3 Hacks to Reduce Your Stress Today
Everybody these days experiences a lot of stress and anxiety! Me, too.
Last year the sales of books about anxiety surged 25% over the previous year.[i] I believe it since I bought a book on that topic for my personal benefit!
Pastors most definitely are not immune to the trend so I’d like to share a few “stress hacks” that work for me in hopes they may help you, too.
By the way, as a psychologist, I am well aware that some stress and anxiety require much deeper treatment than just a quick “hack”. Just know that I’m talking about everyday stress here, not deeper physiological or psychological issues.
Hack #1: Take a Walk. If you’re a runner you already know about a runner’s high – the pleasant sensations following the body’s release of certain chemicals! You may not be a runner but most of us can walk – or do some other enjoyable aerobic exercise – to relieve stress and reduce anxiety.[ii]
Exercise reduces stress hormones while boosting endorphins, powerful feel-good neurotransmitters. It creates a natural high of much needed positiveness when under stress.
Outdoor exercise outdoors helps even more! Sunlight increases serotonin, another feel-good neurotransmitter. Get outside and grab a dose of nature’s free stress-relief![iii]
I love to go for a walk in the woods. It clears my mind as I think through the thinks bothering me and talk to God about them while I walk. Plus, by the time I finish, I notice that the anxiety or stress I was feeling has given way to feelings of increased calm and well-being.
Commit to a regular exercise program to get regular stress reducing benefits.
Hack #2: Phone a Friend. Call up a supportive confidante, peer, friend, or spouse about the things bothering you. Spill your guts for a few minutes. It will do you good.[iv]
Talking to someone who listens and understands really does help. One study showed just being in the presence of a friend when stressed may reduce stress hormones.
Go to coffee with them. Spend a little time. And don’t shy away from this fact: sometimes you just may benefit from professional counseling.
Hack #3: Make a Move. Here’s what I mean: take at least one specific step to address the thing that’s really worrying you, however small that step may be.
Analyze the stressful situation on paper, set an appointment to talk with a friend or counselor, reorganize your weekly priorities, list things to do: all examples of one small step. One action in the right direction can provide a feeling of accomplishment or sense of control.
Avoiding problems may reduce stress in the short run but in long run simply compounds them till something blows up or you can’t sleep at night.
In my case, when work-related stress (especially overwork) starts wrecking my nerves, revisiting or revamping my mission and strategy increases my sense of control. That’s relaxing! I set goals and calendar priorities. This helps me set boundaries and I feel relief simply because I don’t have to remember everything
One additional hack. I have one additional “hack” for you – a long-term strategy. Develop your emotional intelligence to more effectively manage stress. Watch for my new book coming out in October, The Emotionally Intelligent Pastor, for more details on just that!
Meanwhile, get outside for a bit, phone a friend or take at least one step toward addressing your challenge right now!
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[ii] Exercising to Relax. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax. Accessed July 29, 2019
[iii] What are The Benefits of Sunlight? Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight, Accessed July 29, 2019.
[iv] Adams, R. E., Santo, J. B., & Bukowski, W. M. (2011). The presence of a best friend buffers the effects of negative experiences. Developmental Psychology, 47(6), 1786-1791.http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0025401