Stress has become an indispensable part of our daily life, especially to those who live in a fast-paced environment. In certain amount, stress is actually good for us because it can helps us to achieve goals and perform at a higher level. However, too much or prolonged stress can be harmful to the body. Studies have shown that stress can contribute to a number of health conditions, including headaches, anxiety, depression, insomnia, hypertension, muscle pain, etc.
Fortunately, there are a variety of stress management techniques that can bring relief quickly. These techniques will not only have you feeling more relaxed within minutes, but when practice regularly they can help reduce your stress levels and improve your health.
1. Deep breathing
Deep breathing is one of the best ways to relieve stress. This exercise can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation response.
The goal of deep breathing is to focus your awareness on your breath, making it slower and deeper. Take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.
When you breathe in deeply through your nose, your lungs fully expand and your belly rises. This helps your heart rate slow down, allowing you to feel more peaceful.
There are several types of deep breathing exercises, including diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, and belly breathing.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years as a relaxation technique. Nowadays, it is widely practiced for its calming and stress relieving effects. Anyone can practice meditation to restore inner peace and take the stress away. Meditation is an inexpensive way to bring your mind and body back to its natural balance.
If you are a beginner, it’s best to take on a guided meditation program under an expert. You can get a hold of good books and videos on meditation for regular practice.
3. Practice yoga regularly
Yoga is another great way to cope with your stressful lives and help you find your inner peace back. Like meditation, yoga focuses on controlled breathing and relaxation but combines with stretching exercises. It helps you reduce your blood pressure, heartbeat, and nervousness.
You can practice any of the different forms of yoga for stress relief. For instance, you can try Hatha yoga. It soothes your distressed mind, refreshes your thoughts, tones body muscles and generates new awareness like never before. Yoga is also believed to prevent and cure various diseases.
4. Listening to music
Listening to music can have a relaxing effect on the body. It works by helping to lower blood pressure levels and stress hormones.
Some types of classical, Celtic, Native American, Indian stringed-instruments, drums, and flutes can be particularly soothing, but simply listening to the music you enjoy is effective too. Nature sounds can also be very calming. That’s why they’re often incorporated into relaxation and meditation music.
Exercise is usually associated with fitness and weight loss programs. But it also a great way to combat stress. Exercise helps the mind to get away from stressful conditions.
A study has found that people who exercise regularly are 25 percent less likely to experience anxiety or depression than those who don’t exercise .
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean weight lifting at the gym or training for a marathon. A short walk around the office or simply standing up to stretch during a break at work can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation. Getting your blood moving releases endorphins and can improve your mood almost instantaneously.
6. Eat healthy foods
Your food choices can help you manage your stress levels as well. Here are some foods that have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress.
- Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate has been found to improve mood by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. According to a research published in 2009 in the journal of Proteome Research, eating 1.4 ounces (40 grams) of dark chocolate daily for two weeks is associated with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and catecholamine .
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna, salmon, and sardines, can help lower stress, anxiety, and depression. An observational study found that people who took a daily omega-3 supplement (containing DHA and EPA) for 12 weeks reduced their anxiety by 20 percent compared to the placebo group .
Try to eat at least two servings of fatty fish per week (each serving should be about 3.5 ounces cooked). Alternatively, you can opt for flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts to get your omega-3s.
- Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits, such as oranges, limes, and grapefruit, are rich in vitamin C which have been shown can reduce stress levels and boost the immune system. According to research published in “Psychology Today” in April 2003, people with vitamin C deficiencies are less able to respond to stressful situations than people with high blood levels of vitamin C.
Adult men should aim to get about 90 mg of vitamin C daily, while adult women need about 75 mg daily. You can meet your daily vitamin C requirement by eating one orange a day. Other good sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, kiwifruit, berries, tomatoes, and dark greens leafy vegetables.
7. Try Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a way of using natural scents to alter your stress levels and boost your mood. Scientific studies have linked the scent of lavender to reduced stress and anxiety levels . You can use a lavender scented air freshener in your home, office, or car, or spritz a bit of the essential oil onto your skin before you head out the door in the morning.
8. Self Massage
Massage isn’t just good for improving the blood circulation in your body, it also help in releasing feel-good hormones in your brain.
Scientific studies show that massage therapy is an effective way to reduce stress, anxiety, headaches, and muscle tensions. Add some essential oils to your massage oils to give it an aromatherapeutic value.
Laughing is an excellent way to reduces stress and anxiety, as well as boosts the immunity system. Laughter provides a full-scale workout for your muscles and unleashes a rush of stress-busting endorphins. Since our bodies cannot distinguish between real and fake laughter, anything that makes you giggle will have a positive impact.
If you’re having trouble imagining yourself laughing, or think that nothing can tickle your funny bone, think again. Everyone has a sense of humor, even if they don’t express it frequently. According to Dr. Linda Mintle, a licensed clinical social worker, the following methods can help people to laugh and release stress.
- Read a funny book
- Tell jokes
- Tickle or be tickled
- Play a fun board game with kids
- Listen to an upbeat talk radio show
- Go out to see a comedy movie at the theater
10. Learn to Say “No”
Many of the stress factors in our lives come from over-activity, not enough rest. So, the best way to overcome this cause of stress is to say “no” to additional responsibilities and things that don’t matter.
Once you start learning to say no, you will reduce the stress and the burden of always being put upon. Remember, you teach people how you want to be treated.