Quick Ways To Reduce Stress
Taking care of your long-term mental and physical health is an important part of stress management. However, there isnt always time to take a nap, hike a fourteener, or read a novel. Thus, here are 25 ways to reduce stress in five minutes or less. From eating chocolate to meditating, there is a quick stress-relieving tactic for everyone.
1. BreatheSlow, deep breaths can help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Try pranayama breathing, a yogic method that involves breathing through one nostril at a time to relieve anxiety. The technique is supposed to work the same way as acupuncture, balancing the mind and body.
2. Listen to Music No matter what the song, sometimes belting out the lyrics to a favorite tune makes everything seem all right. If youre in a public place, just listening to music can be a quick fix for a bad mood. Classical music can be especially relaxing right before bedtime.
3. Take a Quick Walk When youre feeling overwhelmed or having trouble concentrating, go for a quick stroll around the block. Youll get the benefits of alone time, physical activity, and a few minutes to gather your thoughts.
4. Find the Sun If its a sunny day, head outside for an easy way to lift your spirits. Bright light can be an effective treatment for people who suffer from depression, and can even cheer up otherwise healthy people.
8. Rub Your Feet Over a Golf Ball You can get an impromptu, relaxing foot massage by rubbing your feet back and forth over a golf ball.
12. Be Alone
Try To Better Your Sleep To Reduce Stress Levels
A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress however, stress also interrupts our sleep as our minds keep going around in circles. Sleep and stress can be a vicious cycle where one impairs the other, which can heighten all of our emotions and make things seem worse than they are. Maximise relaxation techniques before going to bed and make your bedroom a safe stress-free space. Have a warm bath, read an easy book, or listen to some calming music, to help you destress and enter a relaxed mindset.
Stress And Its Affect On Hair
So, instead of just asking participants if they were feeling less stressed this time around, the research team decided to focus on levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their hair.
Cortisol is one of the main hormones released by the body when we’re stressed out, serving to help keep us energized and alert. When stress becomes constant and chronic, however, all that cortisol pumping through the body eventually makes its way to and accumulates within the hair. In the simplest of terms, the more cortisol found in one’s hair, the more chronic stress in their life.
In all, three groups of roughly 80 participants took part in this project, which lasted for nine months in total. The meditation training was divided into three 3-month phases, with each focusing on specific Western or Far Eastern mental practices. Participants were guided on how to better focus their attention and achieve mindfulness, as well as building gratitude/compassion and learning to better understand other peoples’ perspectives and thoughts. Subjects attended 30-minute sessions six days per week.
Now, generally speaking, hair tends to grow at a pace of 0.4 inches per month, so researchers measured each participants’ hair cortisol levels every three months within the first inch or so of hair starting at the scalp.
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Tip : Recognize When Youre Stressed
It might seem obvious that youd know when youre stressed, but many of us spend so much time in a frazzled state that weve forgotten what it feels like when our nervous systems are in balance: when were calm yet still alert and focused. If this is you, you can recognize when youre stressed by listening to your body. When youre tired, your eyes feel heavy and you might rest your head on your hand. When youre happy, you laugh easily. And when youre stressed, your body lets you know that, too. Get in the habit of paying attention to your bodys clues.
Observe your muscles and insides. Are your muscles tense or sore? Is your stomach tight, cramped, or aching? Are your hands or jaw clenched?
Observe your breath. Is your breathing shallow? Place one hand on your belly, the other on your chest. Watch your hands rise and fall with each breath. Notice when you breathe fully or when you forget to breathe.
Quick Stress Relief At Work
Meetings. During stressful sessions, stay connected to your breath. Massage the tips of your fingers. Wiggle your toes. Sip coffee.
On the phone. Inhale something energizing, like lemon, ginger, peppermint. While talking, stand up or pace back and forth to burn off excess energy, or take calls outside when possible.
On the computer. Work standing up. Do knee-bends in 10-minute intervals. Suck on a peppermint. Sip tea.
Lunch breaks. Take a walk around the block or in the parking lot. Listen to soothing music while eating. Chat with a colleague.
Your workspace. Place family photos on your desk or mementos that remind you of your life outside the office.
