We all experience and deal with stress in different ways, but there are some universal constants. Stress triggers hormones like cortisol, which flood our systems, raising our heart rate and causing us to breathe more heavily as our blood vessels constrict.
In pre-civilization days, this stress response helped us detect and escape dangerous situations, but today, our modern lives can cause us to feel stress and anxiety when there’s no imminent threat. Chronic stress can exacerbate existing health conditions like asthma, insomnia, and irritable bowel syndrome, and cause headaches and other physical symptoms as well.
While we don’t have a choice about when we get stressed, we do have a choice about when we relax. Here are some easy ways to calm down the next time you’re feeling stressed.
1. Get Some Exercise
Even just a ten-minute walk can help quell an anxious nervous system and reduce your overall stress, by releasing endorphines that make you feel calmer and happier(1).
2. Just Breathe
Deep breathing has been scientifically proven to affect your whole body – your heart, brain, digestion, and immune system in particular. Individuals with chronic conditions like asthma can benefit especially from learning deep breathing techniques(2).
3. Surround Yourself With Nature – Even If It’s Just Houseplants
Studies have shown that visually experiencing a more natural environment can lead to more positive outcomes for anxiety, depression, and other health conditions(3). Even a few houseplants can help you de-stress and feel healthier.
4. Turn Off Your Laptop And Smartphone
Spending more time than you have to engaging with electronic devices like cell phones can increase your anxiety levels, one study says(4).
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5. Put On Some Music
Listening to music can cause your body to release endorphins, making you feel less stressed out. Classical music is known in particular for having a calming effect(5).
6. Have A Healthy Snack
Stress eating doesn’t have to be a bad thing – if you’re eating healthy. Bananas and potatoes both contain potassium, which can help protect your body from the negative effects of stress(6).
7. Do Something With Your Hands
Repetitive activities like knitting can reduce stress levels, according to Dr. Perri Klass, noted phsycian and avid knitter(7). Doing something repetitive and absorbing like crocheting, jewelry making, or knitting doesn’t just provide you with a distraction, it can lower your anxiety and calm your stress response.
8. Do Some Yoga
Yoga can have a huge impact on your stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that even a ten-minute session can help you de-stress effectively(8).
9. Spend Time With Friends
Time spent with friends, especially close friends, is time spent managing your stress levels, according to one study(9). “Having a best friend present during an experience significantly buffered the effect of the negativity of the experience on cortisol and global self-worth,” the study explains.
For many people who struggle with stress and anxiety, managing stress levels can feel like a full-time job. But these simple steps show that it doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience.