Chances are, while you’re going through your ever-growing to-do list today, there’s one thing you’ve forgotten to jot down: relax. However, managing stress is key to staying healthy and ignoring it can lead us to places we don’t want to go. If you think you don’t have time to find ways of unwinding, you’ll be surprised to know there are lots of things you can do that won’t hamper your schedule! But we are also gunning for you to take time off for yourself, so here’s an interesting mix of effective stress relievers.
Progressive Relaxation: Tighten and then relieve each muscle group in the body like the lower arm, upper arm, chest, back and abdominals. Once you feel your body is relaxed, you’ll soon feel your mind following suit.
Light Yoga: Yoga’s physical and mental disciplines, the various poses and deep breathing techniques, enable you to reduce stress. By achieving peacefulness of body and mind, you can relax and manage stress and anxiety.
Meditation: According to research, a few minutes of meditation per day may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress. This is especially true when you’re having work-related issues.
Deep breathing: Take a five-minute break from whatever is bothering you to focus on your breathing. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your stomach and work its way up, then reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.
Scents: Studies suggest certain aromas help shun anxiety. One study showed stress levels were significantly lowered in students who inhaled essential oils. Some effective smells include lavender, citrus, green apple and coconut.
Music: Research points to several ways in which music can help relieve stress, including activating biochemical stress reducers and treating stress induced by medical procedures and anxiety.
Awareness: We’re often rushing from one thing to another, whether it’s an appointment or to the gym. Slowing down and noticing things like how the wind feels on your face or chewing slowly to concentrate on our food helps us enjoy life more. Living in the moment and focusing on your senses is a good way to alleviate tension.
Laughter: Having a good chuckle can reduce the physical effects stress has on the body, like tiredness. One finding indicated that laughter therapy had a positive effect when it came to decreasing postpartum fatigue.
Tea: A study found that six weeks of drinking black tea lead to lower post-stress cortisol levels and greater subjective relaxation, as well as reduced platelet activation. Black tea may have health benefits in part by aiding stress recovery.
Exercise: The endorphin rush that comes with physical activity makes you feel robust and clears your thoughts. In turn, these help get you in the right state of mind to be able to identify the causes of your stress and find a solution.
Visualisation: Imagining a calm or peaceful scene may help reduce stress and ease anxiety by distracting you from the stressful moment you’re in and causing a relaxation response in the muscles.
Prayer: Surveys have shown one of the main reasons people pray is to reduce worry. One study even found that college students who practiced a religious were less stressed than their non-religious classmates. Plus, other research suggests pious people are less likely to experience mental illnesses that are stress related.
Volunteering: Helping others who are in situations worse than yours will help put your problems into perspective. The more you volunteer or do community work, the more resilient you become and the happier you feel. Even things like making a coffee for a colleague or helping someone at the supermarket check out can make a difference.
Gum: Studies suggest the act of grinding some gum can reduce cortisol levels, helping to alleviate stress. One investigation found chewing gum was associated with higher alertness, reduced anxiety and stress, plus an improvement in performing multi-tasking activities.
Massages: Having a Thai massage may be more beneficial than you think. As well as combating stress, studies suggest massages may help to improve body image. One study showed that after five minutes of massage, the volunteers’ heart rates decreased significantly, indicating a reduced stress response.
Intimacy: Studies have shown getting down with your spouse can actually help the physical symptoms that come with stress. It’s more likely due to a combination of other stress relievers that come with it like deeper breathing, physical exertion, touch and social connectedness.
Naps: Some studies indicate people who power nap not only enjoy lower stress levels due to diminished cortisol, they also benefit from productivity boosts, improved learning ability and better overall moods.
Hugs: Scientists have found that the hormone oxytocin gets released into the blood stream when you hold a loved one close. This lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and anxiety and can even improve your memory.
Reaching Out: A good social support system is one of the most important resources for dealing with stress. Talking to others, preferably over a coffee or at least on the phone, is a great way to better manage whatever is stressing you out.
Pets: Companion animals have favourable effects on human health and behaviour. Findings in Australia showed that pet owners had marked reduced risk factors related to cardiac disease compared with non-owners. Dog owners appear to be less stressed out, most likely because they have a body to cuddle.
Art: Art therapy is said to help in many ways like boosting self-esteem and managing addictions, it can also potentially reduce stress-related behaviour and symptoms. One case study demonstrated how art therapy proved to be an excellent non-pharmacological addition when it came to reducing stress-related behaviours in people with dementia.
Writing: Keeping a journal may be one way to effectively ease stress-related symptoms because it is a reflective and meditative activity. What’s more, a gratitude journal can really help us realise how lucky we are. Writing down the things that make us happy is a great way to stay positive.
Taking control: Felling as if you have lost control is a main cause of stress. Staying passive about it only makes it worse. Taking control is empowering and plays a very important part in finding a solution that satisfies you.
Walking: A quiet, reflective walk can do as many wonders as meditation and yoga. One of them includes relieving physical and mental stress by moving in a relaxed way and focusing on physical sensations. The important thing is to find a peaceful place, try not to rush and remember to breathe away the pressures.
Kissing: According to research, kissing unleashes chemicals that ease hormones associated with stress, like cortisol. Forming positive relationships is also a major way to help cut down stress and anxiety.
Thinking of yourself: All those hours in the office mean a lot of us aren’t spending enough time doing the activities we really enjoy. Whether it’s socialising, reading or an outdoor activity, it’s important to set aside a couple of hours a week for some quality ‘me time’.