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Change What You Drink
What you drink can have both a positive and negative effect on you. And sometimes its more about how much of something you drink.
For example, moderate caffeine intake increases attention and cognitive function. Its even associated with mood elevation. But high doses of caffeine can induce and exacerbate anxiety.
And unfortunately, I need to burst the bubble around alcohol. Its time to STOP using it as your go-to form coping mechanism for stress and anxiety. Im not saying that you cant drink, just that its not a healthy way to de-stress. Abstinence from alcohol is actually associated with a lower risk of depression and anxiety.
Luckily, you can naturally reduce stress and anxiety by drinking certain types of decaffeinated teas. For example:
Techniques To Reduce Stress
We all feel stress from time to time, and thank goodness we do. A stress reaction is what allows our bodies to act quickly in an emergency and prevent injury for ourselves or others. Fortunately, most days we do not encounter emergencies, and yet most of us continue to experience stress on a daily basis.
According to the American Institute of Stress, 73%-77% of people experience stress that affects their physical and mental health. Did you hear that? Up to 77% of us! So unless you are an exceptionally chill Zen master, you probably are experiencing physical and mental discomfort in this very moment due to stress.
Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress, but we are not equipped to handle the long-term stress most of us experience on a day-to-day basis.
There are myriad symptoms one may be having in reaction to too much stress. Reach out to a doctor if you are concerned that stress may be affecting your health, and start implementing relaxation techniques today.
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What Can Prolonged Stress Lead To
Stress is a natural reaction to many situations in life, such as work, family, relationships and money problems.
We mentioned earlier on that a moderate amount of stress can help us perform better in challenging situations,34 but too much or prolonged stress can lead to physical problems. This can include lower immunity levels,35 digestive and intestinal difficulties, e.g. irritable bowel syndrome ,36 or mental health problems such as depression.3 This means it is important to manage your stress and keep it at a healthy level to prevent long-term damage to your body and mind.
Reflecting On Your Stress
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Nuts Are A Great Stress
Nuts are full of nutrients, including B vitamins, along with healthy fatty acids. Meyerowitz says B vitamins are an important part of a healthy diet and can help reduce stress. Almonds, pistachios, and walnuts may even help lower blood pressure levels. According to a past study, pistachios in particular can have a role in reducing stress levels. Just remember to limit servings to just a handful a day to avoid excess calories.
Nuts and seeds are also high in magnesium, and thats a plus, Figueroa says, because magnesium has been linked to better anxiety management. Findings from a review published in April 2017 in the journal Nutrients suggested that magnesium benefits individuals with mild to moderate levels of anxiety, but more trials are needed before making this treatment recommendation across the board.
Build Strong Positive Relationships With People Who Make You Feel Goodand Avoid Those Who Dont
Research suggests that stress builds up over time, through multiple small interactions with others. By themselves, few single incidents are intrinsically stressful. However, put them together, and the story is very different.
It is hard to avoid these micro-stressors, because they are too frequent and too pervasive. However, there are ways to address them, and the most important is to focus on your relationships with others. Research suggests that the two most important things you can do are to build strong relationships and connections with people who make you feel good, and avoid those who dont.
There is more about this in our page on Micro-Stressors.
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Look After Yourself Physically
When you are physically fit and well, it is much easier to cope with stress.
When you become stressed, it is harder to motivate yourself to care about what you eat, or whether you exercise. However, not doing so can also make you more stressed. Get into good habits while your stress levels are fairly low, and you may find that they never go up again. These good habits include:
Taking regular exercise
Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body.
These are the fight or flight hormones that evolution has hard-wired into our brains and which are designed to protect us from immediate bodily harm when we are under threat. However, stress in the modern age is rarely remedied by a fight or flight response. Physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolise the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state.
Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work, or at lunchtime. Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep.
You can assess your levels of daytime sleepiness with the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.
Practice The Relaxation Response
To perform the Relaxation Response:
Practice this at least once or twice each day. When you are more experienced, you can do a 15-second version to help you de-stress in the middle of stressful events, says Dr. Sinha.
