While everyone experiences stress, allowing stress to build up over time can have serious negative effects. Chronic stress can lead to anxiety, depression and physical illness. Incorporating stress relieving activities into your daily routine can help protect your health. Below are five simple stress relief techniques:
Regular physical activity is known for its ability to improve health, but exercise also reduces stress in several ways:
- It boosts mood. Exercise reduces stress hormones like cortisol while boosting production of mood elevating endorphins. Regular exercise also reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, improves sleep and lowers reactivity to stress.
- It improves health. Regular exercise promotes weight loss, increased strength, better immunity and greater self-confidence.
- It provides social support. Working out with others offers the social support vital to boosting mood and coping with stress.
- It provides distraction. Focusing on a physical activity takes the mind off of daily stressors and reduces tension.
Yoga combines deep breathing with a series of moving and stationary poses. Quiet focus on yoga’s precise movements provides a distraction from daily pressures and calms both body and mind. Yoga can also help manage chronic health conditions, assist in weight loss and improve fitness.
Some yoga poses are simple. To try the chair corpse pose, lie on the floor in front of a chair with your calves on the seat. Close your eyes, focus on breathing and relax. For the knees to chest pose, lie on your back and hug your knees to your chest. Breathe deeply and allow your back to relax. To stretch your lower back, sit in a chair with your knees wider than hip distance apart. Bend forward from the hips, drop your head and let your body relax.
Breathing deeply into a good stretch improves circulation and relieves muscle tension.Take a break and try some gentle stretches:
- To do a side stretch, stand with your feet hip width apart. With one arm, reach above your head then lean to the opposite side. Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds before changing sides.
- To stretch your chest, stand and clasp your hands behind your back. Lift your arms, then bend forward from the waist while lifting your arms as high as possible. Keep your knees bent or stretch them out to stretch the backs of your thighs.
- Stretch your lower back. While still bending forward in the chest stretch, release your arms and cross one foot over the other. Let your arms dangle. Hold this position for 30 seconds before switching feet.
Massage manipulates skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments through techniques ranging from light stroking to deep pressure. Massage reduces stress by relieving muscle tension, improving circulation and increasing oxygen flow. As the body relaxes during a massage, anxiety and stress melt away leaving the mind calm and clear. Many people often find that massage provides a soothing sense of comfort through the caring touch of the massage therapist.
Laughter reduces stress by increasing endorphins, stimulating circulation, and providing physical release from tension. Because people are most likely to laugh in the company of others, laughter provides social support through connection with others.
To bring more laughter to your life, start collecting funny photos, comic strips, movies or joke books to keep on hand. Melt stress away by laughing about your own situation. Spend time with friends who make you laugh. If you can’t find anything to laugh about, remember that even fake laughter provides stress relief and often leads to genuine laughter.
Experiment to discover which techniques are best for you. You’ll be glad you did.