Feeling stressed? Here are 5 ways to find relief fast

Free videos teach effective techniques

You spill your morning coffee. Run into traffic when you’re already late. Realize you forgot to pay a bill -- or see the latest total for your gas or groceries.

DETROIT – You spill your morning coffee. Run into traffic when you’re already late. Realize you forgot to pay a bill -- or see the latest total for your gas or groceries.

We all face a stream of stressful moments in our daily life, but how you respond to those moments can make a major difference in your mental and physical health. The goal is to manage those moments, instead of being overwhelmed by them.

So how do you do that?

The American Psychological Association has created five short videos that teach proven stress relief techniques and briefly explain the science behind each one. Each video focuses on a different action and goal.

We asked Dr. Lisa MacLean, Chief Clinical Wellness Officer at Henry Ford Health, to share her thoughts on the videos and the techniques they teach.

“The videos really help to normalize that stress is inevitable, and that when we respond to stress, it’s actually part of our survival mechanism,” said MacLean.

But we can’t stay on high alert all the time.

“Over time, it can really wear us down,” said MacLean.

That’s where stress relief tools come in.

The first technique is taking ten slow deep breaths. This essentially allows our bodies to recalibrate.

“This helps reduce our distress and can improve positive emotions. And not only can it be helpful with stress management, but it can also be helpful just in things like reducing high blood pressure and reducing your heart rate,” said MacLean.

The second tool is counting backwards from 100 by threes. It’s just hard enough to shift your focus.

“For some people when we’re really stressed out, our thoughts race. For other people we can become kind of hyper focused on something and be unable to like think about anything else other than that thing that really bothering you,” said MacLean. “The science tells us that focusing on something in a really structured way, like counting backwards, engages your brain in a task that can disrupt those unhelpful patterns of thought.”

That allows your brain to more effectively analyze situations and make better decisions.

The third tool is tensing each muscle group in your body for ten seconds and then releasing.

“When we’re stressed out, we hold tension in our bodies, and this builds up over time and can even cause pain, physical injury,” said MacLean. “This activity of tensing and relaxing our muscles can increase energy and flexibility to help us to feel calmer.”

The fourth technique is the body scan. MacLean says this one takes the most practice, but is an effective way to feel more grounded.

“When we’re overwhelmed and stressed we can disconnect, you know, from the world around us. So when we’re focusing on our bodies and our physical surroundings, and maybe how our body feels against the chair that we are sitting in, we become more attuned to details and that allows us to see our environment in a more clear way,” said MacLean.

The final tool is celebrating yourself. Think of three things that went well today, and if they involved another person, recognize and thank them.

“It’s so easy to ignore or forget the positives when we’re surrounded by stress and feel overwhelmed by impossible demands in our lives,” said MacLean. “Slowing down, to recognize even small successes or positive things, can really help reduce our negativity and increase our sense of positivity, happiness and gratitude.”

It’s a practice MacLean uses regularly herself.

“I have college-aged kids and one of the things that we’ve been doing that started during COVID, I call it ‘Grateful Sunday.’ Each Sunday, I will text them three things that I’m grateful for, and it’s really a great opportunity, I think, to tell them a little bit about what’s going on in mom and dad’s life. But also I press back and say, ‘So what are you grateful for?’” said MacLean.

While it may take a little effort and practice to incorporate these stress relief techniques into your daily life, MacLean said, it’s time well spent.

“It’s a matter of someone deciding that they they want to be more intentional in their life. These are tools that are not going to just happen by accident. I think you have to decide, ‘I don’t like the way that I feel, and I want to feel better,’ and then begin to practice these tools, and I guarantee that over time, it will begin to shift your mindset and how you feel and hopefully improve your overall ability to manage stress in your life,” said MacLean.

Read: More health coverage