Stress: We all have it, and some of us are able to manage it more easily than others. No matter what your personality type, there are various steps you can take to reduce stress. By implementing some of these practices into your daily routine, you just might find that your stress and anxiety are no longer holding you back. Keep in mind that practice makes perfect; even if they don’t work for you immediately, make these activities a habit and you’ll likely see results.
1. Breathe Deeply
Just taking the time to breathe for a few minutes each day can work wonders for your stress levels. When you sit and take some deep breaths, it tells your brain to calm down by mimicking what your body is doing when it’s already relaxed. You can effectively trick your brain into thinking it’s not stressed out. To breathe for relaxation, sit in a quiet spot and inhale slowly through your nose. Hold it for a few seconds, then slowly exhale. Again, hold for a few seconds before inhaling again. Doing this for just a few minutes will help calm you down and prepare you to face whatever is going on with a clear mind.
Meditating for as little as 10 minutes per day is another way to reduce stress levels. The reason it works is that it causes the “relaxation response,” which is the opposite of the “fight or flight response.” When you are in a stressful situation, your body releases adrenaline and other hormones that make your heart and lungs work faster, your palms sweat, and your muscles tense up. Closing your eyes and repeating a phrase or word while breathing slowly for a few minutes reverses those effects and instead makes you feel relaxed.
Getting into a daily exercise routine can help you reduce stress levels substantially. Exercise can also be a great lifestyle change to make if you suffer from anxiety or depression; physical activity is just what your body and your mind need. If you can, join an exercise class or hit the gym; the socialization will do you good, too. If you don’t have the time for that, just go for a 30-minute walk each day. Three 10-minute walks will work just as well; try to walk around the block or around your workplace after each meal and you’ll be reducing stress while also improving your cardiovascular health.
4. Call a Friend
Social connection can reduce stress. If your life feels hectic, trying to get your friends together for a night out can seem like just another chore to fit into your day or week. Picking up the phone and chatting can have the same effect without taking up a lot of time. While you’re on the phone, however, it is a good idea to make plans to meet in person so you can get out of the house and spend time doing something fun (which is another stress-buster).
5. Write in a Journal
Get yourself a notebook or a bound journal and write down how you’re feeling, what you’re worried about, and even what you did that day. A journal can help you organize your thoughts and get out your negative energy. It can also help with problem-solving as well. If you’re worried, a journal gives you a place to store your concerns so you don’t have to continue to ruminate on them all day. Keeping a gratitude journal can make you happier overall.
6. Laugh Out Loud
You’ve likely heard the adage, “laughter is the best medicine.” There are all kinds of positive effects that can be attributed to tickling your own funny bone, and stress-relief is just one of them. Find some movies that always make you laugh, call up a funny friend, or have a stockpile of adorably hilarious kitten videos to refer to when you’re feeling tense.
7. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Try lying down in a dim room and progressively tightening and then relaxing all of your muscles, starting with your toes and ending with your face. This is called progressive muscle relaxation and it can give you something to focus on other than your stress. It also physically relaxes your muscles, which you likely tense up when you are feeling anxious. You can find a guided muscle relaxation audio file or you can do it on your own.
8. Light a Scented Candle
Find a way to incorporate aromatherapy into your day for some natural stress-busting relief. Lighting a candle or using a wax tart is an easy way to add some scent to your home or office. Air fresheners, essential oils, and diffusers are other possibilities. Scents that tend to contribute to a relaxed feeling include lavender, rose, chamomile, and citrus smells.
9. Listen to Music
Listening to music that you like can distract you from your worries. If it’s slow, classical music, it also has the benefit of lowering your heart and breathing rates and even reducing your blood pressure temporarily. Of course, if you dislike classical music, this might not be the case for you. Choose some tunes that help you feel relaxed and play them as soon as you feel yourself beginning to get stressed out. Since almost everyone has a personal device that can play music, this can easily be done on your lunch break or while you walk from one side of the office building to the other.
Learning how to manage your stress can help you stay physically and mentally healthier. Those who are able to reduce stress can enjoy lower blood pressure, better sleep, and better relationships. If you are having trouble keeping your stress to a reasonable level and it’s impacting your day-to-day life, consider talking to a mental health professional about ways that you can manage your stress and anxiety. Counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication all might be options that could make you feel better and get a handle on the stress in your life.