Taking your dog for a walk and spending time with friends are two simple but effective strategies to help you manage stress. (For Corewell Health Beat)

Searching for strategies to help you restore calm amid the daily stressors of work and life?

Here’s a helpful first step: Take a moment to name the feeling.

“It helps to understand what precisely your stress is from,” said Asha Shajahan, MD, medical director of community health at Corewell Health’s Beaumont Grosse Pointe Hospital and a physician at Corewell Health in East Michigan. “For instance: ‘I am tired. I am upset.'”

Think carefully about why you may be feeling stressed. When you can identify the reason, it can help you calm down, Dr. Shajahan said.

Rebecca Hershman, LMSW, a psychotherapist at Corewell Health in West Michigan, agrees.

“Recognizing your stress and how it happens can help you deal with it,” Hershman said.

Here are some simple strategies to help you find calm in a storm:

1. Practice mindfulness

Being mindful—present in the moment—can be a great tool for defusing stress. Stress builds in uncertainty. Learning to give your stress a name can help move it from an emotional place back to the rational mind.

“Become aware of what your body is feeling,” Hershman said. “Acknowledge the feeling but remind yourself to then step back and work through it. You can start with deep breathing.”

2. Optimize your fuel

Make sure your tank is full so that you have energy to cope. “You can optimize your fuel by making sure you are getting enough sleep, eating right, taking breaks and exercising,” Dr. Shajahan said.

When we are not at our best physical health, we are less able to cope with emotional stresses.

3. Move your body

Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone. It can affect every organ in the body, and it can even impact blood pressure and blood sugar levels. 

Exercising—even a five-minute break to move around—can help improve cortisol levels, Dr. Shajahan said. “Walking, biking, going out for a run are all great ways to feel better.” 

Hershman recommends walking your dog, and not only for the exercise. “Being around dogs or other pets, in fact, can be a great stress relief,” she said. 

4. Cherish silence

Being still and learning to enjoy quiet time can bring great benefits.

“Get rid of the noise,” Dr. Shajahan said. “Some time for prayer or meditation can calm you.”

“Taking some time for positive self-talk can help,” Hershman said. “Be kind to yourself. Talk it through in your mind and ask yourself, ‘Is this a realistic fear I’m stressing about?’”

5. Turn to your support system

Your family and friends can help provide a safety net when you’re feeling overwhelmed or frazzled.

“Having a strong support system can be a protective factor against stress,” Hershman said.

Sharing worries can lessen them. People who know us best can also offer advice and help restore perspective on our troubles.

“Nurture your relationships so that you have a support network available when you are in trouble,” Dr. Shajahan said.

6. Have a good laugh

It’s true—laughter is sometimes the best medicine. It can increase your heart rate and bring more oxygen to your blood, and it can help relieve physical symptoms of stress.

If you can’t manage a laugh, try smiling. It can release molecules, called neuropeptides, that help bring about a sense of well-being and reduce stress-induced disease, said Dr. Shajahan.

“Laugh often,” she said. “It’s good for you. Try not to take everything so seriously and remember: Imperfection is perfection. Stress is often caused by being consumed by perfection.”

7. Look at the bright side

Laughter and smiles support good health, which can help strengthen your immune system. But when laughs may seem out of reach, positive thinking can have a similar effect.

As the saying goes, every dark cloud has a silver lining. Look for it. A sense of gratitude can reduce stress as you focus on what is going right in your life, rather than what seems to be going wrong.

8. Ask for help

Talking to a professional can make a world of difference. Whether in person or virtual, find a therapist, a psychologist or psychiatrist who fits your needs and personality.