15 Ways to Relieve Stress (And the Science to Back Them Up!)
Some techniques to trigger a calm mentality, reverse production of stress hormones and decrease blood pressure.
1. Take a deep breath.
Deep breathing, or simple breathing exercises, help reduce tension and relieve stress by supplying the body with an extra boost of oxygen. Shallow breathing stimulates your nervous system and, conversely, deep breaths calms the system.
2. Practice muscle relaxation techniques.
Squeeze your toes, then relax them. Move on to your whole foot— squeeze and relax. Make your way up your body, doing this with every muscle possible. This technique is proven to help the mind focus on intentionally relaxing your body, establishing a distinction between tension and relaxation.
3. Eat a healthy snack.
Foods high in potassium can be effective against stress due to the mineral’s ability to help regulate blood pressure. Sweet potatoes, bananas, and tomatoes are higher sources of potassium.
4. Treat yourself!
Indulging in a treat can help boost serotonin levels in your body, resulting in happier and more relaxed feelings. Don’t get out of hand though— think something small like a square of dark chocolate.
5. Hug up to mellow out.
Scientists have found that when you embrace a loved one the hormone oxytocin releases into the blood stream. This lowers blood pressure, reducing stress and anxiety.
6. Buy a plant.
Besides functioning as a natural air purifier, research supports that plants can induce relaxation. Greenery and flowers perpetuate a natural, happy frame of mind through visual stimulation.
7. Visit with a friend.
Cultivating close, human connections can be an instant stress reliever. According to a UCLA study on friendship among women, having a circle of friends calms your “fight or flight” response by inducing a release of oxytocin in the body— known as “tend and befriend.”
8. Go yogi.
Yoga is effective in relaxation and stress reduction for the body and mind. Stretching slowly relieves physical tension you may be carrying in your body. Yoga is also a great way to slow down, meditate and center your thoughts.
9. Recharge your body.
Your adrenal glands produce adrenaline and the body’s stress hormones, cortisol and DHEA, which help the body handle daily stress. When overwhelmed by stress, the adrenal glands simply get burned out so it’s important to keep your body— and those glands— fortified and healthy.
10. Log off and power down.
Heavy, continuous use of computers—and cell phones—is found to influence sleep quality and stress levels, so it’s important for your mental health to turn off the electronics and step away for periodic breaks.
11. Enjoy a mental escape.
Recognized by a plethora of mental health studies, visualization offers mental benefits by prompting a relaxation response in the brain. So get comfortable, close your eyes, and think of a peaceful setting—the beach, a library, on a boat, etc.
12. Get outside.
Weather permitting, a short walk outside can relieve stress in several different ways. The vitamin D— which your body produces through exposure to the sun— is known as a mood-lifter. Plus, physical exercise is known to release endorphins and reduce stress as well.
13. Listen to music.
Music can have a relaxing effect on your mind and body. It reduces the level of cortisol—a stress hormone, slows your heart rate, and lowers blood pressure.
14. Pick up a creative hobby.
Art therapy has been recognized as a healing practice for centuries as it helps decrease anxiety and restores emotional balance. Try painting, writing, crafting, or playing music.
15. Target pressure points.
Acupressure is an ancient practice for relieving tension— physical and mental— by applying gentle pressure to specific parts of your body. Press on each shoulder blade, the back of your neck, or the base of your index finger can help alleviate tension immediately.
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