We deal with stress on a daily basis. We deal with it at work, driving to work, at home, and in our relationships. It seems like it never stops. It affects our health and personal well being, and interferes with our quality of life. Take steps to reduce its effects! Let me share with you my list of 43 Ways to Reduce Stress.
Manage your time
Minimize stress caused by poor time management by planning ahead and keeping schedules and predictable routines to stay focused. Try not to procrastinate on tasks, as being unprepared is often the cause of stress.
Many people have trouble saying no to requests, even when they already have more than enough to do. Avoid this stress by not taking on more than you can handle.
Organizing helps you to regain a sense of control -plan, make lists, and declutter. Bringing order to our surroundings helps us to feel more relaxed.
Create a soothing environment
A calm, soothing environment can be a refuge from stress. Borrow ideas from feng shui and deep clean, then consider lighting, furniture arrangement, adding nature elements like plants and flowers, a table fountain, aromatherapy, and color – blue is especially calming.
Writing allows you to dump your negative thoughts and emotions out onto paper so you can move on to a happier place. Another option is to keep a gratitude journal and focus on the positive things – you can always read over past entries when you need a “pick-me-up” to put you into a better mood.
Listen to music
Listening to calm, soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to stress. Alternately, rocking out to upbeat songs (singing along seems to help, too) can also help blow off stress.
Engaging in fun activities that bring you joy like baking, knitting, or gardening takes your mind off stress and improves your mood. Hobbies focus your mind on the task at hand and the pleasure you find in doing the activity helps to combat stress.
Reading a good book can instantly transport you to another world. It takes the mind off of your problems and helps you to relax.
Coloring books for adults have emerged as a popular option for relieving stress. It may be the rhythmic repetition of coloring or simply the focus on just one thing that calms the mind and provides stress relief.
Petting or playing with a pet is a great way to relieve stress. They distract us from our own problems, lower our blood pressure and levels of cortisol, and increase the stress-busting hormone oxytocin – plus they’re just so darn cute!
Laughing releases endorphins which lower cortisol levels (the stress-causing hormone) and boost the immune system. Funny movies, photos, jokes, cartoons, stories, and friends can help you to feel better in the most pleasant way.
Sometimes what we need is a good cry. Crying can give us the emotional release we need to feel better.
Take a break
You can think of this as counting to 10 or a “one minute vacation” but basically, even this short period of time can help you to de-stress. Even better, take a longer break to revitalize – find a quiet place and do something that relaxes you.
Spending time outdoors benefits us both physically and mentally – exposure to sunlight increases serotonin which lifts our mood. Nature has a calming effect and can be thought of as a truly natural antidepressant.
There are stress relieving apps available for your smartphone or mobile device. There are apps for guided visualization, meditation, journaling, nature sounds, acupressure, biofeedback, breathing, positive thinking, even a Zen sand garden and more – a few to try are MyCalmBeat, Breathe2Relax, and Headspace.
Any form of physical activity is extremely beneficial for reducing stress, as it releases endorphins and improves your mood. Exercise can help you to forget your problems and energize you – try running, kickboxing, swimming, riding a bike, dancing, or simply taking a walk.
Connect with others
Spending time and communicating with others who are supportive and make you feel understood can help to calm and reassure you. Talking through your problems can help you to gain perspective and calm your nervous system.
Online support group
Stress is a common problem and there are a number of support groups available, including groups online, to bring people together who are going through the same thing. Support groups offer validation, comfort, the chance to talk openly about your concerns, and the possible exchange of ideas on ways to manage your stress.
Therapists, licensed professional counselors, can help you to identify and resolve the causes of stress in your life. Talking through your problems with another person allows you to reflect upon and evaluate your problems, putting things into perspective; a therapist can advise you on methods and tools to incorporate to reduce and manage stress.
Foods that reduce stress
Foods with high vitamin and mineral levels can help to reduce stress. Try foods like nuts which have magnesium which keeps cortisol levels low, fish with high levels of omega-3, avocados, green leafy vegetables like spinach, or dark chocolate. A healthy diet can help counter the impact of stress by shoring up the immune system and lowering blood pressure.
Caffeine is a stimulant, causing the adrenal glands to release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Caffeine reduces our ability to deal with stress and acts as a diuretic which means that we urinate out the minerals, like magnesium, that help us cope with stress.
Have a cup of tea
Try herbal teas like chamomile, ginseng, lemon balm, or lavender which are known for their soothing and relaxing qualities. In addition, the amino acid, l-theanine, found in green tea has a calming and soothing effect on the nervous system.
Herbs are a wonderful way of reducing stress and can be used in teas, supplements, or bulk form – lavender can be put into a pillow along with hops and placed across the eyes or forehead . Herbs like lavender, kava, passionflower, chamomile, ashwaganda, valerian, and St. Johns wort are adaptogenic and improve anxiety.
