From Stress to Serenity: 7 Ways to Ease Your Anxieties

Today’s guest blog comes from author and YourTango relationship expert Ms. Moreah Vestan, who shares some excellent ways to get yourself out of stressful moments. I really like the idea of 10 minute hourly breaks – set on a timer! It is sort of like recess for adults.

We’re all very human. Sometimes we have stress and want to ease our hearts, minds and bodies. If we believe it’s doable to go there, guess what? We can! Here’s how:

1. When you’re feeling out of touch…stress busters

I believe everything we do is meant to meet a need of ours, whether we’re in touch with that or not. So checking in is the most important step to inner and outer harmony. Set your timer to 30 or 60 minutes, the more out of sync and unconnected you feel, the longer time you may need. Ask yourself, “What need am I wanting to meet right now?” This can be an accomplishment, comfort, support, consistency, integrity or many other needs all humans share.

Recently, I found myself feeling inner resistance as I sat at my desk, and I wasn’t sure why I was restless. Only when I stopped to ask myself what I was missing, wanting or needing did I identify that I had a strong need that afternoon to feel free! When I stopped working on what was a “should” and identified what felt rewarding, my resistance was gone. I know we don’t always get to do whatever we feel like at any given moment, but even if I had committed to handling that “should,” I could connect with my pleasure when I got to the place of completion. If my check-in reveals that I’m needing calmness, I’m likely to take a 15 minute nap or walk around the block or meditate or read quotes I like. If instead I crave accomplishment and am feeling scattered, I focus on the one most important task I’ve been working on and commit to completing it.

2. When you’re extra stressed…

Usually a change of scenery will draw me into a state of calmness. When I’ve noticed that I’m not feeling peaceful, and don’t have any deadlines, I get up from my desk and put on music to dance to. If dancing isn’t an option, I think of where I can walk to get something I already need, like food, exercise, etc. That new focus will usually help sweep out the feeling of stress. So there are two options, you can sit with mixed feelings and dread about a specific situation, or you can pick from a list you make and keep of places that get you to a new perspective. What’s your choice?

3. When you’re at odds with someone…

If you’re feeling fear about a situation with another person that’s out of your control, you might write a letter expressing your feelings and needs, and identify what you see as the other person’s feelings and needs. When you finish, notice whether sending the letter would be useful or not. If you don’t think it would be welcomed, don’t send it. Rather, ask yourself what you might say to the person that would help him or her to feel heard and understood. Sometimes a good start is to say “Pat, I’m wondering if you’re feeling frustrated (scared, angry, sad), and if there’s anything you’d like from me to make it easier to deal with.” Connect with what you think he or she is feeling and wanting.

4. When a new task is daunting…

Sometimes taking on something new can be unsettling. Recently, I did a Nonviolent Communication based program for 6 hours on both Saturday and Sunday. I had solicited and received suggestions and support to make those 12 hours beneficial to attendees. I noticed I was distracted by less important tasks when I thought of 12 HOURS! So I allowed my attention to go to those distractions for perhaps 15 minutes at a time. The method is comparable to reassuring a hungry child, “Here’s an apple. We’ll eat in 15 minutes.” With the small amount of time offered to your own, or another’s needs, you are more able to get back to your higher priority. It’s much more satisfying to take on a challenge when you know there’s leeway for those short detours.

5. When you’re feeling distracted…

For those of us who are curious about many things, one thing that soothes me when I’m overextended or hyper is to browse youtube, or google blogs on a particular subject, or read humor sites. I think it’s important to have breaks that either amuse, stimulate or settle me down. You might prevent those hyper times by adding in 10 minute breaks each hour you’re at your desk or on a project. When I hear the bell or timer, it feels as good as when recess called me as a child. Take all the time you need to understand what kind of breaks are soothing, motivating or enlivening for you. Be sure there are no “shoulds” operating when you notice you are overextended. Ask yourself, “What do I want now?” Let the answer come to you in its own time. You will come back refreshed for the task at hand.

6. When you’re in a rut…

There’s nothing wrong with pretending you’re on a vacation. On days when you’re stymied, an hour or two of free time and a different perspective can make a huge difference. Some ideas are: walk, bus or drive to a coffee shop, park, trail, a new grocery store or even a drugstore. You could use the “vacation” to do an evening stroll at a neighborhood art walk. You might go to a local gym and try a new class. Try writing “When I’m on vacation, I…” and see where that leads you, literally and figuratively. My guess is that there would be far fewer regrets as we grow older if people were gentler and more accommodating with themselves.

7. Whenever…

Finally, remind yourself that variety is the spice of life. Make a long list of at least 20 activities you enjoy. This list could include reading, dancing, baking, gardening, festivals, hot tubs, walking, tennis, swimming, volunteering, eating out and many other things. Don’t wait for stress to build up so that you need a solution. Be proactive and build in enjoyable activities, so that calm and peacefulness are an everyday part of your life.

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