How to Relieve Stress: 16 Proven Ways to Reduce Stress

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Did you know that more than 70% of Americans say that they are “stressed out” daily? Do you ever wonder how to relieve stress? Perhaps, that is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that 11% of Americans take anti-depressant medications.

However, what about those who suffer in silence? Many refuse pills or other treatments because there is a stigma attached to mental health. Thankfully, there are some ways to cure stress naturally.

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Why Are Americans So Stressed Out?

With everything going on in the world, it’s easy to understand why so many Americans are stressed out. Countless surveys have consistently found similar themes in common causes of stress, which include:

  • Financial problems
  • Relationship problems
  • Complications on the job
  • Balancing work and career
  • Health issues

In addition to this, a recent survey from the American Psychological Association found a new stressor on the rise—the political climate. In fact, 52% of people surveyed stated the 2016 presidential election was somewhat or very stressful.

election outcome stress

No matter what the cause of your stress is, the most important thing is to learn how to manage it. Otherwise you’ll fall victim to the many side effects of stress including sleep disorders, high blood pressure, weight gain and more.

If you find yourself feeling scattered, constantly battling anxiety and struggling to figure out how to relieve stress, here are 16 ways to feel less stressed:

Physical Ways To Relieve Stress

You don’t have to find the answers in a pill bottle. Your body is made to regenerate and rebuild. However, you must make a few changes.

1. Exercise

Did you know that you can boost serotonin levels in the brain by simply getting more active? To kick these brain stimulation neurotransmitters into high gear, you don’t need an anti-depressant or SSRI. Aerobic exercise is a natural way to relieve stress and give you an energy boost. It tends to have a neurochemical basis that releases stress, which allows the body to relax.

Stress hormones are commonplace in the body, but the most common ones are adrenaline and cortisol. According to Harvard University hormone levels decrease when the body is moving.

If you think it seems backward, then you are in the majority. How can putting more stress on the body cause it to calm down? Moving releases endorphins that help to improve mood, and they also act as natural painkillers. So the next time you’re feeling stressed, go for walk, run or hit the gym to quickly get lower stress levels.

2. Learn To Laugh More

Ask anyone, and they will tell you that they don’t feel anxious while laughing. Laughter brings more oxygen into your body and organs. Your body sees it as a natural way to combat the stress response.

Do you suffer from tension? You can get rid of it by having a good chuckle. Just watch what a couple of jokes can do to boost your immune system and mood.

3. Try Yoga

Did you know that one yoga session can be as stimulating as taking an antidepressant drug? While the studies are limited, there is an undeniable link between the nervous system and stress response and the effect that yoga has on both.

According to Science Direct, yoga can lower cortisol levels as well as blood pressure and your heart rate. It can also increase GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that is naturally reduced when a person has a mood disorder.

Here’s a short 10 minute yoga flow specifically for stress relief.

4. Make Time For Cuddling and Romance

Most people know that stress can be relieved through affection. However, many are surprised to learn that cuddling, kissing, and even hugging can help too. When you experience positive physical contact with someone, it releases both oxytocin and lowers your cortisol levels.

What does this mean for your body? Well, it reduces your heart rate and your blood pressure, both of which are elevated during times of duress. Shockingly enough, human beings aren’t the only ones that like to cuddle for stress relief. When under pressure, chimpanzees will snuggle with a friend to reduce their frustration.

Learn Coping Mechanisms

When your load is abundant, you may feel inclined to let some things in your life slip. Here are some ways to help you balance your load and make sure you’re not stressed out all the time.

5. Be Present In The Moment With Mindfulness

Have you ever heard of the term mindfulness? To be anchored and present at the moment is to be mindful. This can combat your anxiety and reduce your negative thinking. There are a few different ways to practice mindfulness including cognitive therapy, meditation and yoga. All of these are powerful stress reduction tactics that revolve around mindfulness.

The benefits of mindfulness don’t just stop at stress relief. Did you know that a recent study suggests that mindfulness can also help increase your self-esteem? Plus, it can lessen your symptoms of unease and despair so there are plenty of reasons to learn how to be more present and in the moment through mindfulness.

mindfulness infographic

6. Don’t Be Afraid To Say No

Many people become overwhelmed because they have never learned the fine art of saying no. Overextending yourself is a good way to burn out quickly. You must learn your boundaries and know when enough is enough. Never be afraid to say no to someone when it is not possible. If you are going to be stressed out trying to help someone else, then help yourself and turn them down.

7. Avoid Procrastination

One of the best ways to take control of your stress levels is by making sure your priorities are met. Stop procrastinating! When you procrastinate, you react rather than act. What this means is instead of acting with purpose and taking your time to complete a task, you end up are scrambling to catch up. You’re reacting to the situation you’re in (running behind schedule) rather than acting to finish the task itself.

Having many things that are past due is a great source of stress. It can negatively affect your sleep quality and your health. In order to avoid procrastinating, make a to-do list to help you organize your tasks by priority. Be your own boss and give yourself deadlines.

Prioritize the things that need to be done today and those that can wait until another day. Allow spaces of uninterrupted time as multi-tasking can be very stressful to some. Check out this article to learn how to use single-tasking to get more done in less time.

