How to relax when life gets stressful

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When you're in the midst of a really stressful time, it can be impossible to think about relaxing. You might even feel like relaxation is a luxury rather than something you need to do. If that's the case, please know that's not true at all! Relaxation is an important part of your overall health and well-being, and it actually helps you perform better at work and with relationships.

You don't necessarily have to go out and get a spa day (although if you can afford it, do treat yourself!). Relaxation can be as simple as reading a book or taking a bath—whatever works for you. What's important is that you carve out some time every day to relax without feeling guilty about it!

Step 1: Learn to recognize your own stress signals.

Stress can manifest itself in many different ways. For some, it's a prickly feeling of anxiety, while for others it's physical exhaustion. Whatever your stress symptoms are, it's important to be able to recognize them so you can start taking steps toward de-stressing. Here are a few examples of common physical and emotional symptoms of stress:

  • Physical: Headaches, rapid heartbeat or palpitations, chest pain or tightness, stomach problems like nausea or diarrhea
  • Emotional: Feelings of being overwhelmed or out of control
  • Mental: Being unable to stay focused on tasks, poor judgment

Sometimes you may not even know what is causing your stress until after you have taken steps toward relaxing yourself. Just remember that while the cause of your stress may seem overwhelming at first (even if it’s something small), with a little work you can get rid of it and get back to feeling healthy again.

Step 2: Make time for the things that relax you.

  • Make a list of things you like to do.
  • Make a list of things that you don't like so much.
  • Make a list of things that you want to try.
  • Make a list of things that you would like to do more often.

Step 3: Think about what relaxation means to you.

Think for a moment about what relaxation means to you. Does the word bring to mind scenes of sipping a cold beer on a hot summer’s day? Or maybe an afternoon of curling up with your favorite book? Or perhaps an elaborate spa day that lets you indulge in deep-tissue massages and facials?

The point is, that relaxation can mean different things to different people. But just because something doesn’t seem relaxing to someone else doesn’t mean it won’t be relaxing to you. Whether it’s as simple as reading a book or as elaborate as a spa day, whatever relaxes you is the right thing for you.

Step 4: Talk to people you trust.

The last step is to talk to people you trust. Remember that these are people that have your best interests at heart, so be open and honest with them. Whether it’s a parent, sibling, or friend, make sure they know how much you appreciate having them in your life. It’ll go a long way in helping you relax and forgetting about the stresses of life for just a little bit.

Step 5: Remember, you can't always control what happens around you, but you can control how you react to it.

Believe it or not, you don't have control over everything. It's actually a good thing that you don't because otherwise all of life would be just one giant master plan that lacked spontaneity and surprise. Control is an illusion. You can't fix everything. You can't cure cancer tomorrow (not yet). You can't make the world perfect, even though there are many things that could use some fixing. But what you do have control over is how you react to situations and how you choose to think about them. This isn’t a cop-out, but it's true: at the end of the day, your mindset is the most important thing to keep positive if you want to be relaxed and happy in life.

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