Stress is an accepted part of ordinary life, and most people will experience some form of it fairly regularly. It isn’t all bad, though – stress is a natural reaction, helping to motivate you and perform more efficiently, as well as being a vital part of the fight-or-flight response.
However, an excessive amount of stress can have an increasingly negative effect on an individual’s physical and mental health. With most of us being overwhelmed by stress at certain points in our lives, how can we learn to combat it?
5 ways to relax when you’re feeling stressed:
One of the most popular methods to reduce stress levels is meditation and similar relaxation and breathing exercises. Meditation aims to create a sense of deep relaxation and tranquillity, focusing your attention and eliminating negative thoughts. Another valued alternative to standard meditation is yoga, which has many of the same benefits, as well as a ton of physical benefits like improving strength, balance and flexibility!
Exercise is a great way to de-stress as it puts your body into that adrenaline-fuelled fight-or-flight response, imitating the effects of stress, and helping your body work through them. Physical activity increases your endorphin levels which boosts that feel-good sensation, sometimes known as a runner’s high. You may also find that whilst focusing on your movements, you’ve forgotten about your stresses and concerns, shedding the tensions as you workout.
3. Warm bath
Who doesn’t like a good soak? As much as warm baths can help to release muscle tensions, they can also help in reducing that mental strain. Bathing can lead to both a decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone) and an increase in serotonin (a feel-good neurotransmitter), as well as improving circadian rhythms which help us to form healthy sleep patterns. Studies have found the perfect bath to be somewhere between 40-45°C, with no artificial light (natural daylight or candlelight is recommended), and no technological distractions around – just lay back and close your eyes.
4. Express yourself
Creative activities have been proven to be extremely effective in reducing an individual’s stress levels. Whatever your interests are – painting, writing, music – sinking some time into a creative outlet has been shown to increase levels of satisfaction and productivity, as well as producing a surge of those feel-good hormones, serotonin and dopamine. It also allows you to be productive in something that you actually enjoy, which may be a nice change of pace to your usual work schedule.
5. Listening to music
The psychological effect of listening to music is amazing. Upbeat music can give us a more positive, optimistic feeling, whereas slow, calming music (particularly classical pieces) can actually affect our physiological functions by slowing our pulse, lowering our blood pressure, and reducing levels of stress hormones.
Music can also help to improve memory, focus and confidence, as well as being a brilliantly effective vehicle for dealing with negative emotions like anger and stress, and are a great accompaniment to exercise and meditation. So what are you waiting for? Create a playlist and get those tunes going!
While stress may be inevitable, there are lots of ways in which you can identify your triggers for stress and be able to reduce the physical and mental pressure that accompanies high stress levels. Find what works for you and indulge whenever you need to!