10 Stress Relaxation Techniques
How do we deal with stress? Especially in a world full of insane pressure and seemingly endless expectations?
Many articles on the internet promise to offer “stress relaxation techniques”, but most techniques are just fluff that won’t work in reality.
My approach is realistic and designed to actually help you.
Realize Stress is a Part of Life
It’s a part of life… and cannot be 100% avoided. Stressing about dealing with stress is another way to… well, get more stressed!
And although it can be the absolute worst feeling in the world and drive you totally insane (or make you feel like you’re going insane!)… it doesn't have to control your life.
Stress is more than just an overwhelmed feeling from a busy day. There are both mental and physiological responses to stress that go beyond that overwhelmed feeling. What I mean is that stress can cause actual chest pains, severe fatigue, an inability to concentrate, and more.
Maintaining a healthy body and mind is often as simple as reducing stress in your life. Not only is reducing stress possible, but a lot easier than many people would think! Here are a few strategies you can start using right away to help reduce stress in your life.
1. Move it!
It’s been proven time and time again how beneficial exercise is for reducing stress.
The brain is full of nerve connections that are active all the time, even more so when you are under stress. When these nerves become too active, it can affect your entire body and cause you to feel tense and uncomfortable.
Discomfort from stress can be caused by tightness in the muscles. As your body releases the hormone cortisol as an adaptive response to stress, your muscles tense up to protect your body from injury. These aches and pains can be naturally helped by regular exercise because physical activity releases endorphins. These hormones act as your body’s own natural painkillers and reduce these pains!
What kind of exercise should you do? You might have heard this advice a million times, but there’s a reason it’s repeated… because it’s true!
Pick an exercise you actually enjoy. Pick something that aligns with your body and your spirit. Don’t try to become a yoga guru because you think you “should”. If you like rock climbing, do that! If you like running, do that! Whatever you like… DO THAT!
When you select a type of exercise that you enjoy, you want to keep doing it and establish a fun routine. Routines become habits. Habits become natural parts of who we are.
Dreading a workout will just add even MORE stress to your day. You can go for a walk, rock climbing, or to Zumba with the girls. Whatever you do, keep doing it!
2. Get Organized
One thing that can cause stress is feeling like there’s just too much on your plate. Becoming more organized can help you be efficient and get everything done, and with much less stress!
Try buying a day planner and making a simple list of the things you need to get done that day. This is a great way to stay on top of all of your responsibilities. Once you have your day planned out, you will most likely find that you have more than enough time to get everything done. It will also ensure that you tackle the most important things before you can get distracted by other time constraints. Knowing what to expect throughout the day also gives us the feeling of having more control over what is happening in our lives, and that sense of control alone can reduce stress.
Organizing your space and keeping things tidy can also reduce a lot of stress. When you keep your things in order, you know where everything is.
I am the captain of losing important items like my phone. Quite literally. Lately, I’ve made it a point to “create new habits instead of trying to fix old habits.” Honestly, this has been my secret to becoming more organized. Sounds simple, but it’s true!
And this saves a lot of time when not bogged down by an anxiety-fueled mission to find all lost belongings. Research has also found that women who described their home as “cluttered” had higher cortisol levels and were at a higher risk of depression.
Even if we can get more organized in life, sometimes we tend to be a little ambitious. Or, a lot ambitious!
We want to do it all, but sometimes we bite off more than we can chew. Don't worry, we all do it, but when you do it is time to prioritize.
Write down all of the things you’re doing in life and what is taking up your time. Consider what is actually important. What is helping move you further in life? Whether it be school, your career, or your passions; make sure those things get taken care of first.
Next figure out what you should cut back on. Are there any activities that are filling up your time with little to no benefit? Maybe you are binge watching a little too much Netflix (guilty), but if you are you should cut back and designate one night a week for that guilty Netflix pleasure. Find what is consuming a majority of your time and either find something more productive to replace it or just enjoy it in moderation!
There are some things in your life, however, that should be removed completely. Some people or activities take so much time and energy from us and, as hard as it is to let go of them, sometimes it is best to remove them from our lives completely. These things may be causing more harm to you than good overall. Once you remove them from your life you will realize how much stress they caused and how much clarity and peace you have without them.
4. Meditate, Man!
Meditation can be for anyone, not just Buddhist monks you see in the movies.
The practice of meditation challenges you to focus your mind. Having a million thoughts running through your mind with no way to stop them is a sure-fire way to become stressed. Meditation can help you learn how to focus and stop unwanted thoughts from entering your mind!
Meditating is basically a workout for your mind. Practice keeping your mind focused, and it will help you stay focused more in the day. This can help you finish tasks faster, analyze things with better clarity, remember things with better ease, etc.
Another important aspect of meditation is that it helps you process specific stressors in your life. Sometimes one event, situation, or person can cause us a great deal of stress. Stressors can even be something positive, like a wedding, but you still feel the stress! Meditation will allow you to think through the details of what is bringing you that stress and that can help you handle it better than before!
Find a quiet, comfortable place where you won't be distracted by anything. Lay down or sit, close your eyes, and focus on one thing. For beginners, an easy thing to focus on is the breath coming in through your nose and out of your mouth. When you find yourself thinking of anything other than this, don't get frustrated, just take a deep breath and start over. Just like any muscle, the more you work on it, the stronger it gets!
5. Is Your Glass Half Full?
Some stress comes straight from having a negative mindset.
Viewing what is happening in your life as bad or negative will cause unneeded stress, and in reality what you are upset about may be a lot better than you think. Seeing everyday nuisances through a more positive mindset will make things more enjoyable and take away the dread that may come from dealing with them.