Change Your Routine

Did you know that what you put into your body can drastically affect you? Here are some ways to change your entire chemistry by adding or taking away some items.

8. Add Some Health Supplements

Want to know how to relieve stress without relying on prescription medicine? Consume more of the stress-fighting nutrients your body craves. In addition to eating whole, natural foods, supplements are a great way to ensure you’re getting the recommended amount every day.

Several supplements can help you to reduce your stress and anxiety levels. Some of the most frequently used are:

  • Lemon balm
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Ashwagandha
  • Green tea
  • Valerian
  • Kava-kava

Did you know that taking omega-3 fatty acids can reduce anxiety by up to 20%? In Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is a plant that has great results in helping those with both anxiety and stress problems.

Valerian root has a tranquilizing effect that can put the mind and body at ease. Kava-kava is a psychoactive sedative that relaxes the body. Lastly, green tea is known for its polyphenol antioxidants, which are known to provide numerous benefits to the body.

9. Use Candles and Essential Oils

There is nothing better than the smell of a candle burning. Candles and essential oils have long been used in aromatherapy. Various scents can not only reduce stress and anxiety, but it can also calm those who have problems sleeping. Scents like lavender, rose, Vetiver, bergamot, Roman chamomile, Neroli, frankincense, sandalwood, Ylang-ylang, and orange blossom can be beneficial. Check out our list of the top essential oils for stress.

10. Eliminate or Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is a drug that is used to stimulate the body. It’s known for revving up the body and providing extra energy. However, caffeine can also cause heart palpitations and anxiety. Moderation is key when drinking coffee and soft drinks.

Healthline states that five or fewer cups a day is a moderate amount. You can substitute coffee with green tea to get a similar effect without the added stress.

11. Keep A Supply of Chewing Gum On Hand

If you’ve been wondering how to relieve stress, did you know that the answer could be in the checkout aisle at the store? Chewing gum has been proven to lower stress and give a greater sense of well-being.

One study showed that chewing gum helps the brain waves to relax by promoting good blood flow. Chewing more aggressively is better than just keeping a stick of gum in your mouth.

Other Ways To Relieve Stress

There are 100’s of ways to reduce stress, but here are a few tried and true methods that are sure to help.

12. Start Journaling

Keeping a journal is a good way to keep track of triggers to your stress. For instance, if you noticed that on days that you have meetings or the children are extra busy, you can plan ahead to make those days easier. Many people use journaling as a way to vent. Sometimes, you can say more in written form than you ever could verbally.

13. Surround Yourself With Friends and Family

There is nothing safer and secure than having friends and family all around. Having extra support from loved ones can get you through the rough times. Those who have an inner circle feel a greater sense of belonging and self-worth.

Did you know that those who have fewer social circles are often the ones suffering from depression and anxiety? According to a recent study, several mental and physical health disorders are at less of a risk when people are surrounded by love. If your inner circle isn’t as strong as you’d like to be, or if you don’t have people you can confide in, here’s a great video on how to create a positive inner circle.

14. Listen To Music

The old saying states that “music can calm the savage beast.” Listening to a composition can be very comforting for you. Forget the head banging varieties, slow-paced instrumental tunes are helpful to induce relaxation. These songs can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure as well as your stress hormones.

Try some piano music, nature sounds mixed with instrumentals or some Indian tunes. Many meditation and relaxation sessions use a combination of these to create a calming atmosphere that relieves stress.

15. Practice Deep Breathing

When you are under stress, your body goes into a “fight-or-flight” mode. The duress you experience activates your nervous system, which releases stress hormones. These hormones cause your heart to beat faster, your breathing will become quicker and shallower, because your blood vessels are constricted.

You can counter all these problems by doing a few deep breathing exercises. When you breathe in and out slowly, you promote relaxation. This is because you are activating the parasympathetic nervous system. There are numerous kinds of deep breathing rituals, which include abdominal, diaphragmatic, belly, and paced.

You must become aware of your breaths, and it should become deeper and slower. Start by breathing in deeply through your nostrils. Allow your lungs to expand fully and your belly to rise. Then you should hold the air in for a few seconds. Release it slowly through your mouth. You will feel an instant calm as your heart rate slows.

Try these 10 breathing exercises for stress relief.

16. Pet Therapy

Dogs are man’s best friend, but a relationship with a cat can be just as rewarding. There is nothing quite as gratifying as a pet to help calm you. A recent study shows that those who have a dog are calmer than those who don’t.

Simply petting a pet release oxytocin, which helps to promote a positive mood and lower angst. These furry friends are more like a member of the family too. Pets are so calming in fact, that you can get a service dog for anxiety and stress.

How To Relieve Stress?

If you are worried about your stress levels, the best thing to do is learn self-help methods to combat it. Even if you do need to take medication to help with anxiety or depression, you can still use coping skills to get through the severe loads that today’s life causes.

Take the stress test!

Join the Find-a-therapist community and get access to our free stress assessment!

Additional Resources

Prioritizing our mental well-being is paramount in today’s fast-paced world. The digital age has redefined therapy and psychiatric care, making support more accessible than ever. To guide you towards a healthier state of mind, we’ve partnered with pioneering names in mental health.
Note: We collaborate with top-tier mental health companies and we earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.

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About the author

I'm an avid reader and love anything to do with mindfulness and mental health!

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