Stress isn’t good for you. Aside from being unpleasant, stress can impact your overall health, as well as cause or worsen pain. Since April is National Stress Awareness Month, we’ve put together a list of the eight top ways to reduce stress.
8 ways to reduce stress
1. Set the scene
Some things are definitely a trigger for stress – like your overflowing email inbox. On the same note, though, some things can help you reduce stress. Music has some serious power when it comes to affecting moods, so put a CD in the car or carry your earbuds with you to work. Aromatherapy, too, might help you reduce stress levels. Natural-based scents always work better, and lavender has proven its worth time and again when it comes to stress-relief. Before you set up a diffuser or candle on your desk at work, though, ask around – some people are allergic to common scents.
2. Chill out
Meditation is a great way to quiet the mind and reduce stress. In fact, meditation is so effective that just 25 minutes per day for three consecutive days can have a positive impact on stress levels. It’s even possible to see the difference in brain function during some types of meditation.
Deep breathing techniques are often an element of meditation, but you don’t always have the time to meditate during moments of stress. In a pinch, taking a few deep, calming breaths can also help you relax, and are one of the easiest ways to reduce stress.
3. Work up a sweat
Research has shown that exercise can help you reduce stress. Stress makes your body produce chemicals that can harm the brain and even lead to depression, but stronger muscles release an enzyme that purges these harmful chemicals. This means that keeping fit can actually help you protect yourself from long-term effects of stress.
Another study found that exercise can make a difference in stress levels pretty quickly. Each person is different, and age makes a difference, but some people actually see improved stress management after just one session of exercise.
Any type of exercise will help you reduce stress, but yoga is a particularly good choice for stress-relieving exercise. Some poses are especially effective to reduce stress. Also, meditation goes hand-in-hand with yoga, so follow your workout with some quiet time for one of the most effective ways to reduce stress.
4. Get some support
When you’re really feeling stress, reach out, whether it’s talking to a friend or going to church to find support. Actually, stress relief is one of the biggest reasons people follow a religion, maybe because putting your worries on a higher power’s shoulders takes some of the weight off your own.
Let your partner help you reduce stress levels, too. Physical touch and social interaction can both lower stress. Since physical exertion, deeper breathing, and endorphin release can lower stress, too, intimacy with your partner or spouse can bring together several stress relievers at once.
5. Take a break
Sometimes you just need to take a step back and relax for a while. If you’re in need of some serious pampering, go for a massage (or, better yet, get your partner to give you a good massage). Massage is also proven to help manage pain, so for anyone who’s suffering from a pain condition in addition to a lot of stress, massage might just kill two birds with one stone.
Laughter is also one of the best ways to reduce stress. Maybe you’ve got a friend who always knows a few jokes. You can also keep a few of your favorite TV shows or movies around the house, so when you’re feeling the pressure, you have a go-to show that’ll get you cracking up in no time.
If you need a few minutes of peace and quiet, sip a cup of tea while you relax. Some teas can calm the mind. Many tea companies have pre-mixed blends specifically for stress or tension.
6. Let it out
Find an outlet for to help you reduce stress. Journaling, poetry, painting, sculpture, ceramics, quilting, writing your own music, or any other type of creative pursuit will do the trick, so do what comes most naturally to you.
Make sure you don’t focus entirely on the negative, though. For example, if you’re taking up journaling, write down what’s making you stressed out. After that, though, spend some time writing about what you’re grateful for or what made you happy today.
7. Get a pet
It should come as no surprise that pets are great way to reduce stress. They provide social interaction and physical touch, can listen to you when you need to unload, give you the perfect excuse to get some exercise, and can make you laugh until you cry. In fact, pets are such a great way to de-stress that some colleges are using therapy dogs to help stressed-out students relax. Some workplaces have therapy dogs on site, ready to play, cuddle, or just be cute to help their employees keep happy.
If you don’t have a pet, you can always adopt one from a shelter. Fostering a pet is a good way to ease into pet ownership if you’re not sure about it. Alternatively, for all the fun but none of the responsibility, call a local shelter and volunteer to walk dogs or socialize puppies or kittens.
8. Put it all together
Find ways to put all these stress-relieving tips together. Go for a walk with your dog to the park and laugh while she goofs around with the other pooches. Put on some relaxing music, light a candle, and invite your friends or coworkers to join you for some meditation. Watch a comedy while snuggled up with your sweetheart.
What do you do when you need to reduce stress? What has been one of the most effective ways to reduce stress that you’ve found?
Image by Harsha K R via Flickr