Talk to anyone these days, and they’ll probably tell you that they’re stressed out, especially if they spend most of their time in front of a computer screen or in heavy traffic. Stress has become so pervasive that we now take medication to treat it, and it can even lead to serious health problems, both physical and mental. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural ways to relieve stress that don’t involve popping pills or putting yourself at risk for other side effects; here are eight of the best!
Studies show that people who exercise report feeling less stressed than those who don’t. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous, just get your heart pumping and you’ll feel better. Even doing something as simple as taking a walk every day can relieve stress. In fact, there are lots of simple things you can do throughout your day that will help relieve stress, like taking deep breaths when you feel anxious or writing down things in a journal to let go of negative feelings or thoughts. Ultimately, it’s about staying healthy by keeping a good balance between being active and eating well. (I personally think diet is key)
If you’re having trouble sleeping, try wearing earplugs or using an app with calming sounds that’ll lull you into sleep mode.
Letting your loved ones know how much they mean to you is another great way to relieve stress—it’s probably one of the most significant ways we interact with other people on a daily basis anyway!
2) Have a Sleeping Routine
A consistent bedtime routine will help you unwind and relieve stress, which is a key part of living a healthy lifestyle. Incorporate rituals into your nighttime routine (such as taking a hot bath or reading a book) that signal it’s time to wind down. You’ll be able to fall asleep faster, sleep better throughout the night, and wake up refreshed. With an improved sleeping pattern comes many benefits, including stress relief. While you might think getting more sleep is stress-free, in reality insomnia leads to more stress than its absence would. If establishing a regular schedule seems challenging, set reminders on your phone that let you know when it’s time for bed each night. Once your body gets used to going to bed at roughly the same time every night, and begins producing melatonin accordingly, you should start feeling less stressed out overall.
3) Set Realistic Goals
Stress can be caused by feeling as though you’re not accomplishing anything. Set small, achievable goals for yourself and work your way up from there. Keeping an ongoing list of goals may seem like a lofty ambition, but if you break them down into smaller steps and achievements, it will be more feasible and easier to accomplish in short amounts of time. While we all wish we could drop everything at once and just get started with our new healthy lifestyle, it’s important that we follow a gradual progression that keeps us stress-free (and sane). Be realistic about what you want to accomplish today, but always remember that every little bit counts when it comes to living a healthier life. Make it a goal to achieve one thing on your list of how to live stress free each day until they add up over time. You’ll be amazed by how much you do in a week or month without even trying.
4) Get Adequate Sleep
According to Harvard Medical School, not getting enough sleep or sleeping in poor-quality conditions can cause stress. There are a number of ways you can improve your sleep. The obvious way is by getting a full night’s rest on a regular basis. You may also want to try exercising earlier in the day so that it doesn’t interfere with your quality of sleep at night. Another tactic is reducing your exposure to light late at night—turn off all screens an hour before bedtime, use a program like f.lux on your computer, and wear orange-tinted glasses if you have trouble sleeping because of excess light around you. You could also consider making changes to your diet: avoid eating too much sugar or too many processed foods (which can disrupt normal sleep patterns). Finally, there are dozens of relaxation techniques you can learn and implement into your everyday life (deep breathing, yoga, visualization).
5) Keep a Journal
A lot of people find that writing down what stresses them out is a great way to get some relief. It may seem hokey, but sometimes just getting it down on paper can help. When you’re stressed, have a pen and paper (or your laptop or tablet) nearby and write down whatever’s bothering you, no censoring or editing allowed. You don’t even have to make sense; just venting your thoughts onto paper can help relieve stress. And while you’re at it, take note of what makes you stressed in general: Is it a certain time of day? Certain tasks? Working too much? Unpaid bills? How about family obligations? Chances are if something stresses you out often enough, there’s probably an easy fix for it.
No matter which option applies to your situation, always remember that these stress-relief techniques are best when used as part of an overall healthy lifestyle approach to stress management. And stress can be overcome with many tactics…but healthy habits are perhaps one of your best defenses against its effects.
6) Listen to Soothing Music
Listening to soothing music is another way you can relieve stress. Music lowers blood pressure and can even boost your immune system. This can lower stress levels and help you fall asleep at night. Soothing music allows your mind to focus on something else besides stress, so you won’t feel as anxious or stressed about work-related issues when it’s time for bed. If meditation doesn’t do it for you, try listening to relaxing music before bed instead. You might be surprised how effective it can be!
7) Take a Relaxing Bath
A relaxing bath is a simple, no-frills way to relieve stress without doing anything that might be too anxiety-inducing. Stress baths can also be used for calming muscle spasms, aches and pains. In addition, there are dozens of herbs you can add to your bath water. Herbs for relieving stress include St. John’s Wort, Catnip and Valerian Root. All three have sedative effects that may make you feel more relaxed or sleepy after your bath is over. If you don’t want these side effects, stick with lavender oil; it has similar sedative properties but won’t knock you out as fast (and it smells great).
Meditation is key for a stress-free lifestyle. How do you meditate? It’s easier than you think, you can simply sit down and breathe deeply, or close your eyes and focus on your breathing (inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth). If you need help getting started, try some guided meditation audio downloads or turn on a YouTube video with a soothing voice. The most important thing is to find what works for you; if sitting still doesn’t seem comfortable or easy for you, don’t feel discouraged, try a walking meditation or yoga instead. It might take time to adjust, but once you get into it, there are many stress-relieving benefits of regular meditation.
While you may never completely eliminate stress from your life, it’s certainly possible to avoid letting it build up. With just a few small changes, you can reduce stress at work and start feeling more relaxed both on and off the clock. Once you achieve a stress-free state of mind, it’s easier to make decisions and maintain healthy habits that will help keep you in good health now and in years to come. Stress has many negative side effects on our overall health so reducing it should be a priority for all of us.