Throughout this week we’ve discussed how stress can impact physical and emotional health. We started by looking at the definition of stress, its effects, and who is at a higher risk. Then we took an in-depth look at the most stressful life events as ranked by the Holmes Rahe Stress Scale. However, what is the use of recognizing the things that can cause stress without having a good understanding of how to combat it in day-to-day living?
Here are 14 ways you can reduce stress in your own life each and every day.
1. Mindful meditation
Of course mindful meditation would be near the top of the list. Meditation is a skill that takes practice, but the practice itself is calming. Create a quiet, comfortable place in your home where you can shut yourself off from distractions easily. Start with just five or ten minutes a day. You can also meditate when you start to feel stress taking over.
Like meditation, yoga has a calming effect on the body. This Indian practice combines body movement with mindfulness and each pose can help you bring balance to your life overall. The great part about yoga is that it is adaptive and many people with physical challenges find they can perform many of the movements even if they need special accommodations.
3. Deep breathing exercises
Breathing is a part of both mindful meditation and yoga, but it doesn’t have to be done in conjunction with either of these formal practices. When you start to feel stress in your life take a few moments to focus on your breathing. Breathe deeply filling up your lungs and expanding your diaphragm. Hold the breath for just a moment before slowly and deliberately exhaling. Even a few deep breaths can help ground and center you.
Since breathing is so integral for stress management there is wisdom in employing pleasant scents to help you stay calm and stress-free. There are many ways to infuse scent into your daily life, such as with essential oils or incense. Smells that help reduce stress include lavender, rose, chamomile, and vanilla. Also, since smell is strongly connected to memory if there is a scent induces positive feelings for you specifically, don’t be afraid to use it to help you relax.
Yes, laughter really is the best medicine. It isn’t just that laughter makes you feel good; there is scientific evidence that it improves your health and relieves stress. It increases the body’s intake of oxygen rich air and stimulates organs such as your heart and lungs. It also stops the body’s natural stress responses and helps you feel calmer, faster. It lowers your blood pressure, too. So next time you’re feeling stress watch your favorite comedy.
One great daily ritual that is often overlooked when it comes to stress is enjoying a nice cup of tea. It is no surprise that one of the main studies regarding black tea and stress relief was conducted by the British, a culture who has made tea drinking a priority for centuries. While tea itself helps to relieve stress, the ritual of drinking tea can also have a positive effect. Unlike coffee which is a pour-and-drink hot beverage, tea takes preparation and requires drinkers to slow down for just a moment out of their day.
7. Spiritual community
Joining a religious community can also help provide much needed stress relief in your life. In fact, it doesn’t matter at all which religious or spiritual beliefs you subscribe to but simply being involved with a community can help people feel a sense of calmness when under stressful situations. Compassion, community, and support are all part of most spiritual communities.
8. Massage therapy
If you want a hands-off relaxation experience book an appointment at a local spa or with a massage therapist to spend 30 minutes to an hour being pampered. Massage lowers blood pressure, stimulates blood flow, and promotes a sense of calm. Go with your spouse or partner or a great friend to make it a social event, which can also help reduce stress.
In a culture where sex can seem like it is being sold through all forms of media, we actually talk very little about healthy sex. While sex itself actually increases the body’s stress response for a very short period of time, frequent sex will reduce it overall. That’s right, the more you make love the less stressed you’ll feel in general.
Don’t worry; sex isn’t the only physical contact that can reduce stress. Hugging also helps calm the body and relieve tension. And, the best part is, you can hug anyone you trust and it will make you both feel better. In fact, you’ve probably been in a tense situation where hugging it out did actually help solve the problem. So don’t be afraid to do it more often.
Fido or Fluffy are also excellent stress relievers. Simply sharing your home with a pet can reduce your stress levels overall. It’s hard to stay mad at your boss when your cat cuddles up with you and purrs or your dog looks at you with those puppy eyes. People with pets are found to have lower blood pressure overall.
Do you love to be creative? Painting, sculpting, drawing, writing, or playing music all help people control and reduce their stress levels. There is an entire field of therapy dedicated to using art to promote emotional and mental wellbeing. If you find yourself feeling stressed out, take a step back and start an art project that you’ve always wanted to try.
Some of the top advice for people dealing with workplace stress is to get out of the office and go for a walk. Fresh air, physical activity, and removing yourself from a stressful situation can all help someone recover some of their composure. This can apply to any aspects of life. If you feel like you need to step away, take a stroll to help you gather your thoughts.
Like with walking, any form of exercise can help you blow off steam and relieve stress. Research has shown that even one exercise session can improve the body’s antioxidant system and, in turn, reduce stress. Adding regular workouts to your routine can help you manage stress levels in your life.
What are some things you do to reduce stress in your life?
Image by Eva Blue via Flickr