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  • Writer's pictureGina Behm, MA, LCPC

10 Ways to De-Stress

Hi y’all! I wanted to hop on here to give you some good tips on how to de-stress. So far on the blog I’ve been addressing some topics of conversation, which is often how therapy begins – building rapport, learning about the clients’ outlook on life, helping to create new views that better serve us. However, the other part of counseling is the skills you collect in order to get through the day-to-day stressors. There are hundreds of skills, and not all skills work for every person, but I’ve gone ahead and collected here 10 of the top ways to de-stress that I see working for clients, as well as myself. Hopefully a handful of these skills will work for you!

1. SLOW DOWN: I find myself experiencing the majority of my stress when I feel like I don’t have enough time to get all of my work done. The trouble with this is, if you are worried about getting everything done, you probably aren’t doing them to the best of your ability. Take a moment to slow down and recenter yourself to the present moment.  Practice deep breathing by inhaling through your nose for four seconds, hold for two and exhale through your mouth for six. Extra tip: when you are deep breathing, you want to expand your belly, not your chest! If this is hard for you, practice by laying down with a pillow on your belly and focus on moving the pillow up and down.

2. WRITE IT OUT: Seems a little too easy, does it? Seriously, take my word for it, writing things down is SO cathartic. Whatever you have to say and however you want to say it, just put that pen to paper and let it all out! The beauty of writing for yourself is that no one is grading you; it doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, legibility etc., just go for it! Extra tip: while you are writing, envision your stress flowing out of your body through the pen as the ink comes onto the paper. 

3. EXPEND PENT UP ENERGY: I have a lot of clients who seem to have trouble sitting still. Some feel they are wasting time, others feel trapped, but most just have way too much energy pulsing through their muscles. How do you get rid of extra energy? Move your body! (per your doctor and dietitian guidelines please). Go on walks, practice yoga stretches, dance around your living room. Extra tip: if you are in an environment where you can’t be so obvious about movement, try progressive muscle relaxation - start with your face, squish your face up as tight as you can and then let go. Move down to your neck, arms, hands, and continue this pattern as you move down your body to the toes.

4. NOTICE NATURE: Stress is an internal experience, but we have to remember the world is MUCH bigger than us. What’s the easiest way to do that? Take a look outside. Take any moments in nature you are able to grasp. Head to a park and lay in the grass, get a bird feeder in your backyard or simply open up some windows in your home. Extra tip: if this feels boring to you, make it a game. Go into nature with a friend and play iSpy.  If you have a pet, take them on a walk and find a reason to be grateful for everything they stop and sniff.

5. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PLEASANT SMELLS: Stimulating any of our senses with pleasantness is helpful stress reduction, but smell is the one I find to be the easiest to access and is long-lasting. There are so many ways to incorporate positive smells into our day: candles, lotion, perfume, shampoo, essential oils etc. Take the afternoon to spend some time in a candle store and use that sniffer - what smells do you need at home to relax, at work/school to focus, with friends to energize you? Once you know what you need, collect these smells in whatever format you want! Extra tip: spray or roll your smells onto your wrists so you get whiffs of them as you use your hands throughout the day.

6. LAUGH IT OUT: It’s true that laughter is truly medicinal! The physical effects of laughter are overwhelmingly positive and can quite literally change your brain and in turn your mood. If you are feeling stressed, carve out some time to laugh. Go to a comedy show,  find one on Netflix, watch YouTube videos, play Charades with friends/family, go see a funny movie. However you want to laugh, just be sure to do it every day. Extra tip: find the funnies with a friend. Have you ever noticed it is easier to laugh with other people around? Join up with a pal and commit to sending something funny to each other daily.

7. REGULATE YOUR SLEEP: What is the equivalent of Hangry but when you don’t have enough sleep instead of not enough food? THATS ME. The problem with a bad night sleep is this - we try to correct it but unbeknownst to us often end up overcorrecting it. We pump caffeine into our veins, take hour long naps, go to bed earlier than usual and then our bodies wake us up in the middle of the night. All of a sudden you are in a vicious circle of tiredness! Even though you may be exhausted, try to cut these overcorrections out of your day; if you need caffeine, limit yourself, if you need a nap, make it a siesta (10-20min only), and keep your bedtime consistent. Extra tip: Practice deep breathing right before you go to bed to slow your brain down.

8. SPEND TIME WITH A FRIEND: Misery may love company, but the right company can cure all! Find your people and connect; Loneliness breeds stress, so get those endorphins pumping through connection. Extra tip: pull one of the other tips on this list to do with a friend and get a two for one!

9. ASK FOR HELP: REPEAT AFTER ME: “I am not weak for needing help”... how’d that feel? Let me tell you something, knowing your limits is an integral piece of reducing stress. If you are trying to achieve something alone that is outside your limits, you are likely to burnout real quick. It takes time to recognize our own limits, but it is imperative to do so. If you need help, ask for it! Extra tip: If you aren’t able to ask for help, open yourself up to accepting it when it is offered to you.

10. SAY NO: If your plate is overwhelmingly full and you are at your tipping point, say no. Saying no does not make you a bad friend, a lazy employee or selfish. Saying no is one of the most difficult self-care practices out there, and also one of the quickest stress reducers! Who out there has ever agreed to picking someone up at the airport at 2 a.m. when they have class until 10 p.m. and have to be at work at 7 a.m. (HINT: this girl). DON’T. DO. THAT. People who value and care about you will respect your no’s, and if they don’t, then that is their prerogative. Extra tip: if saying no is hard for you, practice on someone safe you know will respond well. If you aren’t there yet, start with not volunteering yourself for something you usually always would - are you the one swinging by the store to pick up snacks for movie night? yeah… someone else can do that!

All in all, there are TONS of ways to de-stress and these are only 10 of the most basic ways to do so. I hope you are able to try out two or three of these suggestions that you are interested in and start making them a habit in order to remove some of that stress. If you have any additional amazing stress-reduction tools that work for you, don’t keep them to yourselves, drop ALL your wisdom in the comments below y’all, cause we all need it!

Until next time,


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