MENTAL HEALTH

13 Best (And Effective) Ways On How To Relieve Stress And Anxiety

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Learning how to relieve stress and anxiety on a daily basis can make the difference between surviving and thriving in a challenging situation.

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It is important to acknowledge, however, that not all human stressors are created equally.

The experiences of “stage fright”, “deadline stress” and “testing anxiety” are easier to manage, for example, than the chronic stress levels experienced by individuals living in conditions of poverty, war and natural disasters.

A manageable level of stress and anxiety is actually good for you. Short-term stress can motivate you to achieve particular goals, boost your immune system and improve blood circulation.

Constant or chronic stress and anxiety, however, can have significant negative effects on your health and well being.

Individuals who experience stress and anxiety over a long time often suffer from weight gain, compromised immune and digestion systems, sleep disorders, substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Stress and anxiety can be toxic; it can literally make you sick.

The American Psychological Association (APA) thus recognises three separate types of stress that necessitate different measures of prevention, management and treatment:

  • Acute stress: common, short-term stressors that are caused by immediate events or upcoming demands. This includes social conflicts and deadlines. Stress usually dissipates once the trigger is resolved.
  • Episodic acute stress: this type of stress affects individuals who frequently experience stress triggers. This usually leads to persistent episodic stress symptoms (e.g. a tendency to be irritable, anxious and tense) that can lead to heart problems and high blood pressure in the long run.
  • Chronic stress: a profoundly harmful form of stress that cannot be easily resolved. This includes abusive or dysfunctional familial relationships, acute poverty and the experience of childhood trauma. Individuals can become conditioned to chronic stress, allowing it to have a near-permanent effect on their personality. Chronic stress may result in violence, suicide, heart attacks and strokes.

As you might expect, chronic stress cannot be easily resolved without professional therapy, intervention and guidance.

With that said, most individuals who occasionally feel overwhelmed by acute stress or episodic acute stress can proactively attempt to improve their situation.

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Stress management strategies can provide crucial relief in periods of duress – and make a crucial difference to your health and well being over time.

This article details several useful mindfulness techniques and stress relief activities that you can turn to when experiencing chronic stress and unwarranted anxiety.

There is no universal answer to the question “how can I relieve stress?” – but activities and measures that have worked for other people might just work for you when incorporated judiciously.

👋 I suggest bookmarking this comprehensive how-to so you can come back to it whenever required.

13 Best (And Effective) Ways On How To Relieve Stress And Reduce Tension

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1. Get Enough Sleep

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Chronic feelings of stress and anxiety takes a toll on your body. Your body produces more hormones (e.g. adrenaline and cortisol), which raises your heart rate and heightens your state of arousal.

Getting enough sleep (between 7-9 hours per night) is thus necessary for your body to facilitate muscle repair and allow your nervous system to recuperate.

Unfortunately, stress can lead to sleep deprivation. Anxious thoughts can keep you awake at night, tossing and turning in bed instead of getting a much-needed good night’s rest.

If you have found yourself lying awake at night due to stress, you are certainly not alone. Insufficient sleep leads to further stress, resulting in a disastrous feedback loop.

If the quality of your sleep is being compromised by stress, be sure to lower your stress levels hours before you go to sleep. Stay away from your devices – and artificial lights in general – to prime your body for bed.

Take your mind off your worries about work, your finances, your relationships and other worries so that you will be better able to deal with them the next day.

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2. Get Enough Exercise

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Physical activity is a great example of a positive stressor that benefits your health and well being.

Scientific research has found that exercise can even be used as a universal approach to treat and prevent anxiety symptoms.

The net positive effects of physical activity can also alleviate some of the key health risks associated with chronic stress and anxiety: an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, mental illness and premature mortality.

You don’t need a costly gym membership or an athlete’s training regime to effectively use exercise as a stress management tool.

Engaging in moderate athletic pursuits (e.g. a 30-minute run) two to three times a week is all you need to do.

Simple adjustments to your daily routine (like taking the stairs instead of the lift or walking to the store instead of driving) can also make a powerful difference over time.

