Too much stress can really affect your enjoyment of life and stop you feeling yourself. Your abilities, skills and clarity of thinking may be temporarily impaired, and your productivity and outlook on the future suffering as a result. But fear not, there are techniques you can use to help and the Unknown is here to have your back. Read on to discover tips on how to reduce stress.
Techniques to reduce stress
We all feel stress in different ways and at different levels. This is down to a combination of how our individual bodies react to stress and the circumstances of the situation they are reacting to.
Before we get into our techniques, we want to make it clear that if you are suffering from long term, chronic stress then it’s always a good idea to seek professional help, especially if the stress is caused my a major incident or event in your life.
If you want to learn to manage the stress yourself, then here are 9 techniques you can use to help reduce stress:
Use meditation to reduce stress
We talk about meditation a lot throughout our blogs because we are passionate about its benefits and feel that it is a really under-used tool. Help with stress reduction is only one of the benefits of meditation, and it can be a very effective method.
There is science to back this up too. This report shows how mindful meditation can lower the levels of cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone. By lowering the cortisol you will feel more relaxed and you guessed it – less stressed. For more evidence you can also check out this review of 200 studies of mindful meditation.
Meditation is a proven method to reduce stress so make sure you give it chance. It’s also very convenient and easy to pick up. There are resources all over the internet as well as apps like Headspace to help you to learn. You can meditate in the comfort of your own home and as little as 10 minutes a day may help to reduce your stress back down to normal levels.
You should also check out our post on warrior meditation techniques if you want some added inspiration.
Spend More Time With Friends
We should clarify that we mean spending more time with people that make you feel good. And by make you feel good we don’t mean your friend Dave who is going to take you to the nearest bar to drink away your stress.
Humans are not meant to be solitary individuals and you need positive influences around you when stress is taking over. People who are empathetic, willing to listen and motivated to help you. If they can make you laugh, then even better.
From a scientific perspective socializing can increase your levels of a hormone called oxytocin, which in turn decreases anxiety levels, activated calming responses and makes us more confident to deal with stress.
Pick up the phone an get connected to the people you need.
Learn to Say No and Reduce Stress
Being able to say no is an important skill to help you stay in control of your life. It will allow you to prioritize the things that matter most and filter out things that add little or no value. Saying no doesn’t mean destroying relationships – it’s about establishing healthy boundaries that give you space and peace of mind.
How many times have you said yes to something only to regret it a short while later? Perhaps you gave yourself a new unnecessary responsibility or agreed to something that you don’t really want to do in order to avoid a difficult conversation. Don’t beat yourself up too much – it happened to all of us. Just learn to start saying no.
Having a busy life can be a good thing, but when you overdo it things can start to feel a bit overwhelming and the enjoyment of a busy schedule can soon turn into irritation and stress. Start to reject the unnecessary invitations, push back when people are asking to much from you and just make sure you don’t overstretch yourself. You might be surprised by the difference it can make.
If you need some help with saying no then you should consider reading ‘The Art of Saying No’ by Damon Zahariades. In his book Zahariades gives useful tips and a strategic guide for setting boundaries and developing the assertiveness to maintain them.
Laugh More and Reduce Stress
Ok so we don’t expect you to just sit there and burst out into laughter (although funnily enough this could actually help), but you can put yourself in more situations that might tickle your funny bone and help lower those stress levels.
We have already covered socializing (which is a great option), but you should also consider simple ideas like watching a funny film, reading a book that will make you laugh or even going to a comedy gig (Covid allowing) or downloading/streaming one to watch.
So how does laughter reduce stress? Well it helps to increase endorphins, stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation – all of which are stress reducing responses. A big belly laugh can also quickly increase then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure, giving you a nice relaxed feeling.
Listen to Music to Relieve Stress
The power of music is an incredible thing; it can have a big impact on your emotions and your body. Listening to the right type of music is a good way to help reduce stress levels.
