Simple Hacks for Fighting Stress That Anyone Can Do
Stress is a normal part of life. When we encounter difficult situations, our muscles tighten, our heartbeats quicken and our thoughts start to race. Stress is the body's response to anger, frustration and fear.
It's natural to experience stress on occasion, but when it occurs on a regular basis, those uncomfortable feelings can create physical and emotional problems that may interfere with our work and home lives. Although we can’t escape stress, here are some great ways to keep it under control.
Have a Good Laugh
There's some truth in the old saying "Laughter is the best medicine." A good chuckle reduces our stress response and relieves tension. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter stimulates people’s hearts and lungs by supplying fresh oxygen. Studies have also shown that laughing revs up the immune system, relieves pain and makes it easier to cope with stressful situations.
Try Float Therapy
If you enjoy total solitude, you may want to try relaxing in a float tank. These specialized enclosed bathtub "pods" are filled with over 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts so you can remain buoyant without having to tread water. The tank’s water is heated to your body temperature and often has soft lighting and calm music.
Adopt a Pet
If you’re an animal lover, then you know there’s nothing like snuggling up to a cuddly, furry friend after a rough day. Adopting a pet saves a life and can provide you with constant companionship, entertainment and unconditional love. And the benefits of pet ownership aren’t just anecdotal.
Have a Cup of Tea
If you’ve been feeling anxious, a cup of warm tea may just chase your worries away. Research has shown that tea can boost mental clarity, improve mood and increase feelings of calmness. But it’s not just the beverage that has a calming effect. The ritual of preparing tea also creates feelings of relaxation.
Go for a Check-Up
We tend to chalk stress up to a bad day at work, a fight with a loved one or a poor night's sleep. But if stress has been an ongoing problem, those issues may not be what's to blame. Underlying illnesses are sometimes the culprit when we're experiencing lots of tension.
Breathe in Some Aromatherapy
Have you ever smelled something and had the scent take you back to a wonderful memory? Aromatherapy uses concentrated extracts known as essential oils to help you relax. These essential oils are derived from flowers, herbs, bark, roots and fruit peels. They work by stimulating an area of the brain called the limbic system, which helps regulate emotions.
Learn How to Lucid Dream
It’s natural to feel like you have no control over what you’re thinking while you're asleep. But lucid dreaming teaches you how to recognize when you’re sleeping so you can use that time to relax, pursue creative ideas and solve problems. Lucid dreamers can decrease their stress by willingly changing a dream's setting, characters or plot.
Start Saying “No”
Learning how to say the word "no" when your plate is already full is one of the most effective ways you can deal with stress. Saying "no" lets you take control of your life and put your needs ahead of others’.
Trim Your "To Do" List
Lists are often used to help increase productivity, but sometimes they can also be sources of stress. It’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed by an out-of-control task list. Be realistic about what you can truly accomplish. Take a look at your list and separate the important items from the busywork.
Go for a Walk
When stress is getting the best of you, it’s time to lace up a pair of sneakers and go for a walk. Walking has been proven to reduce stress and alleviate depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, individuals who exercise are less prone to anxiety and depression than their couch potato counterparts.
Spend Time With Friends
When the pressure is on, it’s only natural to want to be alone. But spending time with a friend may actually be more helpful. A 2011 study published in Developmental Psychology revealed that, when the chips are down and we're feeling anxious, a close friend can increase our feelings of self-worth.
Dancing is a wonderful form of exercise that’s fun, social and a great stress-reliever. Whether you’re into ballroom dancing, salsa, country or disco, getting out on the dance floor encourages your body to produce natural painkillers called endorphins. A rush of endorphins can make you feel relaxed and happy.
Cut Back on Caffeine
Lots of people can’t live without their morning java. The caffeine in your cup gives you that energy boost you crave first thing in the morning. But caffeine can have negative effects. If you've been feeling stressed, caffeine can make you feel even worse by elevating your blood pressure and causing headaches, anxiety and insomnia.
When you’re under a lot of stress, volunteering may not seem like a wise idea. But mental health experts say that, when we volunteer, we aren’t only helping others but are also helping ourselves. The Mayo Clinic reported that volunteering reduces depression and alleviates anxiety by giving people a greater sense of purpose and a stronger social network.