3. How To Relieve Stress And Anxiety Through Meditation

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It is impossible to avoid all sources of stress and anxiety in life. You can nevertheless become more resilient to stress and cope better with moderate amounts of stress through mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness meditation can produce moderate reductions in several negative dimensions of psychological stress. This included anxiety, depression and pain.

Here are several meditative techniques that you can turn to alleviate stress and anxiety:

  • With focused-attention meditation, you concentrate on one object, thought, visual, or sound. For example, you can recite a positive mantra (e.g. “I am at peace”) while closing your eyes and sitting up straight for a few minutes each day.
  • With open-monitoring meditation, you try to broaden your awareness of your body, mind, environment and sense of self. Close your eyes in a comfortable pose and focus on the feelings, impulses, sensations and thoughts that you usually overlook or suppress.

There are many ways to incorporate meditative practices into your routine. Experiment with different timings, styles and practices to see what works especially well for you.

4. Do Yoga

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There’s a reason why yoga – a practice that began over 5,000 years ago – is so popular today.

Yoga is both a form of exercise and a meditative practice. Its central tenet is that the mind and body are fundamentally connected – a critical awareness that is equally relevant to the athlete and the sedentary office worker.

Yoga had an effective role in reducing anxiety, stress and depression.  

Though it is possible to practice yoga on your own, it would be best to sign up for regular yoga classes at a convenient location with a reputable instructor.

He or she can help you master the various elements that make yoga such a potent practice: learning to breath, meditate, be mindful, and assume various yoga poses with the correct form and technique.  

Meditation: Meditation For Beginners How To Relieve Stress, Anxiety And Depression, Find Inner Peace And Happiness

5. Watch Your Diet

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What you eat and drink can affect your health and mood in profound ways.

Eating a balanced diet (with enough fruits and vegetables) while avoiding unhealthy processed foods can help improve your digestive system and overall health. Meanwhile, getting enough water and nutrients helps your body cope with the demands and exertions of everyday life.

Unfortunately, stress and anxiety can trigger emotional eating – where you consume food as a way to cope with stressful situations.

Emotional hunger often drives you towards “comfort foods” that are tasty but unhealthy: burgers, pizzas, potato chips, ice cream, cookies, fries, chocolate, etc.

You also tend to over-eat when you succumb to emotional eating.

If you are prone to mindless eating when you are stressed, try to be more mindful of your bad habits by keeping a food journal.

Have healthier snacking options – nuts, salads, fruits, etc. – at hand instead of a tempting supply of junk food.

You should also take note of the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume on a regular basis.

While coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks can have positive effects when consumed in moderation,  high levels of caffeine can aggravate your stress and anxiety levels.

Everyone has a different caffeine threshold; you can try to cut back on your daily caffeine consumption if you are consistently feeling anxious.

As a general rule, drink no more than five cups of coffee per day.

6. Nature Therapy

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Since then, scientific researchers have found that exposure to nature has tangible health benefits: reduced stress hormones, lowered blood pressure, and healthier blood glucose levels.

“Showering” yourself with greenery not only alleviates stress and anxiety; it can protect you from depression and even reduce your risk of cancer.

You would ideally want to spend your time hiking along a trail in a forest with low humidity and comfortable temperatures. The idea is not to push yourself physically by power walking up challenging terrain, but to feel relaxed and comfortable in the midst of calming trees, leaves, and branches.

If a nature trail is not easily accessible to you, you can try to schedule regular walks through a convenient green space (e.g. at a nearby park in the evenings). Walk slowly, breathe deeply and pay attention to your immediate environment.

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7. Keep Things In Perspective

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Your expectations, self-judgments and opinions can be as stressful as external factors.

You can learn how to release stress by focusing on the positive side of things when the going gets tough.

Instead of being hard on yourself for failing to perform in a demanding situation (which only aggravates your stress and anxiety levels), focus on the positive aspects of your life.

Related: 10 Positive Affirmations To Tell Yourself Every Morning And Start Attracting What You Want In Life

When you feel overwhelmed by a challenging and difficult situation, take out your journal, like this one.

Write down all the good things in your life and the achievements that you are proud of. Turn the pages to read what you have written in previous incidents.

This will help you to maintain a balanced perspective and to cope better with the situation at hand.

8. Listen To Music

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You can reduce your heart rate, anxiety levels and blood pressure by listening to soothing music before and during a stressful activity.

