7 Stress-Relief Strategies To Try TodayJun 26, 2023
Stress can feel like an unavoidable, insurmountable obstacle. But these simple strategies can make a huge impact in helping you relieve stress and embrace life.
Stress can enter our lives from many different places, whether you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, troubled by current events, or concerned about a personal relationship. And despite what social media may try to tell you, no one makes it through life completely stress-free.
Acknowledging our stress exists and understanding how to deal with it are two different things. If you view stress as an insurmountable obstacle, the weight of it will only drag you down. On the other hand, if you learn to accept stress as a natural part of life, you can focus on simple techniques to manage that stress and improve your quality of life.
Here’s the good news: while stress often feels unpleasant, it’s a normal reaction that happens to everyone. Our bodies are designed to experience stress; it’s a way for us to avoid danger, keep us alert and motivated, and learn and adjust to new situations. So, let’s start by discussing what stress really means for your body and mind.
What happens to my body and mind when I’m stressed?
You’ve probably heard of the “fight or flight” response. It’s our body’s most basic response to stress, dating back to the early days of humanity. The stress of seeing a potential threat to life would lead a person to either face the threat and fight it, or flee from it. Either way, the stress response is one of self-preservation.
The central nervous system controls the “fight or flight” response. When you experience stress, your brain instructs your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase your heart rate and blood flow in an effort to better prepare you to deal with your stressor.
But if your stressful situation doesn’t resolve itself soon after, your body may keep your nervous system on “high alert” for an extended period of time. This disrupts your body’s natural fluctuations between sympathetic (“fight or flight”) and parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) dominance, and leads us to experience various symptoms of stress.
What are the signs and symptoms of stress?
Everyone responds to stress differently, so you know your own symptoms best. But a few common ways people experience stress include:
- Body aches and muscle tension, like tightness in your neck, back, or jaw
- Headaches or migraines
- Elevated heart rate or chest pains
- Heightened anxiety and panic attacks
- Sadness or depression
- Insomnia and exhaustion
These symptoms can make stress feel difficult and overwhelming. But remember, these responses are natural. When you embrace stress as a necessary part of life, you can find ways to manage its influence on you.
7 approaches to stress relief
There are many different ways we can keep our stress levels manageable, from taking actions that reduce feelings of stress when they occur, to doing things that make stress less likely to affect us down the line. Here are some of the most effective ways to help you accept and control your stress response.
Getting enough quality rest is one of the most significant ways to alleviate stress. First, a healthy sleep-wake cycle will let your body properly regulate cortisol, a stress hormone. Quality rest also helps you prevent sleep deprivation, which can lead to additional stress in your life. For instance, a lack of sleep can make you more irritable, leading you to lash out at others and put stress on your relationships; it can also make you feel unfocused and easily overwhelmed, leading to stress in completing tasks.
Sleep is also one of the most important factors of stress relief because stress and sleep share a reciprocal relationship. While sleeping well can relieve stress, sleeping poorly can increase stress. Chronic stress can contribute to insomnia and sleep apnea, making it more difficult to sleep well. In a survey by the American Psychological Association, 43% of adults said stress caused them to lie awake at night. However, the same survey revealed adults who slept at least 8 hours a night also reported lower stress levels than those getting less sleep.
Try it: Start a stress-sleep journal. For two weeks, keep a record of your nightly sleep habits and your stress levels the next day. Note how long you slept, the overall quality of your rest, your daily stressors, and how you responded to stressful situations.
What you eat impacts your wellbeing - including your stress level. Studies show people who eat a lot of heavily processed foods report higher perceived levels of stress And similar to the relationship between stress and sleep, stress can impact the food we choose to eat too. (Ever reached for junk food because you felt stressed, or drank way more coffee than you normally would?)
But nutrition isn’t just about avoiding junk food. It’s about making sure your body gets the nutrients it needs to function properly. When it comes to stress management, this means making sure you get enough vitamins and minerals that help regulate stress and your mood, like magnesium and vitamin B.
Try it: Increase the number of whole grains and leafy green vegetables in your regular diet, and be mindful of your eating habits when you’re feeling stressed. If you regularly experience high levels of stress, you may consider magnesium and vitamin B supplements, which have been shown in studies to significantly reduce stress.
Stress often makes us feel tense, overwhelmed, and on edge. So when you’re stressed, a healthy dose of relaxation is in order. In particular, light yoga, mindful meditation, and calming breathing exercises are great ways to relieve stress.
