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There’s generally two different kinds of stress that we’re talking about when we use the word “stress”. Stress can be a big issue that arises or it can be something more subtle that’s always present.

An example of a big issue would be if your website server suddenly went down, or a client project is due. Baseline stress can be much less obvious, but is still detrimental. It’s like having a rock in your shoe. It’s always with you and you get used to it, but it never gets better. A lot of times, you don’t even know where the stress and anxiety are coming from.

Many of us live with a base level of stress. The first step is acknowledging stress that’s already there.

I want to share 6 practical ways to reduce stress. These are specific, actionable things you can do to help discover, acknowledge, and reduce stress in your life.

1. Take A Break & Change Your Scenery

Getting space from your current situation can help you identify stress you didn’t know you had.

Take a break, take a vacation, change your scenery, or get around different people. Start wearing a different pair of shoes so you can realize they don’t all have rocks in them.

Another way to get perspective is to talk through your stress with other people. Most people say, “I’m fine,” when someone asks how they’re doing. They don’t say that they have a rock in their shoe.

The main thing is to get a different perspective on your situation to be able to recognize the stress that’s there.

2. Revisit Words of Encouragement

When we’re in a stressful situation, it’s really easy to see only the negative. This can send us on a downward spiral.

Look back at emails, notes, or messages you’ve received from people in the past that were positive. Find the words of encouragement people have sent you and read those.

For the future, any time you receive something nice from someone, save that. In my email inbox, I keep a label called “encouragement” for this reason. It’s really helpful to be able to easily refer back to messages of positivity.

3. Prepare & Create Margin

Having extra time in your day feels inefficient. This is why most of us don’t create margin in our lives. If we have a gap in our schedule, we see it as time to be filled. It’s no wonder that we carry the stress that we do.

The more margin you have in your life, the less stressed you’ll be.

It’s creating that margin that’s difficult because it feels inefficient. But if you want to combat stress, you have to give yourself time.

Getting that time might look like waking up earlier. Waking up earlier may look like going to bed earlier. You may not always be successful in waking up earlier, but if you can, you will feel less stressed and rushed.

Most people only wake up with just enough time to get ready and rush off to start their day. It’s many micro decisions like these that collectively add to the stress of our day.

Plan for some margin and create some intentional space in your schedule to reduce stress.

4. Express Gratitude

I mentioned reading words of encouragement to reduce stress, but expressing gratitude is just as effective.

It’s really hard to remain stressed when you’re focused on positivity and expressing gratitude to others. So if you’re in a stressful situation, try thinking about the people you’re thankful for and telling them how much you appreciate them.

You’ll force your brain to take focus off of yourself and put it on others. As a result, you’ll feel better. When you initiate positivity, you’ll also receive it back. It’s a positive feedback loop.

5. Control Your Breathing

Breathe in and then exhale in a 1:2 ratio. If you breath in for four seconds, exhale for eight seconds. You’re controlling the exhale and slowing it down instead of completely opening the throttle and letting it all out.

If you do this exercise of breathing in and then out at a 1:2 ratio just five or ten times, it will completely calm you.

6. Take a Walk or Exercise

It’s absolutely incredible what a little bit of physical activity will do for clearing your mind and reducing stress. It can seem like a really counterintuitive choice because you’re probably stressed because of the things you need to do. Walking or exercising seems like it’s just avoiding the problem.

But walking actually gives you several of the benefits I’ve already mentioned all in one.

  • It allows you to take a break.
  • It forces a change in scenery.
  • It creates margin in your day.
  • It makes you control your breathing.

Just try it. The next time you’re stressed, when taking a break is the last thing you think you need to do, just take a 15 minute walk. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.