You are ideally looking for music to help make you feel calm and relaxed, so techno and heavy metal are unlikely genres. Research suggests that music around 60 beats per minute causes alpha brainwaves – the same brainwaves that are present when we are relaxed.
If you have a method of finding music you like at 60 beats per minute then great, but assuming that 99% of people don’t, then just listen to music that you know helps to relax you. Music that transports you to a peaceful mental state. Good candidates may be things like light jazz, easy listening, slower tempo pop, classical music or even sounds of nature.
Music can be so effective that researchers at Stanford university went as far as to say that it can “change brain functioning to the same level as medication”. It’s also accessible and enjoyable so get those headphones on and start chilling out to some calming music.
Eat Well to Relieve Stress
When you think of stress and food you might think about comfort eating with junk food, but this does much more harm than good. A little comfort eating is ok, but your diet doesn’t need to turn into a fat, sugar and carbohydrate overload.
Here are some foods that can help you feel a little less stressed:
- Almonds – full of vitamin B and E to support your immune system and resilience to stress
- Avocados – they may be high in fate but they also have a lot of potassium which lowers blood pressure. Just be careful of portion size.
- Pumpkin Seeds – another great source of potassium
- Dark Chocolate – some of the theory is still unknown, but research like this suggests that dark chocolate can help with stress
- Black Tea – some research suggests it can lower your levels of cortisol and so reduce stress
- Salmon – the Omega-3 in fatty fish like salmon can prevent surges in stress hormones
- Spinach – high in magnesium to help prevent headaches and tiredness
- Oranges – the vitamin C can help curb stress hormones
- Turmeric – an underrated superfood, turmeric has an active ingredient that can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress
- Chamomile – this food has a reputation for calming properties and many people have chamomile tea before bed
- Green Tea – contains theanine which has calming effects
Exercise to Reduce Stress
Whenever you are looking to improve how you look or feel, exercise will always be a good solution to help. Stress is no exception – exercise is a fantastic way to help lower stress levels.
Physical activity produces endorphins which are like natural painkillers and mood elevators in the brain. It’s these endorphins that produce a runner’s high and they also aid sleep - all of these things can contribute to lowering stress. Aerobic exercise like running can also reduce levels of the stress hormones cortisol.
Aim for a minimum of 15 minutes vigorous exercise or 30 minutes moderate exercise per day. Exercise is enjoyable when you start getting into the habit, so increase your amount of exercise as your enjoyment increases until you hit an optimum level.
Know Your Triggers That Cause Stress
Knowing your triggers can be a great help, because sometimes they are avoidable, or you can at least be prepared for a rush of stress. You first need to identify what they are and whether avoiding them is a realistic goal. You are likely to have multiple triggers, so chances are you can cut at least one or two out.
If there is a certain person who particularly irritates you or gets your blood boiling for example, then you should ideally avoid them while your stress levels are high. This can become more difficult if that person is your boss at work, but there may be some people you need a break from where this is possible.
Also think about environments, upcoming events or changes that may affect you. If you know they are going to add to your stress, then decide if they are necessary. If they are not, cut them out. If they are necessary, then start preparing your mind with a positive mindset so to help it cope with the stress when it comes along.
Practice Yoga to Relieve Stress
Like mediation, Yoga is another excellent form of relaxation, but it has physical benefits for your body too as a form of exercise.
In terms of stress relief, there are studies to suggest that Yoga may lower stress hormone levels as well as blood pressure. Some research even suggested that Yoga can be as effective as antidepressant drugs at treating depression and anxiety.
Outside of the science, there is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence to support Yoga as a form of stress relief. We all know people that do Yoga and preach about it’s benefits, but they are preaching for god reason – because it works.
Stress can be a real hindrance throughout our lives, but there are many techniques that can help with your battle on how to relieve stress. Try them out and be committed they can really help.
If the stress does get too much and nothing seems to be working then don’t hesitate to seek professional help – that’s what it’s there for.
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