We all experience stress at some point in our lives. Whether it is preparing for an exam, going on a first date, getting stuck in traffic, worrying about bills, or making a sales presentation, stress is just a normal part of life.
Granted, stress is worse for some people. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, stress is a perfectly normal reaction that “developed in our ancient ancestors as a way to protect them from predators and other threats.”
We still face dangerous predators and threats -- work for instance.
Whenever facing a dangerous situation, “the body kicks into gear, flooding the body with hormones that elevate your heart rate, increase your blood pressure, boost your energy and prepare you to deal with the problem.”
Although it’s a natural reaction, stress is still a negative force that can have a serious impact on both our professional and personal lives.
For starters, stress can lead to fatigue, headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension, heart attacks and even death. (I'm stressed but I'm not dead -- but I'm still writing.) Stress can also cause you to pick fights with the people you’re closest to. In short, stress can put a monkey-wrench in your career, relationships and even your life.
The good news is that you can take action concerning stress. You can learn to move through it rather than allowing it to stop you. Try out a few of this list of 25 simple and proven ways to de-stress yourself. Take a breath, breathe out slowly. Now, let's see what works for you.
Related: 10 Effective Ways to Beat Stress
1. Identity your stress triggers.
First things first, what exactly stresses you out? Do you know exactly what triggers this reaction? How do you react to it,? When you have a few answers, look for possible solutions.
While you’re not going to be able to eliminate every stress trigger in your life, you can at least remove the ones that you have influence over.
For example, if your morning commute is your main cause of stress because of traffic, then ask for a flexible schedule where you only have to commute three days week and work two days from home. Another option for a flex schedule would be coming in earlier or arriving later so that you can avoid most of the hectic traffic.
2. Take a 10 minute walk.
Exercise is one of the best stress relievers out there. But, not everyone will take the time or have the motivation to commit to a strict workout regiment.
Could you squeeze in a 10 minute walk either first thing in the morning, during a lunch break, or when we get home from work? A short walk clears our heads and boost endorphins, which in turn reduces stress hormones.
If possible, go for a walk in park or anywhere where there’s a lot of green. This can actually put you in a state of meditation.
Research has found that laughing can decrease stress hormones, reduce artery inflammation and increase HDL, the “good” cholesterol, said Suzanne Steinbaum. She is a D.O., who is an attending cardiologist and director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“Once you start laughing, it forces you to feel better,” said Dr. Steinbaum.
Since we all have different senses of humor, think about something that puts a smile on your face. Is it an old SNL sketch, viral video of a dog chasing it’s tail, or reminiscing about that time your best friends fell down the stairs? Whatever it is, keep it on hand so it’s easily accessible when you need a good laugh.
Slow, deep breathing, even if it’s for only for a couple of minutes can dramatically decrease tension. Clinical and sports psychologist Leah Lagos, PsyD., suggests to Rodale’s Organic Life that you try one the following breathing exercises during your lunch:
- Power 10 - Take 10 breaths. Focus on feelings of anxiety and stress while inhaling and releasing and letting go while exhaling for 6 seconds.
- Heart boost - Think about two of the best moments of your life and then positive feelings you experienced during these specific moments as you inhale. Release any negative feelings as you exhale. When you pair a positive emotion with an inhalation, your heart will shift rhythms in order to improve your mental state.
- Heart shifting - Here you’ll take three sets of five breaths with a 4-second inhale and a 6-second exhale. During the first five breaths, focus on negative emotions and then let them go with each exhale. For the second set of breaths, clear your mind of any other thoughts and just focus on the feeling of inhaling and exhaling. Finally, focus on embracing “the love in your heart during the inhale, whether that be for a family member or friend. Let go of the negative emotion while exhaling.”
5. Get up earlier.
This isn’t for everyone, but if you’re more of a morning person then start waking-up even earlier. You’d be surprised at much more you’ll accomplished before everyone else is awake. You might enjoy reading, getting in a workout, responding to emails or getting right to work.
Completing these tasks first thing in the morning allows you to focus on your to-do-list sooner - which means you get done earlier and can do something that you really enjoy.
Not convinced? According to a study conducted by biologist Christoph Randler, of 367 college students he found that early risers perform better on the job. The early risers attained greater career success and made more money than those who started their day later.
6. Eat well.
Our moods and our foods are closely linked. That’s why when you feel down in the dumps or stressed out you automatically reach for your comfort food. Nonetheless, cookie dough for breakfast is never the best option health wise.
Sure. Mac and cheese is delicious and may temporarily make you feel better but eating it daily won't. Have some mixed vegetables on your Ramen noodles. You can start small.
Healthy eating improves your energy, makes you more productive, and improves your physical and mental health. It can also saves you money. Avoid the junk food and stick with fruits, veggies and foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed.
A short visualization can be the quickest path to getting centered. Just get comfortable somewhere quiet and imagine the person, place or thing that makes you happy. If accomplishing a goal charges you up, imagine someone thanking you for what you've completed.
Or is sitting on the beach where you need to go in your imagination? I lean back -- yes in my chair -- and think about one of those really cold bottles of Coke. Not the canned Coke, for heaven's sake -- the bottles.
Maybe I even walk from work down to the store on the corner and get one. (Yeah, make sure the guy at the counter opens it for you. No one ever has an opener back at the office.) Can you picture your favorite cold beverage in your hand?
Time and time again this practice of inward-focused thought, along with deep breathing, has been proved to reduce heart disease risk factors including high blood pressure.
