How to Get ‘Unstuck’ from Stress

Posted on January 12, 2024 by Published by

You may know that stress is natural, and everyone experiences it to some degree. But you may not know what you can do when it becomes too much. According to a recent study, exploring feelings of stress, learning to forgive others and yourself, and letting go of your worries can help lower intense stress levels and positively benefit your overall health. But there’s a catch – it’s a choice.

Choosing to react in a constructive way when faced with a wellness threat can lower your chances of experiencing traumatic stress. “Traumatic stress occurs when our coping abilities are overwhelmed by an event or series of circumstances that threaten our well-being,” says Vikki Smoter, manager of trauma recovery and resilience at Advocate Health Care. “If our brains are constantly stuck in survival mode it can have negative effects on our health.”

Are you unsure how to shift your energy to get your brain unstuck from stress? Here’s a list of tips:

  1. Learn to forgive: This may seem like a no-brainer, but many people hold on to anger and resentment. This can fester into larger health concerns such as depression or high blood pressure.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff: A car cuts you off? Coffee spills on your favorite shirt? Let it go and don’t give minor circumstances the power to ruin your day or add to your stress.
  3. Get active: Run, swim or even dance, but get moving! It’s harder to focus on negative life stressors if you’re pumping up your feel-good endorphins with movement.
  4. Laugh: No, seriously. Whether it’s a deep belly laugh or a fake one, a good sense of humor can cool down your stress.

Smoter challenges everyone to break the cycle of negative thoughts by choosing to focus on activities that tame stress and inspire peace.

“The goal is to reduce stress, no matter how you achieve it,” Smoter says. “Forgiveness is a powerful tool which helps let go of minor stress-triggering issues, and so is exercising and journaling. Whatever you choose, start small and practice daily. You’ll be on your way to more positive mental and physical health.”

Try this deep breathing tip to reduce stress

Between the hustle and bustle of the weeks before and after the holidays, shorter days, and fewer opportunities to see the sun, our mental health can certainly take a hit. Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital, offers a quick tip to help you reset. It’s called five-finger breathing. “There are so many benefits to taking good, deep breaths throughout the day,” she says. “Five-finger breathing is a great, quick way to really focus on your breathing and reap those benefits.”

Here’s what you do:

  • Hold one of your hands out in front of you, spreading your fingers apart.
  • With the pointer finger of your other hand, begin tracing each of your fingers, starting at the bottom of your thumb.
  • As you trace up your thumb, inhale slowly and deeply.
  • As you trace down your thumb, slowly exhale. Continue that pattern as you trace each of your fingers.

Once you’ve completed tracing your entire hand, Dr. Roberts recommends repeating the exercise as many times as you want. This breathing exercise allows you to relax and feel a sense of calmness. “Taking a break in your day to practice five-finger breathing is an easy way to reduce stress and feel refreshed amid the business of life.”

If you are struggling to manage your anxiety, it’s important to talk about it with your doctor who can help you find additional resources.

Article contributed by: Amber Thompson

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