Stress is an inevitable part of life. How you cope with it has an effect on both your physical and emotional state. Here are 10 calming strategies you can use right now to get into a less stressed space and achieve stress relief. Use one of these strategies the next time you're looking for one of the ways to stop stressing.
Feel like you're becoming unglued? Grab a stick of gum. Research suggests that chewing gum can help relieve both stress and anxiety. It may be that the rhythmic motion of chewing helps boost blood flow to the brain. An alternative theory suggests that it's the taste and smell of the gum that elicits the relaxation response. Next time you think, "I can't stop stressing," grab a stick of gum as a stress relief technique that is inexpensive, effective, and you can do it virtually everywhere.
Want to know how to stop stressing out? Get outside. Spending time outside is a great antidote to stress. Studies show that spending a few minutes outside, even close to home, can provide a mood boost. Not only do natural settings induce calm, but being outdoors often means being active, too.
Stop stressing and smile! There's something to the old adage, "Grin and bear it." Smiling when you feel stressed creates a little tension in facial muscles that helps reduce stress. Smiles are particularly stress busting when they're genuine, using muscles around the mouth and eyes. Smiling can also help an elevated heart rate recover faster once a stressful situation has passed.
Wondering how to stop stress at work? Reach for lavender. Certain smells can elicit the relaxation response. One study compared the stress levels of nurses who had vials containing lavender oil pinned to their clothes to those who did not. The nurses who were exposed to lavender scent reported feeling more relaxed than those who were scent-free. Lavender can turn up the effect of anti-anxiety meds and painkillers. Be sure to check with a doctor before using lavender oil if you take one of these medications. Lavender essential oil may also help with stress headaches and migraines too.
If you have to give a talk at work or you're facing a similar stressful event, music can help keep you calm. Participants in one study had lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) when listening to Latin choral music (Miserere by Gregorio Allegri) than when they just listened to the sound of rippling water. Listening to soothing music is one of the easiest ways to stop stress.
Breathing exercises are one way to quickly stop the stress response. The calming ability of breathing exercises is two-fold. Focusing on the breath directs attention away from fearful and stressful thoughts and it stops the "fight or flight" response in the body. To perform the exercise, breathe in deeply and slowly through the nose. Allow your chest and abdomen to expand and fill with air. Breathe out slowly, for as long as you inhaled, repeating a phrase or word that makes you feel calm and peaceful. You'll get the greatest benefits by performing breathing exercises for a minimum of 10 minutes.
We all have an inner dialogue going on inside our minds. Sometimes we don't speak to ourselves in a kind, reassuring way. Mastering the art of compassionate and positive self-talk can help you remain calm and make it easier to come up with effective solutions to problems. When confronted with a problem or upsetting situation, imagine how you'd speak to a friend who was facing something similar. Telling yourself, "I can figure this out," or "It'll be OK," is a lot more reassuring than catastrophizing or engaging in negative self-talk. Next time you wonder how to stop being so stressed, try speaking to yourself the way you would to a distressed friend in need.
Feeling stressed? Writing about your problems in a journal can help you feel calmer and help you arrive at solutions you hadn't thought of before. You can achieve these benefits by writing in a journal, a file on your computer, or even an app on your phone. Just be honest about your feelings to reap the biggest benefits.
Turn to your journal when you wonder:
- How to stop stressing about school
- How do I stop stress eating
- How to stop stressing so much
- How to stop stress weight gain
- How to stop crying from stress
- How to stop stressing out about everything
Journaling can help you manage anxiety and decrease stress.
Social support is a huge stress reliever. Get together with friends or loved ones when you're feeling stressed. Seek the company of others who are dealing with similar challenges. Sharing your experiences with others who can truly empathize will help you feel less alone.
Exercise benefits mood in many ways. Physical activity helps take your mind off everyday worries. It also releases mood-boosting endorphins. Whether working out at the gym or taking long walks is your style, any type of exercise reduces stress and anxiety.
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- American Heart Association: “Four Ways to Deal with Stress,” “Spend Time in Nature to Reduce Stress and Anxiety,” "3 Tips to Manage Stress."
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: “Exercise for Stress and Anxiety”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Coping with Stress”
- European Neurology: “Lavender Essential Oil in the Treatment of Migraine Headache.”
- Harvard Health Publications: “Relaxation Techniques: Breath Control Helps Quell Errant Stress Response”
- International Journal of Nursing Practice: “The Effects of Aromatherapy in Relieving Symptoms Related to Job Stress Among Nurses”
- Journal of Clinical and Translational Research: “Chewing Gum and Stress Reduction.”
- Landscape and Urban Planning, vol. 105, 2012: “More Green Space Is Linked to Less Stress in Deprived Communities: Evidence from Salivary Cortisol Patterns”
- Michigan Medicine: “Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation.”
- NIH National Institute of Mental Health: “Facts Sheet on Stress,” “5 Things You Should Know about Stress.”
- Nutritional Neuroscience, vol. 14, 2011: “Chewing Gum Modifies State Anxiety and Alertness Under Conditions of Social Stress”
- PLoS One, vol. 8, 2013: “The Effect of Music on the Human Stress Response”
- Psychological Science: “Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response.”
- Psychology Today: “Smiling and Stress”
- University of Maryland Medical Center: “Lavender”
- University of Rochester Medical Center: “Journaling for Mental Health”