Working a full-time job, going to school, caring for your family, or just dealing with your day-to-day routine can be stressful. When you’re anxious and stressed, nothing seems quite right. Not only are high levels of stress unhealthy in the long run, but they also keep you from enjoying life to its fullest.
Luckily, you can do many simple things to relieve stress and anxiety that are cheap, easy, and don’t take much time at all! Read on to learn more about how to find natural relief from stress and anxiety.
Stress—Persistent and Nagging Worry
Stress can be defined simply as the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure. It’s a natural, necessary part of life because it helps us rise to meet challenges and get things done. But when we experience ongoing stress, without periods of relaxation to balance it out, our physical and mental health can suffer.
What starts out as adaptive (helpful) can become maladaptive (harmful). Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic combined with the ongoing demands of today’s world have put many people in this position. In fact, stress levels are at an all-time high!
Anxiety—Stress on Overdrive
Anxiety is stress that has morphed into a form of fear. It’s an individual’s negative interpretation of stressful situations that causes tension and interferes with their ability to function in everyday life. Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone has experienced at one time or another. It may not feel good, but it’s helpful in some ways because it alerts us when we’re in danger and need to protect ourselves.
However, sometimes it becomes so intense that people are unable to control the fear associated with the physical feeling of anxiety. People who live with anxiety disorders engage in excessive worry about many issues related to their health, family, work, or other parts of their lives. They anticipate disaster even when there is no apparent reason why bad things should happen, resulting in significant problems functioning in everyday life.
Is There Any Way To Relieve Anxiety and Stress?
Fortunately, there are many ways to combat ongoing stress and anxiety and even prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are five proven ways to find peace of mind and relief.
This suggestion is bandied about so much you may even skip over this paragraph, but hear us out: Exercise has been proven to reduce stress levels. When people are under stress, their sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is activated, triggering the familiar “fight or flight” response. This response floods the body with epinephrine (a hormone often called adrenaline), which causes physical effects that prepare one for dealing with danger, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.
When a person exercises, they activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS has opposite effects of the SNS; it reduces heart rate and blood pressure and returns the body to a calm state. The relaxing effects of PNS activation can last long after exercise has ended, which reduces the amount of cortisol released by the body. As a result, stress and anxiety levels can go down dramatically.
You don’t need to join a gym or start a complicated fitness program, either. Regular low-impact exercises like walking, gardening, dancing, or even raking leaves can help. The point is to get your body moving. Try it. It works!
Here is another suggestion you might be tempted to skip over since just about every article on stress reduction includes meditation. However, there’s a reason for that: It works. Mediation is really nothing more than sitting quietly, focusing on your own breath, and clearing your mind of all the mental chatter going on.
For many people, shutting down this internal dialogue is no easy feat. Fortunately, there are thousands of tools available to help with meditation. For example, you can find plenty of guided meditation videos on YouTube, and there are dozens of apps created solely for learning and practicing meditation.
Like most skills, meditation takes practice. But the good news is that the “practice” is actually part of the process, meaning you will benefit from meditation whether you are doing it “right” or not. Plus, the more you work at it, the more benefits you will notice.
Research from Harvard University indicates that writing about stressful events in a journal effectively expresses or clarifies thoughts and feelings, which can lessen the physiological impact of stress. For example, one study found that keeping a journal about stressful events led to fewer doctor visits for physical symptoms.
Journaling has also been shown to improve decision-making. Scientific American mentions that recording insights, emotions, and other information in a journal can help people make better decisions, leading to more analytical thinking and greater knowledge about oneself.
Sometimes just writing down what is bothering you can help take off some of the pressure—similar to the relief you get when you talk things over with a friend. It can bring clarity to your thoughts and help you put your worries in perspective. Plus, journaling can be fun! There are lots of cool journals, pens, stickers, and other supplies for journaling. There are even whole groups on social media dedicated to the art of journaling.
Believe it or not, laughter is another scientifically proven method of reducing stress. Not only does it improve your mood, but it also decreases cortisol levels and increases endorphins. Endorphins are the “feel-good” chemicals your brain produces that help boost your levels of happiness.
The problem is, when you’re anxious and stressed, the last thing you’re thinking about is laughing. Heck, it’s hard even to smile when you’re strained and uptight. So, here are a few activities that might help you jumpstart the process:
Look at Funny Memes: There’s a reason that humorous memes end up going viral. They make people laugh, and laughter is contagious. If you’re really creative, you could even design your own funny memes and share the laughs.
Watch a Funny Movie or Stand-up Comedy: There are many different comedy styles, but you know what makes you laugh. Search on Netflix or Hulu for a romantic comedy or your favorite comedian. So what if you’ve already seen it? It made you laugh once; the chances are good that you’ll laugh again.
Spend Time With Pets: Some pets are a source of constant hilarity. Spend a little time watching your pet’s antics, and it will be hard to suppress a giggle or two. No pets at home? YouTube comes to the rescue again with hundreds of funny animal videos that are sure to bring at least a smile to your face.
No, we aren’t suggesting that you just give up trying to resolve the issue of stress in your life. But what you can do is allow yourself a little time each day to sit back and relax without feeling guilty. You don’t always need to be doing something useful to justify your existence.
You really can sit down and do nothing at all for a few minutes, and the sky won’t cave in.
Being alive, right here, right now, truly is a miracle. You don’t need to do anything else than just give yourself permission to chill out. Relaxation actually stimulates the body’s natural healing processes. So, giving yourself a time out is one way to reduce your overall level of stress.
If doing nothing is simply not an option for you (we get it, some people just can’t sit still), at least do something fun. Listen to music, hang out at the beach, fill out surveys for money, or engage in one of your favorite hobbies. Everyone deserves a little pleasure in life. Sometimes, combatting stress is as simple as filling your life with a little more joy.