Summer has a reputation for being fun and relaxing. Just saying the word ‘summer’ conjures beach days, late-night campfires, and swaying in a hammock under the shade of leafy tree with a good book.
Except sometimes, summer can be far from relaxing. There’s a pressure to fit in all of those fun summertime activities on top of other year-round obligations, like work, school, and family.
Throw in some additional unexpected stressors that inevitably pop up, like home repair or illness, and suddenly, your calendar is jam-packed and you’re feeling overwhelmed.
This summer has been kind of like that for me: With the launch of Sanvello, a big move for my family into a new home in a new neighborhood, and miscellaneous summer events, it can be hard to tame stress at times.
Here are six ways to manage stress that I’ve picked up that you may find helpful, too:
1. Take a deep breath—or 4
Just hitting the figurative pause button when you’re stressed and taking a few deep breaths can help you relax. It’s something that is so simple but really works. For especially stressful situations, try 4×4 breathing: Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, hold for seconds—and repeat all four steps a total of four times. If it can work to bring calm and focus for the U.S. Navy Seals, it’s probably worth trying.
2. Monitor your health habits
Decades ago, the medical community treated physical and mental well-being as completely separate entities. Now, we know that they’re inextricably linked, and your physical state can affect your mental state—and vice versa. Consider tracking your health habits, from what you eat and drink to how you move your body and sleep, to see how they affect your stress levels. For me, the realization that drinking coffee after about 3 p.m. was causing some of my insomnia was eye-opening, even though it seems obvious in retrospect.
3. Leverage your emergency kit
In Sanvello’s first Guided Journey, “Feeling Better,” we teach you how to build an emergency kit for when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or down. Your kit can contain virtually anyone or anything proven to help you feel a little better in the past, whether that’s calling an old friend, listening to a favorite song, or writing your thoughts down on paper. For me, I can usually tame stress by going for a run and getting away from things for a bit.
4. Break it down
If you’re like me and some of stress stems from so many things to do, breaking it down into more manageable pieces can be helpful. For example, if I get to work and my inbox is full and I have five meetings scheduled before I can get to it, I’ll ask myself what I actually have to get done today and what’s realistic. I’ll write those goals down and break big ones into steps, and suddenly I feel a lot better about my workload. It also can be advantageous to break up your day as well by taking purposeful breaks to take a walk, spend some time in nature, or meditate. My 20-month-old son is at home a lot more now that we’re in the new house; being able to walk out of the office for a waiting hug has been an unexpected benefit.
5. Meditate for calm
Lately it seems like everyone and their mother is preaching the benefits of meditation, but it’s been around for over 5,000 years. Basically, unplugging from the busyness of everyday life has been helping humans with stress forever. What’s great about meditation is that it can work for so many situations—from simply relaxing to gaining awareness to managing stress for specific challenging moments—and can be done anywhere, anytime.
6. Make time for you
Oftentimes stress derives from obligations to other people and things, so it can be easy to lose sight of yourself. Making the time to do things that bring you happiness is key to keeping those stressors at bay. Don’t feel guilty about spending a couple of hours in a hammock with a book, or going out for a dinner with friends when you could be doing something more “productive.” It’s these moments that allow us to relax and laugh, and consequently, make our stresses seem much smaller. You’ll probably find yourself more productive overall as well.
It’s your turn
I hope you may have picked up a tip or two that will be helpful, but of course, this list is not exhaustive: How do you best manage stress? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.
By Dale Beermann
Dale was the former CEO and co-founder of Pacifica Labs, where he focused on bridging the gap between consumer adoption and evidence-based practices in mental health care, growing the product to over 2.9 million registered users. Pacifica was acquired in order to provide the initial technology platform for Sanvello Health, where he now serves as CTO. Previously, Dale was the co-founder of Sharendipity and MyOutdoors, and also helped start a non-profit focused on teaching entrepreneurship in education.