Stress is something that everyone deals with at some point, but the American Psychological Association reports that it is on the rise. In 2011, 44% of Americans indicated that their stress levels had risen over the past five years. More Americans reported feeling extreme levels of stress in 2015 versus 2014, and it’s only gotten worse than that. More importantly, a sizeable population feels that they are not doing enough to manage their levels of stress.
Effective stress relief is important for both mind and body. Increased stress and anxiety take a toll on both mental and physical health, leading to higher blood pressure, and in some cases insomnia. Yet, stress relief can be achieved in some easy and natural ways. Below you will find ten ways to naturally relieve stress.
1. Listen to Music
Science has your back on this one. Calming music can reduce blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. Classical music, Celtic music, and Native American music appear to be exceptionally adept at relieving stress. Nature sounds also work well.
2. Exercise (even just for a minute)
Exercise releases those feel-good endorphins that naturally help to fight stress. You don’t need to run a marathon or power-lift, either. Even just taking a moment to stand up and stretch can benefit you. Take a yoga class or go for a walk around the neighborhood or the office.
Spark up a scented candle. Smells stimulate the limbic system, which releases chemicals that can promote feelings of calmness and relaxation. Some of the more relaxing scents include lavender, rose, sandalwood, and frankincense.
4. Eat Right
Like it or not, diet and stress are closely related. When stressed, many of us rely on sugary, high fat, processed foods as a pick-me-up. Fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce stress, as can fruits and vegetables. Blueberries and almonds are also effective, according to scientists. Reach for those instead.
5. Get Some Sleep
Stress can cause lack of sleep, but lack of sleep has also been shown to raise stress levels. Create a bedtime ritual that signals to your brain that it is time to sleep: turn off the television, dim the lights, and cut off a smartphone or internet browsing two hours before bedtime. Try and find the right amount of sleep that is best for you. Some people do well with less than eight hours, while others might require slightly more.
6. Try Yoga
One of the most commonly cited reasons for practicing yoga is it reduces stress and anxiety. There is no better stress management tool like yoga. Practicing yoga works to relieve stress and reduce tension in both mind and body. Yoga may also increase self-esteem, which combats anxiety and depression, which are associated with stress.
You become more resilient when so-called recurring stress triggers pop up. The most popular poses known to reduce stress are Eagle pose, Uttanasana, Vajrasana, balasana, and Supta Buddha Konasana. The promising one that if followed after each asana is Savasana. Try it out just a few minutes every day you will feel a better you.
The old adage of “take a breath” has some truth to it. Simply taking a moment or two to take a deep breath in and let it out slowly can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels. Focusing on your breathing for 5-10 minutes can help clear your mind of the stressful thoughts.
It’s hard to feel stressed and anxious when you’re laughing. The endorphins released when someone laughs reduce cortisol and adrenaline, two things that increase stress. It also tricks your nervous system into making you happy. Watch a comedy or some stand-up. Laughing also relaxes those muscles, which tense up when you’re stressed.
9. Become Mindful
Anchoring yourself in the present moment has become a common tool practiced in psychotherapy. Acupressure, Tai Chi, and meditation are all habits that promote and teach mindfulness, while also reducing stress.
10. Spend Time with Fido (or another pet)
Dog-owners report lower amounts of stress than those who don’t own a pet. Interacting with a pet may release chemicals which promote better mood. Pets also provide companionship and give a person purpose, which helps to alleviate stress.
These are just a few of many ways to relieve stress, but there are more. If you’re looking for another option, you may also want to consider writing it out in a journal. Another option is to take a break and simply go outside and enjoy the natural stress relief provided by mother nature.