Stress reducing supplements such as chamomile, l-theanine or green tea, magnesium, hops, valerian, kava, lemon balm, and St. Johns wort can be beneficial for stress reduction. Supplements are available as a capsules, tinctures or liquid extracts, and teas and there are also herbal blends or formulas specially formulated for stress management like those from Calm Botanicals.
Magnesium deserves special mention because of its importance as a mineral that helps us cope with stress. Stress causes a magnesium deficiency, and a lack of magnesium leads to even more stress – boost your magnesium levels with a supplement, by eating magnesium rich foods like almonds, apply magnesium oil to the skin, or add Epsom salts to a bath.
Aromatherapy uses essential plant oils to improve our well-being and affect our mood – they can be used by breathing them in via a diffuser, direct inhalation such as with a smell stick, or diluted and applied topically (massage!) to be absorbed into the skin. Do your research to find out what is best for you, but a few that are used for stress relief are bergamot, chamomile, lavender, neroli, rose, frankincense, and ylang ylang.
Creative art therapy
Creative art therapy involves creating artistically under the guidance of a qualified mental health professional to improve well being, and can be creative forms other than art such as dance or music. This type of self-expression can bring insight and help manage stress.
Visualization involves creating a picture or scenario in your mind (visualizing) to help you relax – if done with a facilitator guiding you, it is referred to as Guided Imagery. As an example, you could picture yourself in a relaxing, peaceful place (a sort of mental vacation) or you could visualize your stress as an object that disappears such as a black cloud inside your body that slowly blows out with every exhaled breath.
Biofeedback uses sensors attached to your body to monitor bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, etc. The goal is to to help you become aware of and ultimately control these changes that come with stress – eventually you will be able to do so without the monitors.
Progressive relaxation teaches you to relax your muscles by tensing and releasing each muscle group, one at a time, from foot to face or vice versa, and really concentrating on the difference in feeling from tense to relaxed. This is a great way to alleviate stress – once your body is relaxed your mind will follow suit.
A sort of self-hypnosis technique, this is designed to put you into a state of deep relaxation by using a set of visualizations to produce feelings of heaviness and warmth. You begin by visualizing your arms and legs getting heavier and then warmer, heartbeat calm, breathing regular, solar plexus warm, forehead cool, feeling calm – you’re using the mind to control and reduce your stress levels.
The process of hypnosis involves entering a deeply relaxed, trance-like state of consciousness in which your subconscious mind becomes highly responsive to suggestion. Once in a state of hypnosis, a licensed hypnotherapist can find the root of the problem as well as suggest ways to help you cope better with stress, lessening your reaction to stressors and their effect on you.
Floating is a technique in which you float on your back in a body-temperature, saline solution in a dark, soundproof float tank (basically, sensory-deprivation) to promote relaxation. This method lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow, releases endorphins, reduces cortisol, and the body absorbs magnesium, a mineral needed to help cope with stress.
Be aware of your breathing – long, deep slow breaths stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which counters the fight or flight response and calms us down. Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose for a count of about 10 and then exhale slowly and completely out for the same amount of time.
Meditation is a practice of quieting the mind by focusing attention on a single reference point like breathing or a mantra. The goal is to relax the body and clear and calm the mind.
A graceful form of exercise, tai chi involves a series of focused movements performed slowly along with deep breathing. With flowing movements, tai chi promotes relaxation and releases emotional tension.
Yoga is a practice involving a series of specific bodily postures. It brings a state of tranquility and calms the mind by focusing attention on the body and breathing and being “in the moment.”
Some people find it comforting to know that when feeling out of control and stressed, they can give it up to a power greater than themselves. In addition, the recitation of prayers can be soothing and somewhat akin to meditation.
Massage manipulates the soft body tissues (muscle, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments) by rubbing or kneading with the hands. This relaxes the muscles, increases circulation, and relieves stress – plus it just feels really good.
Reflexology is the stimulation of pressure points on the feet and hands which correspond to different organs and systems of the body. This renews the energy flow and ability to heal, reducing stress and bringing balance to the body systems.
Acupuncture is a practice that involves inserting long, thin needles into the body at specific acupressure points to balance chi or flow of energy and restore health. It can jumpstart the body’s ability to heal itself and help to feel more balanced.
Acupressure is the application of pressure to certain points on the body to unblock the flow of energy. By removing these blockages, it restores balance which aids in healing.
EFT or the Emotional Freedom Technique is a combination of acupressure and psychology which involves tapping on certain parts of body with fingertips and positive affirmations. This process restores balance by unblocking the flow of energy.