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Pinpoint Your Comfort Food Triggers
Try writing down what you eat in an effort to get a better idea of when you stress eat. “Keeping a food journal for a week can help you pinpoint the times where you indulge in comfort foods or when you make sensible, healthier choices,” says Balk. “If dinner before a big test or meeting tends to be fried ‘comfort food,’ it’s worthwhile to stop the cycle and replace that emotion with a healthier choice or receive consolation another way.”
How Can You Help Yourself
Stress is a natural reaction to many situations in life, such as work, family, relationships and money problems.
We mentioned earlier on that a moderate amount of stress can help us perform better in challenging situations,34 but too much or prolonged stress can lead to physical problems. This can include lower immunity levels,35 digestive and intestinal difficulties, e.g. irritable bowel syndrome ,36 or mental health problems such as depression.37 It is therefore important that we manage our stress and keep it at a healthy level to prevent long-term damage to our bodies and minds.
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Learn To Avoid Procrastination
Another way to take control of your stress is to stay on top of your priorities and stop procrastinating.
Procrastination can lead you to act reactively, leaving you scrambling to catch up. This can cause stress, which negatively affects your health and sleep quality .
Get in the habit of making a to-do list organized by priority. Give yourself realistic deadlines and work your way down the list.
Work on the things that need to get done today and give yourself chunks of uninterrupted time, as switching between tasks or multitasking can be stressful itself.
Prioritize what needs to get done and make time for it. Staying on top of your to-do list can help ward off procrastination-related stress.
Yoga has become a popular method of stress relief and exercise among all age groups.
While yoga styles differ, most share a common goal to join your body and mind.
Yoga primarily does this by increasing body and breath awareness.
Some studies have examined yogas effect on mental health. Overall, research has found that yoga can enhance mood and may even be as effective as antidepressant drugs at treating depression and anxiety .
However, many of these studies are limited, and there are still questions about how yoga works to achieve stress reduction.
In general, the benefit of yoga for stress and anxiety seems to be related to its effect on your nervous system and stress response.
The Health Benefits Of Reducing Stress
Its hard to see the benefits of stress, but this automatic response to feelings like nerves or fear is actually an evolutionary defense mechanism that was necessary for survival. When faced with a threatening situation, our ancestors relied on stress to flood the body with hormones that would raise their heart rate, increase blood pressure, and prepare them to fight or escape.
But since we no longer have to worry about looming lions or other long-tooth predators, stress has become more burden than evolutionary boon.
Starting each week with a DeStress Monday activity can help you develop a more consistent healthy routine. This Monday, understand how stress affects your health, and learn how you can use techniques to reduce your stress levels.
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Book An Appointment With A Therapist
Elevated cortisol is commonly caused by anxiety. Although there are easy-to-learn breathing techniques and other coping mechanisms that can be used at home in order to temper the stress response, therapy is the best way to learn more about mental health. Even patients who dont suffer from anxiety can benefit from talking to a professional. In fact, therapy has been proven to lower cortisol levels by thirty percent.
Stress Relief Techniques To The Rescue
Activities that switch on the bodys natural relaxation response feel great, Buenaver says. And they have been proven by research to improve sleep. They help by reducing the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and by slowing your heart rate and breathing. Your body and mind calm down.
Yoga, tai chi and meditation are helpful stress relief techniques. So are these two simple exercises that Buenaver recommends to patients who are struggling with sleepless nights.
- In a quiet place, sit or lie down in a comfortable position. It may help to close your eyes.
- Breathe slowly in and out for about five minutes. As you inhale, breathe down into your belly. Focus on your breath.
- If youd like, repeat to yourself, Breathing in I am calm, breathing out I am coping.
Progressive muscle relaxation:
- In a quiet place, sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
- Take a few gentle breaths, in and out.
- Begin tensing groups of muscles one at a time as you breathe. Hold the tension as you inhale, then release it as you exhale. Take a few breaths as you notice how relaxed each muscle group feels.
- Start with the muscles in your head, neck and face. Move down to your shoulders, hands and arms, back, stomach, buttocks, thighs, calves and feet.
- Repeat for any areas that are still tense.
As you go through this exercise, feel the presence and absence of tension so you can spot lingering tension and do something about it, Buenaver says.
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