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  9. 10 Best Ways To Reduce Stress

10 Best Ways To Reduce Stress

Simple, Easy & Effective

A woman sits with a book to reduce stress


Stress comes in so many forms: an argument with someone you love, a demanding job, a chronic disease, or a traffic-packed commute. Unfortunately, constant stress—no matter the source—can have some serious physical and mental effects. In fact, Harvard Health notes that it's been linked to many health issues, including appetite, sleep, mood, and even heart problems.


How do you know if you're too stressed? Some of the physical symptoms of stress include back pain, heart palpitations, headaches, and indigestion. Chronic stress may also cause difficulty concentrating, edginess, or irritability. When you're overly stressed, it can even manifest in negative behaviors.


To prevent stress from ruining your health and your life, it's essential to begin taking measures to manage stress. While it takes some practice, stress management is possible. Here are a few evidence-backed ways to manage and reduce stress for a happier, healthier life.



1. Practice Gratitude

A man stretches his arms to the sun to reduce stress


It's well-known that stress—particularly when we aren't able to cope with it—can make us sick. But gratitude has been proven to be one of the best antidotes to stress, and a growing body of research supports the idea that gratitude offers excellent stress relief and overall great health benefits. Researchers believe that gratitude works because it requires you to be present and celebrate your life. When you value and appreciate yourself, your friends, and circumstances, it focuses the mind on what you have instead of what you don't have. According to the University of California Davis Health, just a few of the research-backed benefits of gratitude include:


  • Gratitude is linked to 23% lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone
  • Keeping a gratitude journal for just two weeks helped relieve stress by 28%
  • Daily gratitude activities help reduce depression
  • Gratitude has also been linked to improved sleep quality in people with depression, insomnia, and chronic pain


How can you incorporate gratitude into your daily life to start reaping the stress-relief benefits?


  • Create a Gratitude Journal You can create a pretty journal with a personalized cover. Simply use a notepad, make a journal online, or use a notebook app on your phone. Simply write down 3-5 things you're grateful for each day, no matter how you're feeling.
  • Make a Gratitude Box – Write down things you're grateful for on slips of paper and put them in a gratitude box (you can make your own). At the end of each week or month, go back and read through all the things you're grateful for.
  • Take Five Minutes for Gratitude – Feeling stressed? Take five minutes out of your day, take some deep breaths, and list several things you're grateful for in your head. It can change your whole day in just a few minutes.



2. Limit or Avoid Caffeine

A teddy bear hugs a cup of coffee


Too much caffeine can make anxiety worse, dehydrate you, interfere with your sleep, and make it even more difficult for you to cope with stress. Caffeine, a stimulant, can be found in coffee, many sodas, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate. While every person has their own threshold for the amount they can tolerate, studies show that high doses of caffeine can increase your anxiety and stress.


Pay attention to how caffeine makes you feel. If you notice that it makes you feel more anxious or jittery, then cut back or take it out of your diet completely.



3. Physical Exercise

A woman's legs in athletic shorts and shoes


One of the best and most important things you can do to combat stress is to get regular physical exercise. People who exercise regularly enjoy the strongest benefits, and studies show that routine exercise makes you less likely to deal with anxiety. Why?


There are several reasons:


  • Improved Sleep When you exercise, it improves sleep quality, something that's often negatively affected by anxiety and sleep. And when you're well-rested, you're better equipped to cope with stress.
  • Stress Hormones – Exercising also helps lower stress hormones in the body, such as cortisol. Beyond lowering those stress hormones, it releases endorphins, the chemicals that work as natural painkillers and boost your mood.
  • Higher Confidence – Routine exercise often helps boost confidence, which can also promote mental well-being.


To reap the stress-relieving benefits of exercise, try to find an activity that you really enjoy, such as rock climbing, dancing, running, walking, or yoga. Activities that involve the repetitive movements of the body's large muscle groups are especially good at reducing stress. Yoga is particularly effective at lowering stress levels, and studies testing the effects of yoga on overall health and stress levels found suggestive benefits of this practice for relieving anxiety and stress.



4. Deep Breathing

A woman practices deep breathing at sunset to reduce stress


One of the fastest ways to cope with stress is to stop and do some deep breathing exercises. It's an instant way to relieve some pressure, and with a bit of practice, it can help you reduce your stress levels in a hurry. Simply follow these easy steps:


  1. Sit or lay down in a position that's comfortable.
  2. Close your eyes so you can block everything out.
  3. Imagine that you're in a place you find relaxing. This can be a beautiful meadow, on the beach, or somewhere else that makes you feel relaxed and peaceful.
  4. Focusing on the picture in your mind, slowly begin taking deep breaths, focusing on breathing in for several seconds and breathing out for several seconds until you completely empty your lungs.
  5. Continue for five minutes and work on building up to 10-15 minutes. As you keep practicing, you'll find it's easier to relax and find that place of peace away from the stress.



5. Enjoy Time with a Pet

A person spends time with their dog to reduce stress


Spending some time with a pet is an excellent way to reduce stress and improve your mood. Whether you're playing fetch with your pooch, petting your cat, or having some fun with a pet bird, there's something about spending time with animals that offers some serious stress-busting benefits.


First, petting a dog, cat, or other pet can relax you. The power of touch not only relaxes your pet, but it releases those feel-good endorphins in you, which can lower your heart rate and make you feel happy. Try petting with purpose, like giving your pet a head-to-tail massage that will leave you both feeling great.


Communicating and spending time with animals may actually improve overall health and lower blood pressure. Think you're crazy talking to your pet? You're not! Happy-talking to your pet or laughing around Fido releases feel-good hormones that can put you at ease.



