These 25 ways to manage stress will help you melt away tension quickly and easily. When illness, pain, career, everyday life, care giving, or working to make the world a better place stress you out, choose one or more of these natural stress relief strategies to help you relax and unwind.
Most of the following stress reduction tips and techniques are easy and fun. You may notice that tsome of them require a measure of mindfulness. That's because mental distress is an inside job, even when blaming something or someone else for your distress.
Bring your stress meter down with these 25 easy and pleasurable ways to manage stress. Some of these stress reduction strategies can be done anywhere, anytime, without anyone noticing. Others take a bit more time, effort, or planning.
Choose a few methods that match you and your lifestyle. Practice and incorporate them into your daily routine so they are top of mind when needed. What matters most is that you interrupt the stress cycle so you calm down, respond to the situation instead of reacting, and maintain or restore your sense of equilibrium.
Bring your mind and energy out of the past and future. Think about it. Most of what you stress over already happened and cannot be changed, or hasn't happened and might not ever happen. Yes, things from your past or impending future may have to be dealt with, but do ponder it from a sense of conscious presence and empowerment. Fretting away your energy to a time that is gone or not yet here saps your well-being and ability to deal with issues creatively and wisely.
A nice way to practice presence is with one of these mindfulness meditation exercises that takes only a few minutes and can be done just about anywhere at any time.
One hallmark of distress is feeling fear over what may happen that is out of your control. This tip may appear counter-intuitive, especially in light of all the talk about positive thinking, but it helps. Before a presentation or any situation you are anticipating, prepare for it with the help of defensive pessimism. Ask yourself a few questions about what you hope will go right as well as what can go wrong. Ask: What is the best outcome? How can I help that happen? What is the worst thing that can really happen? How will I deal with that? What can I do or say to help things go smoothly? Align your thoughts, responses, and potential actions accordingly.
Relieve stress by sharing loving touches. Long, heartfelt hugs and snuggles cause your brain and heart to release oxytocin. As one of nature's most natural stress relievers, this hormone helps you feel loved, nurtured, connected, and more relaxed. To get those benefits, share a 10 second or longer hug or kiss, have loving sex, snuggle with your child, pet the dog, or invite the cat to purr in your lap. Be fully present in these moments and feel the tension melt away.
A few minutes of me-time throughout the day is one of the best and easiest ways to manage stress. These breaks will relax and refresh you. Stand up, enjoy a big stretch, go for a walk, or kick back in the recliner for five minutes of quiet time. Brain breaks make you more productive and is good for your health. Some people like to use a pomodoro timer with a continuous cycle of 25 minutes of focused work time and 5 minutes of break time. Mindfulness-based stress exercises and guided relaxation videos are nice ways to manage stress and take a brain break. They help you calm down, relax, and feel more centered.
Stand up and stretch at least once an hour. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep, focused breaths. Massage your shoulders, neck, forehead and hands. Tighten a group of muscles for a few seconds and release to ease tension. Follow with a few deep, slow relaxing breaths. Once in a while, treat yourself to a professional massage or energy healing session.
If you experience stress headaches due to tiredness or staring at the computer too long, stand up and roll back your shoulders, one at a time, a few times each. Drop your head toward your chest. Apply gentle pressure with your hands for two seconds on, two seconds off a few times if that feels good. Roll your head to the left and right a few times slowly and mindfully.
Roll your hips forward and back a few times, letting your back arch and curl with the movement. Remember to stand up, move around, and stretch at least once an hour for a few minutes. Sitting for long periods of time is stressful on the body and bad for your health.
Focus your attention and rehydrate at the same time. Feel the glass in your hand. Take a sip. Feel the water in your mouth and going down your throat. Take a deep breath and put the glass down. Imagine that you are drinking in peacefulness and breathing out anxious, stressful feelings. You can do this simple meditation with anything - eating, putting on your socks, or sweeping the floor - the idea is to interrupt your stressful thoughts by bringing them into the present moment.
Here are two ways to manage stress that you can indulge in every day. Enjoy sipping a cup or two of your favorite calming herbal tea paired with an ounce or two of delicious dark chocolate (60% or more) for a dose of tension soothing magnesium and an endorphin lift.
If you need easy ways to manage stress long-term, adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha or rhodiola can help protect your body and mind from the effects of stress. However, these natural stress relievers are not substitutes for taking care of yourself.
