Stress has a negative impact on our mental and physical health. It can cause various physical ailments like headaches, stomachaches, tight muscles, fatigue, and even high blood pressure. Mentally, stress can make it difficult to concentrate or create memory problems.
But in our busy society run by the pressure of work, family, and the need to do more, how do we alleviate stress?
There are many options for stress reduction, and when looking at these options overall, a few themes emerge. We’ve compiled these themes into a list of five ways to alleviate stress in your own life to help you stay calm, focused, and healthy.
Create (or Retreat to) a Relaxing Atmosphere
Whether it’s low light, relaxing music, or something specifically tailored to your style of relaxation, find a place where you can let the stress melt off you. Perhaps it’s a corner of your living room with a window and a cup of tea, maybe it’s on the couch with a good book, or a spot on your balcony. Perhaps you like to escape into the woods, or maybe you like the background buzz of a sports game. Wherever you find yourself most relaxed—go there.
Shake it off, walk it off, or dance it off. The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol coursing through your body after a stressful event might need a physical release. Just like a dog shakes after a stressful situation, you can help your body let go of stress just by moving it.
Make the motion a part of your routine to boost the physical and mental benefits. Regular exercise can reduce the effects of stress over time and improve your overall mood. Join a regular class at the gym or take a daily walk around the neighborhood to build movement into your day.
Immerse Yourself in Nature
Researchers have found that people who are exposed to more green space experience lower levels of stress. Another study suggested that more time in nature can improve cognitive function and benefit overall mental health.
Taking a walk in a local park, or heading out to a National Park for the weekend, might be just what you need to alleviate stress in your life. It’s not just a momentary escape; being surrounded by green plants, sunlight, and fresh air are a balm for frazzled nerves.
Be Mindful or Meditate
Mindfulness and meditation are also great ways to reduce stress. They help you slow your thoughts and calm your mind through the practice of being present and reports suggest that mindfulness and meditation have also been shown to improve mental and physical health.
If you’re unfamiliar with the practice, or don’t know where to start, there are easy-to-use apps like Headspace and Calm to guide you.
Reach Out to a Friend
Think about the relief you feel when you have the opportunity to vent to a colleague or get out and blow off steam with a friend. Reaching out to your friends, what psychologists call “social support,” can make you more resilient in the face of stress or even physical illness.
Make a point to spend time with your friends and loved ones, and if things get really bad, remember those same people are there for a phone call, a beer, or a walk around the park.
While stress is a natural part of our lives, too much of it is detrimental to your physical and mental health. Incorporating stress-reducing techniques and habits into your routine can help you stay fit and focused even when life presents you with a stressful season.