Listening to acoustic nature sounds (e.g. the sound of rippling water) can be equally relaxing and effective in lowering your cortisol levels.

While scientists are still studying the precise psychobiological effects of music and nature sounds on the human stress response, you can benefit by listening to soothing songs or nature sounds (e.g. the sound of waves, a waterfall, or birds chirping in the forest) as you face down difficult and stress-inducing activities.

9. Play Some Stress Relief Games

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There have been made studies that have examined how smartphone usage has contributed to stress and anxiety via social media, loneliness and internet addiction.

There are nevertheless many effective stress relief games that can be found easily through your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

These games have been designed to help you relax, unwind, diffuse stress and escape from the daily grind in a convenient manner.

Popular stress relief games include Bubble Wrap, Color Break, Personal Zen, Tetris, Flow, Home Sheep Home, Relaxing Puzzler, Bejeweled, Flower Reaction, Casanova, Echogenesis, and many others.

Try out a few games the next time you are feeling stressed and see which ones work best for you.

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10. Be Social

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High levels of stress and anxiety can motivate you to withdraw from friends, family and colleagues instead of drawing support from them.

The psychologist Susan Pinker has argued that face-to-face contact actually works like a “vaccine” that helps to regulate your response to stress and anxiety by triggering the release of various neurotransmitters.

In other words, being social in times of adversity can improve your resilience, protect your physical and mental health, and improve your performance.

Individuals who participated in group workouts have 26 percent lower stress levels that those who pursued individual workouts.

They also reported an improved quality of life after the 12-week program was over. They experienced a 12.6 percent improvement in mental health, a 24.8 percent improvement in physical well-being, and a 26 percent improvement in emotional well-being – even though their lone counterparts exercised for twice as long!

There will always be periods of time when you need your own space and me-time.

Being socially active and maintaining close friendships and relationships with those around you, however, is how to release stress on a regular basis.

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Instead of asking “how can I relieve stress?”, ask “how can we relieve stress?”.

11. Aromatherapy

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Breathing in the soothing smell of essential oils or scented candles is relatively easy and hassle-free as far as stress relief activities go.

Popular scents include rose, geranium, orange blossom, Roman chamomile, and sandalwood.

Middle-aged women suffering from insomnia experienced a significant improvement in sleep quality after 12 weeks of lavender aromatherapy.

Test out different scents – e.g. before going to sleep – to see which aromas work well for you.

12. Care For A Pet

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There’s a reason why dogs and horses have been used to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military veterans and other trauma survivors for decades.

Animals were officially introduced into mental health institutions in the late 18th century as a means to allow more socialization among patients.

Regular interactions with animals reduced depression symptoms, PTSD symptoms, and anxiety levels. Participants in the study also reported improved social outcomes, sleep quality, child functioning (for youths) and satisfaction with life quality.

Having a pet can alleviate stress, improve your mood, give you a sense of purpose, provide company and encourage more physical activity (e.g. when you have to walk your dog or clean up after your cat).

While more research is needed to fully understand the effect of human interaction with various animal species, you can consider adopting a suitable pet as a way to keep stress and anxiety under control.

13. Laughter Prescription

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The saying “laughter is the best medicine” is very old, but medical researchers have only paid serious academic attention to the physiological and psychological effects of humour in recent years.

In a  2009 journal artical for Canadian Family Physician, William B.Strean argued that patients should try to get more laughter in their lives while scientists examine the effects of regular laughter on research subjects with varying health conditions and diseases.  

He envisions a future where doctors recommend that their patients achieve 15 to 20 minutes of laughter each day.

As it stands, 50% of cancer patients are already using humor as part of their treatment process.

Laughter not only has a stress-relief effect, it also helps improve your heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure.

You can benefit by watching a comedic performance or attempting to crack a joke when you the weight of stress and anxiety on your shoulders.

Wrapping Up: Stress And Anxiety Be Gone

There are undoubtedly many more ways for you to definitively answer the question “how can relieve stress?”.

What works for you may not work for others, and vice versa. Some measures may be impractical or unfeasible due to your unique life circumstances.

Be sure to experiment with various solutions to find what works best for you.

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