Meditations relatives such as yoga and prayer, are also effective in relaxing the mind and body. Don’t think you have time? Check out 5 Minute Meditation. As it’s name implies, it’s designed to help you reduce stress by meditating for just just minutes.
9. Dry skin brushing.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, dry skin brushing is often used to brush “off dead skin cells” and also activate “waste removal via your lymph nodes.”
Okay, I'd have to hide in the closet to do this one. It seems a little weird to me, but Dr. Mercola adds, that, “The act of dry brushing has been described as meditative (especially if you do it in a quiet space) and may reduce muscle tension, calm your mind, and relieve stress. Many compare it to a light whole-body massage.”
Who has that dry of skin? Yeah, I'll go get the massage.
10. Chew some gum.
There was a 2008 study from Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia, that discovered that chewing gum can reduce the stress hormone cortisol in saliva by 16 percent during mild stress and about 12 percent during moderate stress.
No wonder some people look so awful chewing gum. They're working out all that stress. I'd forget to spit it out before the next meeting and really give off a great impression. Chomp, chomp, click, click, bubble.
11. WOOP, there it is!
We hear a lot of about how positive thinking can help reduce stress. But, psychologist Gabriele Oettingen, author of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside The New Science Of Motivation, argues that positive thinking isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. (Yay!)
She believes that fantasizing only helps temporarily and is actually counterproductive in helping us make our wishes come true. Instead, Oettingen suggests that we use a mental contrasting tool she calls WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan). This involves closing your eyes, imagining your wish coming true for a few minutes, and then thinking about the main obstacle that’s in your way.
After that, envision the action that you would take to remove the obstacle.
12. Get enough, quality sleep.
Are you getting enough sleep at night? You should. Sleep is an essential component in staying healthy and strong and it can help you better handle stressful situations.
Remember, just cause you’re in bed for eight hours doesn’t mean that you’re getting quality sleep. Make sure that you get restful and restorative sleep each and every night by having a cool, dark, and quiet environment.
13. Buy a plant.
Plants are more than just beautiful air purifiers. They can also reduce stress and anxiety - particularly chamomile, jasmine, lavender, marjoram, and skullcap.
Since counting numbers gives your mind something neutral to focus on, instead of whatever’s stressing you out, it can divert your thoughts and place you on a more serene track.
15. Hug someone.
Led by Sheldon Cohen, researchers at Carnegie Mellon found that hugs can protect people from stress and infection. Cohen says that, “being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress."
16. Get out of town.
Taking an annual vacation is good for you since it removes you from stressful situations. But, not everyone has the time or money to go overseas or disappear for a month.
Even a weekend getaway like camping or visiting a friend or family member and a “staycation” can be effective when you need to get unwind.
British researchers connected the dots between rising stress levels and constantly checking a smartphone.
Sometimes you need to turn off all of your devices in and even leave them behind. Try it. You’ll be surprised at how peaceful you feel when you’re not checking your phone every five minutes.
18. Naam yoga hand trick.
Sharon Melnick, author of Success Under Stress, says that simply applying pressure to the space between your second and third knuckle (the joints at the base of your pointer and middle fingers) can create a sense of instant calm.
According to Melnick, "it activates a nerve that loosens the area around the heart, so any of that fluttery feeling you feel when you're nervous will end up going away."
19. Visit your BFF.
Studies have found that during stressful times visiting your best friend can decrease the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
What if your bestie isn’t around? At least you can hang out with man’s best friend. A study from the Virginia Commonwealth University discovered that employees who brought their dogs to work experienced lower stress levels throughout the work day.
20. Practice gratitude.
When it comes to increasing your happiness, improving your health and coping with stress there isn’t as powerful as gratitude.
There have been numerous scientific studies, including research conducted by renowned psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough. They found that those who consciously focus on gratitude experience both a greater emotional well being and physical health than those who don’t.
Related: The Four A's of Expressing Gratitude
21. Discard and organize.
Clutter and disorganization cause chaos and stress. Don’t believe me? How stressed out were you the last time you couldn’t find your car keys or an important document?
Get rid of the junk you no longer need and start organizing the stuff you have so that you know exactly where everything is when you need it.
22. Get crafty.
Avid knitter and pediatrician, Perri Klass, M.D. found that repetitive motions from crafts like knitting can soothe anxiety. If knitting isn’t your cup of tea, pick-up hobbies like cross-stitching or making jewelry.
23. Scream, sigh or sing.
Stress is a result of us not letting it out. One of the easiest ways to release this stress is just by letting out a good old-fashioned primal scream.
Can’t do that in public? Even a sigh can work since it releases tension in your upper body. And, you can also sing your favorite song since that releases endorphins and oxytocin.
24. Sit in a rocking chair.
Research from the University of Rochester found that the mild exercise of rocking in a rocking chair can release endorphins, improve mood, and even reduce pain.
25. Create calendar cushions.
One of the biggest stress factors is having a overbooked calendar. In the future, start creating cushions in your schedule so that you aren’t rapidly bouncing from Point A to Point B.
For example, if you have a 10 am meeting with your team, then don’t plan a lunch meeting with a client at noon. The reason doesn't matter. Maybe you won’t have enough time to prepare and meet the client. Your you have to drive like a maniac to get there. Instead, plan a meeting for later in the day or another day altogether.
Have we left anything out? If so, let us know how you destress?