These actions help focus your attention, slow your breathing and heart rate, and release muscle tension. In other words, they directly address many of the most common side effects of stress.
Try it: When you’re feeling stressed, give 4-7-8 breathing a try. It’s a simple, calming exercise you can use anywhere. We also recommend starting your morning and/or ending your night with a brief period of meditation to clear your mind and release any lingering tension from your day.
4. Physical Activity
Exercise yields a number of physical and psychological benefits, including playing a major role in stress relief. Physical activity causes your brain to release endorphins, which can improve your mood, help you relax, and reduce anxiety - all great ways to alleviate stress.
And if you choose an activity that you really enjoy, you can benefit even more. Focusing on a competitive sport or tuning out the world while you swim laps can be its own form of meditation. As you shift your focus away from your mind and towards your body, you may find you forget about many of the stressful thoughts weighing you down.
Try it: Find a way to incorporate more regular movement into your schedule. Join a recreational sports club or try different activities such as yoga or pilates until you find something you enjoy. You can also start small, like taking time for a 15-minute walk every day.
5. Flower Essences
Flower essences are a form of alternative medicine, modernized by British physician Edward Bach during World War I. Bach recognized the important tie between mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. As an herbal remedy, flower essences are typically used to reduce anxiety and stress to promote healing.
Try it: Flower essences can be taken as oral supplements in the form of lozenges, chewing gum, tablets, liquid sprays, and more. You can also get flower essences to apply topically, like in certain lotions, skin creams, or bath salts.
6. Pets & Plants
Keeping pets or plants can also relieve stress. Interacting with animals has been shown to lower cortisol levels. And caring for both pets and plants causes your brain to release oxytocin, which can boost your mood and make you feel more relaxed.
Plus, the actions you take to ensure the wellbeing of your animal companion or garden can double as stress relievers in some of the other ways we’ve discussed. Going on a run with your dog can boost your physical activity level; tending to your garden can help you calm your mind much like meditation.
Try it: Start your day by walking your dog, or add a potted plant to your desk at work. If you don’t have space for a garden or the time to care for a pet full time, try volunteering regularly at an animal shelter or participating in a community garden project.
Just like we all have different reasons for feeling stressed, we all have different ways of de-stressing through self-care. Studies show that people who take the time to engage in self-care by participating in activities they find relaxing and enjoyable report lower levels of stress and an overall higher quality of life.
Taking the time to care for yourself is important when you feel stressed; not only is self-care a good way to relax and self-soothe, it’s a reminder to focus on the positives in life instead of the negative stressors bringing you down.
Try it: Take time every day to engage in an act of self-care that you personally find fulfilling and relaxing. Whether it’s taking a bath, reading a book, journaling, lighting candles, calling a loved one, or cooking a good meal, do something that makes you feel happy and at peace.
Stick with it!
One of the most challenging aspects of stress is how it seems to “pile on” as soon as we start to feel it. Things that might have not bothered us so much suddenly feel like impossible obstacles when we’re already feeling stressed out. But the reverse is also true: when you can feel just a little bit less stressed, those negative feelings don’t seem to stick as long. That’s why you can really make a difference in your stress level with just a few of these strategies. A little change can go a long way in accepting and managing your stress!
Don’t let your stress control your life
The truth about stress is that it can be unavoidable. The reasons we feel stressed are often beyond our control, so there’s no way to guarantee a fully “stress-free” life. So instead of trying to find a way to eliminate stress, focus on ways to better understand, accept, and embrace stress as it occurs.
When we embrace stress instead of fighting against it, we take back the power over our own lives. We can’t promise ourselves we will never feel anxious, overwhelmed, or frustrated by life’s challenges. But we can promise to accept each new obstacle as it comes. We can learn how stress affects us personally, and what actions will allow us to release that stress and move forwards. When we’re mindful of our stress and open to move through it, we can feel confident in our ability to live our best life.
Looking for more stress-relief strategies?
No matter the health challenge you face, healing begins with your decision to actively engage with your health. Take our holistic approach to healthcare into your own hands by learning to deconstruct your subconscious blocks, find your stress-relief strategies, and more with My RBI Academy. We’ll send you new tips and tricks for improving your cognitive health, all backed by our years of medical expertise and grounded in our holistic six pillar approach.