EEHealth asks in its Healthy Driven Blog, “Feeling stressed out?” Welcome to the club. We all get stressed from time to time and, unfortunately, stress has a way of affecting your entire well-being. It can cause headaches, trouble sleeping, appetite changes, mood swings, and more.
The effects of stress tend to build up over time. Long-term stress weakens your immune system and can cause a number of health problems or make existing problems worse.
Since stress is an inevitable part of life, how can you protect your health? Here are 15 things you can do today to relieve stress:
- Breathe. Take a deep breath and count to 10. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply. Deep breathing can help oxygenate your blood and clear your mind. Go even further and take a mental time out with mindful meditation.
- Take a walk. A brisk walk can knock out stress and improve your mood almost instantaneously. If you’re at work, even a short walk around the office, taking the stairs, or standing up to stretch can help relieve stress.
- Laugh out loud. Watch a funny video or find other ways to laugh. A good laugh can help decrease levels of stress-causing hormones. Also, when we laugh, we tend to stay in the moment, which is a stress reliever in itself.
- Join a class. Head over to your local gym and join a class. Whether it be dancing, swimming, aerobics, or something more low key like tai chi or yoga, participating in an activity you enjoy can help relieve tension.
- Jump in the tub. Warm baths are a great way to unwind and relax. For an extra calming effect, add in eucalyptus or lavender essential oils. If you’re not a fan of baths, take a warm shower instead.
- Turn on music. Music can do wonders to relieve stress. Whether ocean or nature sounds are your thing, or you would rather listen to pop, rock, or reggae, your favorite music can help you feel good and de-stress.
- Get cooking. Some people find it therapeutic to be in the kitchen cooking up a dish. Even if you aren’t a top chef, cooking can be a great mood booster. Just make sure you avoid emotional eating.
- Try creative arts. The creative arts can help you express yourself, calm your mind and feel better. Painting, ceramics, scrapbooking, photography, and journaling can be great stress busters.
- Get in the garden. There’s something about being in the fresh air of gardening — the sensory experience of putting your hands in the dirt — that can combat stress, and there’s even some research to back it up.
- Get a massage or facial. Massage can help relax tight muscles, enhance circulation, and lower stress levels.
- Hit the sheets. Your partner will enjoy this one. Studies have shown sex can actually decrease the physical symptoms of stress. Even physical intimacy in the form of hugging or kissing can help lower stress levels.
- Take a nap. Stress and sleep issues go hand in hand. Taking a short 20-minute nap has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, which aids in stress relief.
- Cuddle up with a pet. A pet’s soothing presence is a great stress reliever. Studies suggest dog owners are happier overall. If you take your dog for a walk, you can the stress-relieving benefits of exercise too.
- Try acupuncture. Acupuncture can provide a great sense of calm and relaxation, which in turn can help combat stress.
- Call a friend. Stress management is one of the great gifts of friendship. When you’re under a lot of stress, pick up the phone and talk it out with a trusted friend. You’ll likely feel way better by the time you hang up.