Tiny Steps to Decrease Your Stress

You only need to take tiny steps to decrease your stress! So, don’t stress about de-stressing! Dissipating a build-up of frustration and pressure doesn’t take an hour of yoga, or a vacation to the Bahamas. It only takes 30 to 90 seconds when you use rituals that you can ingrain into your routines every day.

Pick behaviors that you can do in the time it takes you to sing the alphabet song. Make them actions that you can easily do on the spur of the moment. Then attach them to something that is already part of your daily life, such as eating, grooming, or driving.

Decrease your stress with tiny steps, literally

You might typically blow off some pressure by going for a run or hitting the gym. But what if you could take small exercise snacks throughout the day, each being less than 100 steps? The opportunity to expand your lungs and walk away from a demanding situation could be all you need to re-set your nervous system. Here are some suggestions:

  • Do push-ups during TV commercials.
  • Run a flight of stairs or two before a meal.
  • Rebound for two minutes at the top of each hour.
  • Squat while you brush your teeth or use the toilet.
  • Walk around the block when you collect your mail.
  • Race a family member to the corner.
  • Do press-ups against the counter while you wait for the kettle to boil or the microwave to beep.

Tiny bites to decrease your stress

Eating on the run is physiologically stressful. You keep your body in fight-or-flight, and don’t allow it to switch into rest-and-digest when you grab and dash with your meals. But you can take tiny steps in your eating hygiene that will change your stress, at least at mealtimes. Try these ideas:

  • Use toddler utensils to remind yourself to take smaller bites and chew more thoroughly.
  • Deeply inhale the fragrances of the meals before you take a bite, then breathe out through a straw to encourage a slow exhale.
  • Set the table and spread a napkin in your lap to encourage yourself to sit at a table. This distracts you from eating mindlessly in front of the TV or snarfing snacks while you drive.
  • Use a small mug for your beverage so that you don’t dilute your meal and add unnecessary calories.
  • Verbalize appreciation or reflect on your good fortune every time you sip your beverage.

Practice instant stress hacks throughout your day

Stress hacks either change your breathing to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, stimulate your vagus nerve, release oxytocin, or downregulate stress hormones. If you do them consistently, you can proactively keep your stress level from rising out of control.

Scribble post-it notes to remind you to engage in one or several of these hacks regularly:

  • Stretch into 2 or 3 sun salutations when your feet hit the floor in the morning.
  • Listen to binaural beats while you get ready for the day.
  • Sing in the shower.
  • Blow your breath out fully every time your wash your face or your hands.
  • Hum while your drive.
  • Gargle long and loud every time you take a bathroom break.
  • Take 3 deep breaths every time you reach for your water bottle.
  • Massage your occipital ridge when you face conflict.
  • Give a 20-second hug when you meet a cherished friend or companion.
  • Suck on an l-theanine lozenge while you work on reports or presentations.
  • Practice a 1-minute meditation at the end of your workday.
  • Snuggle with a pet after dinner.
  • Write a 2-minute “gratitude dump” in your journal after your put on your pajamas.

If the idea of tiny steps to decrease your stress resonates with you, check out my post, Change Your Diet with Micro Habits. To learn more about small changes guaranteed to improve your lifestyle, read Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.