It goes without saying that stress isn’t healthy, which is why we have to make a continuous effort to reduce stress as much as possible each day.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress is a national mental health crisis. Today, a whopping 78% of all Americans, young and old, feel stressed for various reasons every day. This is especially true now more than ever, thanks to the uncertainty and disaster left in the ongoing pandemic’s wake.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as telling our bosses to take a hike or dropping our other responsibilities. It’s also not always as simple as making lifestyle changes and getting more sleep. Fortunately, there are plenty of other things you can do to bring yourself to a state of calmness.
Here are nine of them:
1. Practice Mindfullness
Mindfulness is an incredible way to reduce stress and get more out of your life. The practice of mindfulness originated from ancient eastern and Buddhist philosophy, and it’s a combination of meditation, bodily awareness, gratitude, and even yoga.
Ultimately, it’s the practice of remaining present in the moment, and it has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety. By focusing on the now, mindfulness can actually change the way your brain is wired in regards to how it responds to everyday stressors.
2. Breathe Deeply
Maybe meditation isn’t your thing. Yoga doesn’t have to be either. However, the breathing part required by both activities should be your thing.
Practicing deep breathing — from the diaphragm — has been shown to lower cortisol levels over time. Therefore, deep breathing can reduce stress and anxiety over time, and a little bit at the moment. So, anytime you’re feeling riled up, stop and take some deep breaths. It also helps if you use the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
3. Visualize Tranquility
If you can close your eyes and envision yourself on a peaceful beach or wherever your happy place may be, you can significantly reduce your stress.
All you have to do is find somewhere quiet you can go, close your eyes, and imagine a peaceful scene. Focus on the details in the scene and envision your path within it as you move around. Whether it’s gentle waves lapping up on the shore, a lush tropical forest brimming with bird song and beautiful creatures, or even the quiet winds on a mountain top, wherever you go will bring you the peace you need.
4. Surround Yourself with Calming Scents
Essential oils are said to directly act on certain parts of the brain that control the emotions, such as the hypothalamus. They work just like the terpenes in vegetation, as they’re typically extracted from plants.
For example, lavender is calming, while citrus scents are uplifting. There are tons of essential oils you can diffuse or roll on your skin. Even your favorite scented candles can get the job done, as long as you enjoy what you’re smelling. Hey, it’s called aromatherapy for a reason!
5. Tune in to Mellow Melodies
Did you know that music can reduce the blood flow to the amygdala, aka the “fear center”? In turn, this lowers the production of the stress hormone (cortisol) and increases dopamine levels (the happiness chemical) in the brain.
In other words, tuning into calming music or even your favorite music is a good way to help you lower your stress.
6. Stretch it Out
Yoga has long been revered for its ability to calm the mind through breathing and stretching practices. Of course, you don’t have to force yourself into a fully-fledged yoga routine to reap the benefits.
By simply taking a few minutes to stretch, your body releases endorphins, producing an elevated feeling while reducing your body’s perception of pain. (Stress is pain, remember that). Stretching also increases blood circulation throughout the brain and body, which reduces tension and, therefore, further reduces stress.
7. Make Contact
Our bodies produce a hormone that’s actually nicknamed the “cuddle hormone.” It’s oxytocin, and it’s released upon friendly touching.
Oxytocin is responsible for triggering trust, devotion, and bonding, which directly affects our mental health. So, the next time you’re feeling stressed, give your loved ones a hug or cuddle up with your significant other.
8. Take Time to Pamper Yourself
There are a lot of ways to perform self-care. Regardless of your version, it’s important to make time for it as much as possible. Whether it’s a morning run, a bubble bath, reading a good book, or enjoying a hobby that isn’t work-related — do it for you because when you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not healthy or happy.
9. Get a Massage
There’s one way to tackle all of the above at once, and that’s by getting a massage. Scheduling frequent massages significantly increase your psychophysical relaxation, dramatically decreasing your stress.
In a nutshell, massages can reduce your cortisol levels, lower your blood pressure, and boost your immune system. Not to mention, you can request your massage therapist to use essential oils, play relaxing music, or provide a guided meditation. And they’ll provide a boost to your oxytocin as they work on your body. Best of all, you can make your scheduled massage your version of self-care, whether it be weekly, bi-weekly, or even once a month.