From minor challenges to major crises, stress is an unfortunate part of life. Here are some simple ways to relieve stress and anxiety.
Focusing on your breath or changing the way you breathe can make a big difference to your overall stress level. Breathing techniques can calm your body and your brain in just a few minutes.
While there are many different breathing exercises, a few simple ones include:
- Breathe in through your nose and watch your belly fill with air. Count slowly to three as you inhale. Hold for one second and then slowly breathe out through your nose as you count to three again.
- Breathe in through your nose and imagine that you’re inhaling peaceful, calm air. Imagine that air spreading throughout your body. As you exhale, imagine that you’re breathing out stress and tension.
It might seem contradictory but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can relieve mental stress. And the benefits are strongest when you exercise regularly. Research examining the effects of exercise on mental health found that people who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety, compared to those who don’t exercise. Some of the reasons behind this are:
- Hormones: Exercise reduces the levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, within the body. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as the body’s natural mood elevators.
- Sleep: Exercise can help improve your sleep quality, which can be negatively affected by stress and anxiety.
- Confidence: When you exercise regularly, you may feel more competent and confident in your body, which can help promote mental wellbeing.
Try to find an exercise routine or activity that you enjoy, such as walking, dancing, rock climbing or yoga. Activities, like walking and jogging, that involve repetitive movements of large muscle groups can be particularly stress relieving.
Using essential oils or burning a scented candle may help reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety, and improve sleep. Some scents that are especially soothing are:
– Lavender (my favorite)
– Roman chamomile
– Ylang ylang
– Orange or orange blossom
4. Reduce your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a stimulant, and in high doses, it can increase anxiety.
Although many studies show that coffee can be healthy in moderation, people have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate. If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back. In general, five or fewer cups per day is considered a moderate amount.
5. Spend Time with Friends and Family
Social support from friends and family can help get you through stressful times. One study found that for women, spending time with friends and children help release oxytocin. This effect is referred to as the ‘tend and befriend,’ but keep in mind that both men and women benefit from friendship.
Additionally, laughing is good for your health as it helps relieve stress responses and releases tension by relaxing your muscles. In the long term, it can also help improve your immune system and mood. So, try to spend more time with those who make you laugh.
6. Get a Hug from a Loved One
Physical touch can do a lot to relieve stress. Hugging a loved one can be especially beneficial, due to the release of oxytocin (also known as the “cuddle hormone”) that occurs. Oxytocin is associated with higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress.
So, yes ‘getting it on’ (as well as, cuddling and kissing) will help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.
7. Write It Down
Simply writing down your thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly, can help lower feelings of anxiety and stress.
Journaling helps control your symptoms and improve your mood by:
– Helping you prioritize problems, fears, and concerns
– Tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them
– Providing an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors
Additionally, keeping a journal helps you create order when your world feels like it’s in chaos. Here are some practices to try:
- Gratitude Journal: Maintain a daily gratitude journal where you list a least three or more aspects of each day that you’re grateful for. This is a highly effective strategy for relieving stress because it helps you to focus on the resources you have in your life already and create a more positive mood at the moment – both of which have been shown to build long-term resilience.
- Bullet Journal or Personal Planning Journal: Simply keeping a record of what you need to do each day, including goals and memories you don’t want to lose, helps keep your mind uncluttered. This will also help you in remembering what’s important to you, as way as keeping you more organized and balanced, which is a great way to feel less stressed.
8. Make Time for Leisure Activities
Leisure activities can be a wonderful way to relieve stress. Yet, many people feel as though their lives are too busy for hobbies, games or extra fun. Building time for leisure into your schedule could be the key to helping you feel your best. And when you feel your best, you perform better – suggesting that leisure time may make your working time more efficient.
9. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness describes practices that anchor you to the present moment, which can help combat the anxiety-inducing effects of negative thinking. There are several methods for increasing mindfulness, including mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction.
Yoga has become a popular method for practicing mindfulness as it combines physical movement, meditation, light exercise, and controlled breathing – all of which provide excellent stress relief. Further, it provides a variety of physical, psychological and spiritual benefits.
10. Cut Out Things That Add to Your Stress
Sometimes, the best way to reduce your stress is to simply cut out the things that are causing you stress. This can include watching the news, being constantly connected to your digital devices, drinking alcohol or having the wrong energy in your social group.
Making some changes to your daily habits could be instrumental in helping you maintain a manageable level of stress over the inevitable ups and downs associated with life.