Stress is everywhere. Sometimes, even in our efforts to get away or protect ourselves from stress, we, unfortunately, find more. Creating a fun self-care list can quickly become a demanding to-do list if we’re not careful and don’t take a step back to remember why we’re doing it.
However, there are some research-tested methods to relieve our feelings of stress. Today, we’ll share six things you can do to combat that constant sense of stress in your life.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
Spend time in nature
Spending about 20 minutes in nature—free from the distraction of cell phones and social media—approximately three days per week is associated with a significant drop in your cortisol level. Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal gland that increases in response to both physical and psychological stress.
In this study, cortisol dropped as a reaction to spending time in parks or green areas and when study participants walked or sat. People were asked not to exercise beforehand and avoid social stimuli, including conversations, identifying outdoor exposure as the true source of stress relief.
In some studies, exercise has the most significant effect on stress reduction. If you are engaging in aerobic exercise, longer duration sessions can improve your body’s ability to fight stress overall. In contrast, two shorter-duration sessions can help your ability to relieve stress throughout the day. Group exercise can help you find a support network, while unique forms of movement (such as exergaming) can help you find new, enjoyable ways to spend your time.
Laughter improves your mood, strengthens relationships and releases endorphins. A great way to get a quick laugh is to watch funny videos online or listen to a funny podcast. You can also host a game night, either in-person or via Zoom (that just takes coordinating so that everyone has access to the same games or finding an online alternative). Research has demonstrated that laughter can improve your immune system by releasing neuropeptides and increasing feelings of self-esteem.
Listen to music
Relaxing music, such as piano or jazz, can help your brain relax. Music with a fast beat will facilitate alertness, while music with a slower beat will facilitate relaxation and delta brain waves associated with sleep. Rhythm may help treat mental health issues like depression and attention deficit disorder and help stroke patients recover cognitive function.
Visualize or try some virtual techniques
Close your eyes, relax in a comfortable chair and picture something pleasant. This is a great choice when you only have a few seconds to a couple of minutes, and you don’t have time to organize a more intensive activity. Visualize a beautiful place you’ve been or an enthralling memory, such as your child’s first steps or happy time spent with friends. Alternatively, download a mindfulness application such as Calm or Headspace or watch a nature livestream for a few minutes.
Enjoy your pet
Sometimes, taking care of your pet can become a routine rather than a pleasure. Take the time to mindfully walk your dog or spend quality time playing with the cat or watching your fish swim. Observe how happy or content they are when you arrive home. According to a National Institute of Health/MARS Waltham Center Research Study, pets may decrease cortisol and lower blood pressure, thereby relieving stress on your mind and body.