Stress is becoming more and more common and can lead to other health problems; it is something that should be taken seriously.
In a 2018 study, 74% of UK adults had felt stressed at some point with more women at 81% compared to men at 67%. Stress can be caused by many different reasons, but those feelings can all lead to a negative impact on your mental health.
Stress can have various effects on the body like: fatigue, head and muscle aches and lack of appetite; extreme levels of stress can lead to anxiety and depression. Of course, being stressed is a part of life; it is how you are able to deal and cope with the stress that determines how it affects you. It is important to have a healthy choice of activities to fall back on which help you to relax and to relieve the stress that you may be feeling. Your self-care is an important part of achieving a meaningful and fulfilled life.
Here are 15 activities that you can partake in to help you relax and ease tension and stress:
Exercise is one of the strongest tools to combat stress and tension. Putting your body through physical stress helps to alleviate mental stress. Those who take regular exercise are less likely to experience anxiety than those who don’t. Remember though, exercise doesn’t mean that you have to run 10 miles or go to the gym! Going for a walk, doing the housework or taking the stairs instead of the lift all count.
When exercising, the body’s stress hormones are reduced and endorphins – which are chemicals – are released into the body and they improve your mood and act as natural painkillers. Increasing your activity levels can also improve both the amount and quality of your sleep, which will reduce your anxiety and stress levels as well.
2. Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a stimulant found in: tea, coffee and fizzy drinks. People have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate. If you consume it in high doses, it can increase your anxiety and stress levels as well as increase your heart rate. This will make you feel jittery and hyper alert, so reduce your caffeine intake to reduce the level of stress hormones. You should avoid drinking caffeine close to the time that you go to sleep in order to help you have the best quality of sleep.
Being able to write down your feelings and what is causing you to be stressed can help you work through them. Sometimes, just writing things down can be enough to relieve the feeling. You can also choose to reflect on the positive by recording what you are grateful for. Gratitude journals are a great form of self-care, which allow you to focus on the positive things happening in your life.
4. Spend Time With Family And Friends
Being able to spend time around loved ones can help reduce stress and boost your mood. Talking to loved ones is a great way to work through the stressful situation you find yourself in as you get another person’s perspective and advice. Sometimes, you just need to hear a friendly voice, or a voice which tells you that it is going to be alright. Having that support from others can help you become less anxious which can lead to you being able to be more relaxed.
5. Prioritise Some Self-Care
Any form of self-care is about making yourself the priority and nourishing your body. Taking the time to give your body that relaxation is going to help clear your mind and ease tension. Once you are more relaxed, you are able to approach situations and thoughts that cause you stress in a much calmer manner.
6. Take A Longer Shower Or Bath
Having a shower or a bath can help to relieve some of the physical symptoms of stress such as muscle tension and headaches. Allowing your muscles to relax can help to create a sense of calm which can allow your mind to clear and focus you on something that brings you joy rather that the situation or thought causing you stress.
7. Read A Book
Immersing yourself in a book can allow you to focus all the energy that you have been using to be stressed or anxious into imagining how the story will play out. You can forget about what is making you stressed and you can relax.
Meditation is about focusing your mind and teaching yourself how to clear your mind and be in the present. When you feel stressed and overwhelmed, taking the time to sit and be still can help you expel the negative energy and focus on relaxing your mind and your body. Meditation is a great tool for protecting your mental health, but is something that you should practise regularly to receive the maximum impact and positive health benefits.
9. Listen To Music
Music can have a profound effect on your body and your emotions. When you are feeling stressed, you should try listening to music with a slower tempo as it can help to quiet the mind and relax your muscles. Avoid faster music as it can make you feel more alert which is the opposite of the effect which you are trying to achieve.
10. Be Creative
There are so many activities that you can practise to get your creativity flowing. Whether it is: colouring, drawing, writing or even gardening, there is something for everyone to do and focus their mind on. Focusing your mind on a creative activity releases dopamine, the body’s natural anti-depressant, which can help your mind to process trauma.
11. Take A Nap
Research shows that naps reduce stress levels and can strengthen the immune system if you are sleep deprived. Taking naps can also keep your blood pressure in check. If you are sleepy or sleep deprived, you may have increased blood pressure and greater levels of the stress hormone cortisol, so reducing the tension caused by stress through napping is beneficial for your body and mind.
12. Deep Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing or stomach breathing exercises (such as those found in practising yoga or Pilates) can give an immediate feeling of relief from those stressful and anxious feelings. Practising this type of exercise can completely focus your mind and allows your body to calm the ‘fight or flight’ response and the physical symptoms that come along with stress.
13. Use Essential Oils
Burning a candle or using essential oils can help to reduce your feeling of stress. There are certain scents that are known for their calming and soothing properties. Some of the best scents to help promote relaxation are: lavender, bergamot, ylang ylang, orange or orange blossom, camomile and sandalwood.
14. Clean And Tidy
Deciding to clean and/or tidy a space in your home acts as a physical activity which can help to clear and declutter your mind. This can help to relieve feelings of anxiety and stress as well as being likely to result in a sense of achievement, thus improving and lifting your mood.
15. Eat A Well Balanced Diet
This tip is more of a long-term stress relief strategy that you can implement. A poor diet can bring greater stress in your life. This is because emotional eating or reaching for high-sugar, high calorie foods can provide a temporary boost to your mood, but greater lows when you need that next ‘fix’; this will only add to your long-term stress.