An easy way to have a more optimistic mindset is to count your blessings. If you're having a frustrating day, or feel as though everything in your life is going wrong, try this. Sit down and list five things in your life that you're truly grateful for. People in your life, places you've been, or old memories that bring a smile to your face. Anything you can do to remind yourself that you are living a beautiful life, and although some parts may not be as good as others, there is still so much to be thankful for!
6. Let it Go
Another common problem people tend to have regarding a stressful situation is that they pour all of their attention into the one thing causing them the stress.
People tend to analyze everything that occurred and all the things they could've done differently in these situations. Not only does doing this keep whatever is upsetting you at the front of your mind, but it also makes the issue at hand seem a lot bigger than it really is.
Learn to let these issues go. It may seem hard at first, but do your best to keep your mind off of whatever is upsetting you and try to stay busy doing other things. Go to the gym, have a girls’ night out, or watch a movie. Whatever you do, don't dwell on the past and worry about what has happened or could happen. Over time the thought will fade from your mind and one day you won't think about it at all.
Remember that we have no control over what happens to us in life, but we do have control over how we react to it and whether or not we let a problem have power over us. Let it go so that you can put your time and effort into other things that are more productive and better for you and your wellbeing.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Understand and Manage Stress in Your Life
Learn more about the nature of stress and how you can effectively cope with stress at work, at home and in life generally. The Skills You Need Guide to Stress and Stress Management eBook covers all you need to know to help you through those stressful times and become more resilient.
7. Turn Up the Music!
Listening to music has been proven to have many benefits for mental functioning.
Stress can cause a response in the body that not only affects our brains but also other body parts. The heart, as well as your other muscles, can be negatively affected by stress.
Certain kinds of music have been shown to have correlations to reducing the effects of stress on our heart, such as slowing down our heart rate, which tends to increase when under stressful conditions. Music has even been found to reduce emotional distress in patients with cancer.
If you are stressed, find a cozy place to unwind and listen to some of your favorite songs. If you don't have time to set aside, the great thing about music is that with modern technology you can take it anywhere! Plug in some headphones and listen as you walk between errands, or blast some tunes in the car on your commute to work. However you can find a way to integrate it into your day, the therapeutic benefits of listening to music will help reduce stress and keep you happy throughout the day.
8. Talk to a Friend
If you're facing stressors and you don't know how to process or go about handling them it can make your problems all the more daunting. Sometimes all we need is a person to talk to and explain why we're feeling the way we are.
Talking to a friend or a loved one about the issues you're facing will not only help you feel understood but can help you see things from a different perspective. Seeing a problem from a new perspective can completely eliminate the negative outlook you may have held regarding it. Other individuals may also be able to give you great advice on how to handle the situation if it’s something you haven't dealt with before.
If the stress is coming from conflict with a specific person, it may be very beneficial to sit down and talk with them. In a world run by technology and social media, it is easy to assume we know what a person is thinking or doing because we see their posts online. Many people make assumptions about why someone is acting a certain way and base their own actions on that. We never really know what someone is thinking until we ask them directly, so if you need to have a conversation with someone it is the best way to resolve a stressful issue with them.
It has also been found that simply spending time with a friend or loved one can reduce your cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Knowing this, it can help you to eliminate some of your stress simply by spending time with your friends, even if you aren't ready or willing to talk about the issues that are upsetting you. So no matter what, make time to see your loved ones.
9. What’s on your plate?
Although a great deal of stress is processed and felt in the mind, it is very important to remember that the body and how it functions can play a large role in stress.
When our bodies are healthy they can regulate hormone functioning more efficiently, and this includes that pesky stress hormone, cortisol. There are many ways we can keep our bodies healthy but one of the most important ways is with our diet.
Having a healthy diet is crucial to maintaining well-balanced hormones. Our bodies require many different vitamins and nutrients that are used to keep our bodies functioning properly.
Various plant and animal products each provide select nutrients but not all of them, so the more variety of healthy foods we have in our diet the better variety of nutrients we get as well. Some processed foods are also full of hormones that are known to trigger stress responses in the body, so make sure your plate is full of fresh, healthy foods to help keep you less stressed.
10. Have Yourself a Laugh
If all else fails and there are things in life that are stressing you out, all you can do is let them be and choose to enjoy your life, regardless of these stressors. One of the best ways to feel better INSTANTLY is laughter!
Laughter reduces stress in two ways. The first is that like the other ways we've discussed, laughter helps lower cortisol levels in the blood almost immediately. The lower you can get your cortisol levels the better you will feel.
The second part of laughter which helps it to reduce stress is that it releases endorphins. These hormones produce feelings of happiness, relaxation, and comfort in both the mind and body. You will feel your muscles loosen, blood flow increase, and even get a boost in your immune system by laughing more often alone. This is why people often say, “Laughter is the Best Medicine!”
Because of the various ways laughter affects the body, try and find some way to laugh every day, and we mean really laugh. Find a comedian and watch their skits, dive deep into the depths of YouTube cat videos, or just laugh at whatever ridiculous thing is causing you so much stress in the first place!
Although we all face stress, we can all find ways like these to help us manage and reduce the effects of stress. It is important to remember that not all stress is coming from a bad place, and everyone is facing their own personal stressors. So don't stress about your stress!
Focus on the things in life you can control and do your best to stay positive. You got this!
About the Author
Erin Elizabeth is Vixen Daily's web content manager, and she is a writer who contributes to love, beauty and writes for sites like Zoosk, Prevention.com, Your Tango, A New Mode & more.