hotel California By The Sea says that many substance abusers’ issues stem from people trying to self-medicate. It is too easy to fall into a pattern of reaching for something unhealthy every time you feel stressed or anxious. You will feel better about yourself if you stick with healthy choices as you recover from stress. If you are craving something sweet, reach for some fruit instead of candy or other sweets. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Stress throws you off balance, so you want to eat and drink in a way that gets you feeling normal.
Keep Things in Perspective
Once you calm down, you can start to put the stressful moment into perspective. A bad test grade is not the end of the world. Real friendships do not break after one argument. You were angry and upset at that moment, but that moment has passed. Once you have navigated through some of the emotion, you can think of the things that are going well in your life. This can help your mind think rationally and let the small things go. Sometimes we need a break from our own thoughts. It is easy to overthink and to take life too seriously. Talking and laughing with others is a good way to keep life in perspective and to remember to enjoy it.
Occasional stresses are a part of life. You will not always get along with everyone. Your plans will not always come out the way you expected. When you learn how to calm down and recover from a stressful episode, it will benefit both your physical and mental well-being.
Learn about healthy eating choices by reading, “Food Sanity: How to eat in a world of fads and fiction”.