How to Decrease Your Stress: 17 Ways

Everyone gets stressed, whether it is due to something major in your life like a serious illness or just the little things in life that get in the way. In a poll, 79% of Americans say that they are concerned about the stress level they feel in their daily lives. (1)

And while it is okay to have a little stress, too much and it starts to affect every facet of your life.

Reducing your stress can have many benefits such as:

  • Increase your productivity at work and reduce the number of days taken off
  • Improving sleep
  • Reducing irritability, anxiety, and depression
  • Improving your relationships with your co-workers, friends, and family members (2)

There are some long-term solutions to decreasing stress: medication, and talk-therapy. But most of the time you just need a quick solution.

So, here are some ways to decrease your stress quickly.

How to Decrease Your Stress

Decrease Stress Through Relaxation Techniques

1. Yoga

Yoga comes in many different forms. From easygoing to hardcore. But the combination of poses and breathing techniques makes yoga a powerful stress relief choice.

2. Get a Massage

Not only is this great for alleviating physical pain, but it can also relax you reducing stress and lower blood pressure.

If you don’t have the time or the money for a full hour session, you can head to the mall or nail salon for an abbreviated session. You could also have a loved one give you a massage. Or you could give one to yourself.

3. Take a Nap

Even a quick power nap can reduce the level of cortisol and other stress hormones. Don’t sleep too long (although with kids that isn’t a problem) or you might have trouble falling asleep when nighttime rolls around.

4. Try Progressive Relaxation

Tense and release each group of muscles in the body, all the way from the fingers and toes. head, shoulders, upper arm, lower arm, chest, abdominal, etc.

Because your mind and body are deeply connected, once you relax your body, your mind will follow suit. This will help you ease anxiety and calm depression.

5. Visualize Your Way to Calm

Close your eyes. Picture yourself on the beach. Hear the waves lapping against the shore. See the palm trees swaying in the breeze. Feel calmer? Me too.

Guided imagery or visualization is a sensory experience that involves imagining a calm/peaceful scene. It’s a good way to reduce stress, relax your body, and ease anxiety. Especially when you picture yourself out in nature, such as on a mountaintop, by the ocean, or next to a bubbling brook.

If you are having difficulty getting into the scene yourself, try using a guided recording or an app like Headspace. You will have your very own guide to walk you through this mental mini vacation.

6. Meditate

Mediation has a “mental silence” that accompanies it that can invoke a sense of calm, even in the darkest of days. But it does require some mental focus, which can be harder than it sounds. But once you are able to mentally focus your stress will melt away at every breath.

How to Meditate:

  • Find a quiet spot.
  • Lie down or sit comfortably.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Breathe deeply for a few minutes.
  • To still your mind, focus on an object or a word or mantra such as “ohm.” Another thing you can do is focus on seeing a blizzard or a starless night. This can help clear out your mind.

7. Breathe Deeply

Not into the whole meditation thing? Focus on just the breathing part. Taking deep breaths lowers cortisol levels (a stress hormone) that can minimize stress and anxiety.

There are different breathing exercises that you can follow. There are a couple that I particularly like.

The first follows a pattern of four. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, and hold for four seconds. I find that this technique calms me down pretty fast and that the pattern of four seconds is easy to keep track of, especially when I am using this breathing exercise to help me fall asleep.

The second one, you breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and breathe out for eight seconds. Also effective in easing stress quicker.

8. Laughter is the Best Medicine

A good belly laugh is good for the soul. It actually reduces the physical effects of stress on the body. But only if it is genuine and not forced. Find a movie, a book, a podcast, a comedy routine, anything that will cause you to laugh heartily.

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Decrease Stress by Engaging Your Senses

9. Smell Your Way to Calm

Something simple like smelling something calming can do wonders for your state of mind. Essential oils are believed to work directly on the brain’s emotion-controlling zones. Lavender seems to have a particularly calming effect on the mind.

10. Crank Up the Tunes

Music has the ability to ease stress. What music is the best? Calming music such as classical, jazz, or easy listening. But honestly, whatever music you find calming is the best. So, if for you that is rock music, then rock out and feel the stress go away. (Sorry, bad pun. Couldn’t resist.)

11. Chew Gum

This might seem like a simplistic way to deal with stress. But researchers have found that chewing gum over an extended period of time can buffer the effects of stress on the brain. (3)

Decrease Stress by Working Out

12. Exercise

This is a natural stress reliever where feel-good chemical levels are raised and stress-inducing hormones are lowered. Any kind of cardio can induce the “high” of a great workout. Think dancing, running, walking, swimming, hiking.

Sometimes when you’re stressed, any kind of workout is the last thing you want to do. But more often than not, you will feel so much better after you are done.

13. Walk in Nature

Nature is calming. So, if you want an even bigger boost, take your exercise program outdoors. A quiet, meditative stroll can do wonders for relieving your stress. Go at your own pace.

I find that walking outside does lower my stress levels. It also helps me to think through whatever problem is causing my stress. This allows me to think of possible solutions. By the end of the walk, I usually have at least one or two ideas for solving the issue causing my stress.

Decrease Stress Through Creativity

14. Keep a Gratitude Journal

A gratitude journal allows you to think of everything you are grateful for, big and small. Such as, being grateful for your family members as well as having gratitude that you arrived at work safely.

Even if life is crappy right now, there are still good things in your life. You might just have to think a little longer and harder. Make it a habit to write in your journal. Whether you decide to write something every day or several things every week, incorporate a gratitude journal in your life.

15. Have a Creative Outlet

This could be anything artsy. Painting, sculpting, playing an instrument, dancing, or even just coloring in a coloring book. These can all be great stress relievers.

Decrease Stress with Some Help

16. Hug Someone

This might be one of the easiest forms of stress relief out there. When you hug someone Oxytocin (also known as the cuddle hormone) is released.

Oxytocin does many things. It is associated with higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress. It causes a reduction in blood pressure. It also can produce a sense of relaxation.

So don’t be afraid to ask for a hug when you need it. Not only will you benefit, but so will the person that you are hugging.

17. Cuddle with Your Pet

There is a reason why pet therapy exists. Snuggling with an animal or even just petting one can make you feel happier and less stressed.

Final Thoughts

Stress is unavoidable, but doesn’t have to be insurmountable. When you need quick stress relief, try out these tips.

How do you relieve your stress?

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