6. Fun Mental Exercises

A person does a sudoku puzzle to reduce stress


Recent reports have shown that mental exercises and mental training may promote structural changes to your brain that help reduce stress. These mental exercises can be fun mental games or they can be more structured mental training activities like mindfulness meditation or visualization. Try one or both of them yourself when you're feeling stressed.


Basic Mindfulness Meditation


  1. Find a place that's quiet and where you won't be distracted or interrupted.
  2. Sit cross-legged on the floor or in a straight-backed chair.
  3. Find a focal point, such as the sensation of your breathing, and focus on that. Focus on the breath as it goes into your nose and out your mouth, or pay attention to the falling and rising of your chest and belly as you breathe. You can also focus on a word you repeat during meditation or something external like a candle flame.
  4. Try to empty your mind of everything. When distracting thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them but then let them go while visualizing yourself letting go of a balloon. Then, return back to the point of focus.


Visualization Mental Exercise

Visualization, sometimes called guided imagery, can be a fun and relaxing mental exercise to try as well. To practice it, do the following:

  1. Begin by closing your eyes and imagining that you're in a peaceful, restful place. Try to picture it vividly.
  2. Note what you smell, feel, taste, see, and hear. Incorporate as many sensory details as you can.
  3. Enjoy exploring that restful place and letting your worries fade away. Spend 10-15 minutes here, enjoying your place of peace. (It's fine if you lose track of time, though.)
  4. When you're ready, open your eyes and slowly come back to the present, enjoying the state of relaxation. If you feel stressed again, go back to your peaceful place.


Fun mental exercises can also offer brain-boosting benefits. Stress relief in and of itself is one possible way to help boost memory, for one. Specially designed brain-boosting exercises can help improve memory as well.



7. Connect with Nature

two butterflies rest on green plant stalks


Connecting with nature, green time, ecotherapy—whatever you like to call it—can relieve anxiety and stress, boost feelings of happiness, and improve your mood. Unfortunately, many people spend a lot of time indoors hunched over a phone or working over a computer, and we get less time outdoors than ever before. We're hard-wired to need time out in nature, and if you're not getting it, your body and mind may suffer.


While a weekend of camping offers a great way to bask in nature, you don't have to spend a weekend in the wild to connect with nature and lower your stress levels. Some easy ideas that anyone can incorporate into their daily life include:


  • Riding a bike in the park instead of going to the gym for cardio
  • Taking a daily walk in some green space
  • Spending some time outdoors birdwatching or simply cloud-gazing
  • Walking barefoot on a beach



8. Spend More Time with Loved Ones

A couple spends time together to reduce stress


The social support that comes from family members and friends can be critical to getting through stressful times. Being part of a network of loved ones gives you a sense of self-worth and belonging, which is helpful when you're dealing with tough times. One study discovered that spending time with children and friends, particularly for women, results in the release of oxytocin, the body's natural stress reliever. This helps to calm the fight-or-flight response that's associated with chronic stress.


Of course, both men and women benefit from having good friendships. Another study found that women and men who had fewer social connections were more likely to deal with anxiety and depression.


Try doing things that you love, whether it's something as simple as watching a movie or heading out on a camping trip, with people you care about. Social connections are tied to longevity, so even if you feel too stressed to spend time with others, make social time with your partner, friends, or family members a priority. Sometimes simply talking to a trusted friend about what you're going through is enough to lower your stress.



9. Healthy Diet

Healthy fruits and vegetables


A steady supply of essential nutrients like healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids can help your body and brain deal with stress better. On the other hand, the wrong foods can make it harder for you to cope.


Excellent foods to eat for natural stress relief include:


  • Foods Containing Magnesium and Calcium Magnesium and calcium are both essential for helping you sleep, relaxing your muscles, and relieving headaches—all important for stress relief. Get more of these minerals from wild-caught salmon, leafy greens, avocados, organic yogurt, legumes, and cruciferous veggies.
  • Foods with B Vitamins B vitamins are critical for energy and improved mood. Find them in eggs, wild-caught fish, leafy green veggies, dairy products, poultry, and beef.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Other Healthy Fats The omega-3 fatty acids found in oily, cold-water fish like sardines and salmon help to stabilize mood, boost brain health, and reduce inflammation. Other healthy fats found in olive oil, seeds and nuts, coconut oil, and avocado can support brain health as well, which is critical for coping with stress.


Foods you'll want to limit or avoid to reduce stress levels include:

  • Anything with Caffeine Caffeine can leave you anxious and shaky, making stress worse.
  • Sugary or Packaged Foods Sugary, packaged, and processed foods can result in blood sugar lows and highs through your day, increasing fatigue, anxiety, and causing unhealthy cravings.



10. Take Time for Hobbies

A woman practices gardening to reduce stress


Setting aside time for hobbies you enjoy is essential for your mental health and offers stress-busting benefits. You should do something every day that makes you feel great, even if you only take 15-20 minutes to engage in your hobby. No matter what you're into, hobbies are just as important to stress relief and overall health as exercising. In fact, a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that people who took time for leisure activates (like hobbies) were 34% less stressed and significantly less sad. Beyond feeling less stressed and happier, their heart rate slowed down, and they enjoyed the calming effect of a hobby for hours.


While it doesn't matter what your hobby is, as long as you enjoy it, a few relaxing hobbies you may want to consider include:


  • Doing puzzles
  • Knitting
  • Painting
  • Reading
  • Singing or playing an instrument
  • Playing board games or cards
  • Watching a movie
  • Playing golf or another type of sport



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