Listen to Binaural Beats
Binaural beats are subtle musical beats that produce a different frequency in each ear. It’s believed that this difference puts the brain in a relaxed, meditative state. People who listen to binaural beats register a change in brainwave activity that leads to a decrease in stress and an increase in focus, motivation and creativity.
Take a Vacation
People often think they have too much on their plates to pack up and go, but sometimes that’s the best reason to say "adios." According to the American Psychological Association, penciling in regular vacations is a great stress-reducer. A study conducted by the University of Vienna discovered that employees who regularly take a few days off have fewer physical ailments.
Declutter Your Home and Office
If you have too much stuff, all of that clutter could be stressing you out. It’s no surprise that a 2009 study by University of California researchers Darby Saxbe and Rena Repetti discovered that individuals who described their homes as "cluttered" were more likely to suffer from depression.
Read a Good Book
The next time you’re feeling worried or down, try heading to the library or bookstore for relief. Reading a good book or fascinating magazine article is a perfect form of escapism. Let the words and photos take your imagination to another realm.
Stay Away From Social Media
Social media can be a hard addiction to break. It’s often our primary tool for staying in touch with friends, relatives and co-workers and catching up on current events. But spending too much time online can add worry and tension to our lives.
Try Tai Chi
Tai chi was originally created in China as a form of self-defense but is now a popular method of meditation and relaxation. Tai chi is a low-impact exercise that’s beneficial for everyone, regardless of age. It’s been shown to lower blood pressure, improve sleep and boost overall well-being.
Learn How to Meditate
Meditation is an ancient method of relaxation that can "reboot" a stressed mind and body. It has been proven to help people manage anxiety, insomnia and depression. It also can alleviate some symptoms from certain medical conditions like heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and asthma.
Do Something Repetitive
Research has shown that performing rituals or repetitive activities elicits a relaxation response when we’re feeling tense. Repeating a word, sound, phrase, prayer or activity can create a tranquil feeling, according to Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard University’s Mind/Body Medical Institute.
Count Your Blessings
When we're hit with stressful situations, we tend to focus on what’s going wrong rather than paying attention to what’s going right. But expressing gratitude each day for the people and things in our lives can help reduce tension. A 2015 study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine discovered that people who show daily gratitude and mindfulness reported greater happiness and decreased stress and depression.
Try Forest Therapy
Forest therapy is a Japanese practice that encourages people to immerse themselves in nature for health and happiness. Forest therapy is known in Japan as shinrin-yoku and means "taking in the forest" or "forest bathing." Researchers have learned that spending as little as 20 minutes per day outside enhances mood and relieves tension.
Take a Yoga Class
Yoga is an ancient form of meditative exercise that can restore your body and mind. By performing certain poses, yoga practitioners experience a greater sense of calmness and physical health. Yoga also concentrates on focused breath practice. This combination of physical, mental and breath control is what makes yoga one of the better options for relieving stress.
Have More Sex
When you’re feeling tense, one of the best remedies is to have sex. Sex has the ability to lower blood pressure, reduce pain and improve sleep. A combination of intercourse and intimacy can have a soothing effect on you. How can it do so much? According to researchers, sex releases oxytocin, a happiness hormone that counters the stress hormone cortisol.
Keep a Journal
Journaling is an excellent outlet when you’re dealing with overwhelming situations. It can help you manage stress, reduce anxiety and deal with depression. Putting pen to paper allows you to visualize your thoughts and track feelings or challenges you may have while dealing with stress.
Catch Up on Sleep
Sleep is critical to our survival. It allows our bodies to rest and refreshes our brains. If you aren't getting enough sleep, chances are you'll feel more stressed. According to the American Psychological Association, the majority of adults only get 6.7 hours of sleep each night — less than the recommended eight or nine hours.
Get a Massage
Massage may seem like it’s an indulgence, but it actually offers a multitude of stress-relieving benefits. Because stress can also negatively affect your body, massage performed by a licensed therapist can relieve stress and everyday aches and pains by stimulating circulation and relaxing tense muscles.
Eat a Healthier Diet
When stress rears its ugly head, people often crave junk food. But foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat can increase stress and anxiety. While those foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat can exacerbate stress, when we make healthier food choices, we can also alleviate that anxiety.