Feelings of stress follow feelings of overwhelm and feeling that you cannot control certain situations. The brain interprets those feelings as lack of safety, danger. These responses are related to your triple warmer meridian.
Calm that response with this meridian technique. Starting at the front of your ears, take your fingers and smooth your scalp to the end of your ear three times while saying, "I am safe." You can lightly tap or rub the area if you prefer. Experiment and see what works best for you. This is the area where your eyeglasses sit. You can practice this technique anywhere because it looks and feels like you are smoothing back your hair so no one will even notice.
To find these points, also known as K-27, put your fingers on your collar bone near your throat and drop down until you feel the soft spot above your first rib near your sternum. Stimulating these acu-points is said to realign your energy system, soothe anxiety, help you think more clearly, and feel more 'plugged in'. You can also tap your sternum. Find more techniques to ease anxious feelings here.
Emotional release techniques offer a variety of effective ways to manage stress. They help you let go of old emotional garbage and zap new stress and anxiety on the spot. They can help you let go of energy-sapping anger and judgment toward others and yourself. A few minutes of applying one of your favorite techniques can take the edge off and help you cope more effectively.
A little time on social media can be relaxing but too much can be stressing you without you even realizing it. Take a moment to tune into your mind and body as you engage on social media. Are you feeling relaxed and happy or do your muscles feel taut and your mind hyper-focused. The adrenaline rush may feel good, but too much saps your energy.
Your brain and your eyes are not designed to deal with hours of screen time, dozens or hundreds of pinging notifications (or the ongoing anticipation of the next one) and the stress of constantly being plugged in and available to engage with others at every moment. Allow yourself to go out to dinner or for a walk without your phone. Shut off your notifications and enjoy real face time with your friends, colleagues, and family.
Focus on the feeling of the warm water flowing over your body. Aim it at your tight muscles and feel them respond. Imagine that the water is cleansing your energy field and aura, making it fresh and bright. Imagine the water rinsing your troubles down the drain.
When you feel really stressed out and burned out, a nice hot therapeutic bath may become one of your favorite ways to manage stress in mind and body.
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This tip is for you dear ones who devote yourselves to caring for suffering animals or people. You are at particular risk of emotional exhaustion and stress burn out. When this happens, you may feel less empathy, anger, exhaustion, and greater health challenges. The world needs you so please practice several ways to manage stress and take care of yourself. Give yourself permission to have regular times, including extended breaks, to relax and do what you really enjoy. Have a spiritual practice that uplifts and supports you. Give your energy and attention to creating and celebrating positive outcomes and less to focusing on the evils of the world (I know, that's a tough one.) Take advantage of the many compassion fatigue resources for activists here.
Smile, even if you have to force it. Keep that smile on your face for a full minute to lift your mood. This body mind strategy works because when the smile muscles are in position it sends the message to your mind that you feel happy. Better yet, take a few seconds to focus on something you can truly smile about and share your smile with others.
A few minutes of good old fashioned belly laughter is good medicine. Laughing can reduce cortisol levels released in response to feeling stressed and can help you endure challenging situations. No matter stresser, laughing can help you release muscle and mind tension. Even if you are faking your laughs, it affects your physiology in a positive way by reducing inflammation.
Watch a funny video, read the comics, or one of those goofy memes. Play a funny game with the kids or play toys with your dog. Or just laugh for the fun of it. Try this goofiness exercise: Put your whole body into it a bounce when you say "Ho, ho, ho! He, he, he". You may then find yourself giving a real laugh, followed by a smile when you do that.
Can you find a thread of humor in your situation or how you are reacting to it? What if the same thing happened to someone else? Would it funnier then? Sometimes pretending it happened to someone else helps you see the funnier side of an event (if there is one).
If you really can't make yourself laugh, you might feel better when you have a good cry. Big girls do cry and so do real men. Ever notice how much better you feel right afterwards? A good cry complete with ugly face and tears feels can feel good and bring a sense of relief. That is because your body actually makes different kinds of tears. When you are angry or sad, those tears release stress chemicals from your body. Emotional tears are another way you are naturally designed to relieve stres
Daydream yourself away from stressful circumstances for a few minutes. Visualize yourself doing something you enjoy at a place you love. See it, hear it, feel the happiness of it. Daydream positive outcomes to difficult situations without worrying about how you achieved this. Daydreaming gives you a break from the stress of focusing on your troubles and can actually stimulate your brain to generate new perspectives and creative solutions. Don't try to force a daydream or it won't work. Just let yourself go there and enjoy it.
