From minor challenges to major crises, stress is part of life. And while you can’t always control your circumstances, you can control how you respond to them.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to stress relief, however. What works for one person might not work for another.
Let’s go through some effective ways to relieve stress.
Short-Term Stress-Relief Strategies You Can Do Anywhere
Whether you’re about to be interviewed for a job or you’re feeling overwhelmed by your child’s behavior at the playground, it’s important to have some stress reduction tools that can lower your stress right now.
The best short-term strategies:
- Can be performed anywhere
- Take very little practice to master
- Are free
- Provide immediate relief
Try Guided Imagery
Guided imagery is like taking a short vacation in your mind. It can involve imaging yourself being in your “happy place”—maybe picturing yourself sitting on a beach, listening to the waves, smelling the ocean, and feeling the warm sand underneath you.
Guided imagery can be done with a recording where you listen to someone walk you through a peaceful scene. Or, once you know how to do it yourself, you can practice guided imagery on your own.
Simply close your eyes for a minute and walk yourself through a peaceful scene. Think about all the sensory experiences you’d engage in and allow yourself to feel as though you’re really there. After a few minutes, open your eyes and return to the present moment.
Meditation brings short-term stress relief as well as lasting stress management benefits. There are many different forms of meditation to try–each one is unique and brings its own appeal.
You might develop a mantra that you repeat in your mind as you take slow deep breaths. Or, you might take a few minutes to practice mindfulness, which involves being in the moment. Simply pay attention to what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
When you’re focused on the here-and-now, you won’t be able to ruminate about something that already happened and you can’t worry about something in the future. Meditation and mindfulness take practice, but it can make a big difference in your overall stress level.
Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation involves relaxing all the muscles in your body, group by group. To practice, you can start with a few deep breaths.
Then, practice tightening and relaxing each muscle group, starting with your forehead and moving down to your toes.
With practice, you’ll learn to recognize tension and tightness in your muscles and you’ll be able to relax more easily. Each time you practice, however, you should experience a feeling of relaxation sweeping through your body.
Focus on Breathing
Just focusing on your breath or changing the way you breathe can make a big difference to your overall stress level. Breathing techniques can calm your body and your brain in just a few minutes.
The best news is, no one around you will even know you’re doing them. So whether you’re in a stressful meeting or you’re sitting in a crowded theater, breathing exercises could be key to reducing your stress.
While there are many different breathing exercises, like karate breathing, a few simple ones include:
- Breathe in through your nose and watch your belly fill with air. Count slowly to three as you inhale. Hold for one second and then slowly breathe out through your nose as you count to three again.
- Breathe in through your nose and imagine that you’re inhaling peaceful, calm air. Imagine that air spreading throughout your body. As you exhale, imagine that you’re breathing out stress and tension.
Take a Walk
Exercise is a fantastic stress reliever that can work in minutes. Taking a walk allows you to enjoy a change of scenery, which can get you into a different frame of mind, and brings the benefits of exercise as well.
So whether you just need to take a stroll around the office to get a break from a frustrating task or you decide to go for a long walk in the park after work, walking is a simple but effective way to rejuvenate your mind and body.
Fast-Acting Stress-Relief Strategies That Work Well at Home
In the privacy of your own home, there are many stress relief strategies that can help you relax fast. So whether you’ve had a tough day at work or you’re stressed about how much you have to do, these strategies can give you some immediate relief from your stress.
Get a Hug From a Loved One
Physical touch can do a lot to relieve your stress. Hugging a loved one can be especially beneficial.
When you hug someone, oxytocin (also known as the “cuddle hormone”) is released. Oxytocin is associated with higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress.
Oxytocin also causes a reduction in blood pressure. It reduces the stress hormone norepinephrine and can produce a sense of relaxation.
So don’t be afraid to ask a loved one for a hug if you need it. It’s good for both of you and it can be one of the simplest forms of stress relief available.
Aromatherapy has real benefits for stress relief—it can help you to feel energized, more relaxed, or more present in the moment.
Emerging research suggests certain scents can alter brain wave activity and decrease stress hormones in the body.
So whether you enjoy candles, diffusers, or body products, consider incorporating some aromatherapy into your day.
Getting in touch with your creative side may have been easy for you during childhood, but if you’ve lost touch with your penchant for artwork, it’s not too late to pick it up again.
If you aren’t into drawing or painting, consider coloring in a coloring book. Adult coloring books have risen in popularity and for good reason—coloring can be a great stress reliever.
Research consistently shows that coloring can have a meditative effect. One study found that anxiety levels decline in people who were coloring complex geometric patterns, making it a perfect outlet for stress reduction.