Ask yourself what you feel grateful for in this situation.
Dig deep. There is always something to express gratitude for, even if it is that you are still breathing.
For example, instead of getting aggravated while stuck in traffic, use the time to say thank you for all the positives in your life. Find something positive in the situation-perhaps you are getting an extra few minutes to listen to a podcast or take a few deep breaths. Send a blessing or goodwill to your fellow travelers. You will be amazed at how centered and peaceful you feel.
Are you feeling stressed because you are feeling guilty or blaming somebody for something that happened in the near or distant past? Let yourself and others off the hook for not meeting your expectations and for not being perfect (unless you are in danger, then get help). Catch yourself right away when you are feeling judgmental, angry, guilty or bitter and let it go. Can you see the other person's side? Can you explore the situation from a different perspective? Take a deep breath and breathe it out. Forgiving yourself, others, and your life is one of the healthy ways to manage stress that can positively impact you and your relationships for years to come.
Pent up emotions can feel stressful. If expressing them as you want to is not safe or appropriate, find an excuse or way to release them. Need a reason to laugh? Watch a comedy or puppies at play. Need to cry? A good 'chick flick' will bring on the tears. Feel like yelling? Coach your favorite football team from the couch. Blow off steam and stress hormones with vigorous exercise. Scrub your cupboards with furor. Dance to music with a strong beat and add some punching and kicking moves to release strong emotions.
Set a timer for twenty minutes and give yourself permission to let it all out. Do not censor your words or emotions, just write. Repeat this exercise for two more days if you still feel upset or stressed out. Then see if you feel any different or have a different perspective about the problem. Burn the papers when you are done and send your stressful feelings up in smoke with them.
This simple stress relief tip is a bad mood blaster that will leave you and the recipients of your acts of kindness smiling. Let that harried mother get in front of you in line. Throw the toy for your dog. You might even want to do something nice for someone you feel upset with. That will probably have you both feeling more open and relaxed.
When is the last time you opened a box of crayons, markers or colored pencils and got in the zone while drawing? This favorite childhood past time is making a big comeback with adults as a way to manage stress and to forget about what is bothering you for a while. Free draw or use a coloring book full of mandalas, animals, flowers, paisleys or irreverent images and quotes that make you laugh. Let your inner child out for some coloring play. Here are two favorites. Enjoy.
Feel the wind on your face. Listen to the birds sing. Look at all the different kinds of plants. Lean up against a tree and relax. Let your bare feet touch the earth. Take a walk in the rain. Feel the ocean waves wash your distress away. You will be amazed at how relaxed and centered you feel. Nature is such a good healer that some doctors are writing prescriptions for forest bathing or trips to the park as ways to manage stress.
Movement helps your body burn up stress hormones and return to balance quicker. A walk is good, but it may not be enough to disengage your mind from stressful thinking, unless you make it a power walk. Strenuous exercise works quickly, too, if you got yourself hyped up and need to burn off some adrenaline. Cleaning the house with vigor is a great exercise and reduces stress in more ways than one - especially if a messy, dirty house was stressing you out, too. Or turn up the music and dance like no one is watching.
In addition, exercise has many health benefits, so it is win-win. The idea is that vigorous exercise forces your mind to focus on the activity, not the stressful situation. And even moderate exercise makes your brain release feel-good chemicals.
Another type of stress relief exercise is mindfulness-based stress reduction exercises comprised of slow, focused movements. If worry and distress have you feeling exhausted, slow, mindful exercises like yoga, tai chi, or chi gong may be a better choice for you than vigorous exercise.
Any type of enjoyable mindful movement and exercise are wonderful ways to manage stress.
Reading is a great way to help you unwind quickly. Getting absorbed in a good novel temporarily allows your mind and senses to escape. Your mind is transported to a different time and place. You engage with different characters. This gives you a break from 'the real world'. Just make sure you are reading a book that holds your attention and is one you enjoy.
Visit the comprehensive Natural Stress Relief Guide for more ways to manage stress. It contains a lot of information about how stress affects you and natural stress relief tips and strategies.
Read additional ways to manage stress contributed by readers of Holistic MindBody Healing here. Do you have a favorite stress reduction tip? Tell us about it.
Ways to Manage Stress page updated 11/2022