In the distant past, those folks who tended to look for things to feel stressed about may have survived by noticing things that their more chill contemporaries missed. Sadly, this survival mechanism may not automatically switch itself off even when you know that you don’t need to worry about packs of ravenous wolves or enemy clans with big clubs. Instead of contributing to your survival, too much stress can wear down your immune system, make you gain weight, and even interfere with relationships.
To live a happier and healthier life, you need to learn how to relieve stress. These techniques for tamping down the automatic stress reflex that may have served your ancestors well, are the keys to finding a healthier balance. Consider these five tested suggestions:
The Art Therapy Association published studies that showed creating visual art reduces the level of stress-related hormones, like cortisol. Written feedback also indicated that study participants found the 45-minute sessions of making art enjoyable and relaxing. The best news is that the researchers found no correlation between results and the skill or talent of the participants. You don’t have to sit down to paint a masterpiece but can enjoy stress relief simply by drawing, painting, coloring, or sculpting something, even if it’s not that good.
The study also found that participants expressed a desire to produce more visual art in the future, so you may even look forward to improving your skill. To get started, you might simply buy some colored pencils and an adult coloring book or visit one of those shops that sells clay or plaster figures to paint. If you don’t care to create that kind of art, you could also learn to cook a new dish or touch up the paint in your living room to enjoy similar benefits. Creating or improving anything that you can see should make you happier.
Certainly, men and women can both suffer from stress; however, men tend to focus on one thing at a time. Women may suffer from stress more often because one anxiety tends to triggers others in a cumulative way. For instance, once study compared stress factors from dozens of married couples, so they looked at pairs of men and women who should have similar concerns. The study found that wives worried about a lot more things than their husbands did.
The men may have expressed concerns about a a missed promotion, personal budgets, or upcoming layoffs. Wives worried about those things too, but those concerns also amplified other stress triggers that might include problems with family or even unfinished housework and excess weight. Many women find that keeping a stress diary helps because it allows them to list and prioritize their concerns, and in the end, this activity helps them avoid sweating the small stuff as much.
Activity releases endorphins, the brain’s natural feel-good chemicals. You don’t have to exercise like an Olympic athlete to benefit from the stress-relief benefits of exercise either. Twenty minutes of walking around your neighborhood, the dog park, or even inside the mall or grocery store can override your stress response. Some people find that they benefit when they get off the bus a stop early during their morning commute, just to have a chance to walk for a few minutes.
If you can’t or don’t care to walk, you can also try a simple breathing exercise that interferes with your body’s stress result and has been proven to clear heads within minutes. When learning how to relieve stress, this is one technique you can do while you’re sitting at your desk or taking a restroom break.
The University of Michigan’s health blog published a simple technique that they call belly breathing:
Some researchers picked up on the idea that touch helps relieve stress when they realized how much time apes spend grooming each other. Since then, plenty of research has backed up the idea that a massage or even a hug or holding hands triggers natural stress relief and improves physical health markers.
If you live alone and don’t have the budget or time for a regular massage, you can still find some non-creepy ways to experience the benefits of physical touch. Splurge for an occasional manicure, pedicure, or facial. You’re worth it, and these little luxuries can help you calm down.
Are you a natural introvert, living alone in a new city, or simply somebody who tends to isolate yourself when you feel anxious? Either way, you’ve got to accept the fact that you’re a social animal who probably needs to spend some time with other people to feel complete. You don’t suddenly have to change your personality or force yourself into uncomfortable social situations to connect with other people.
For example, you might consider volunteering at a food back on your day off, joining a Meetup group for people with similar interests, or getting involved in a place of worship. A yoga or other exercise class can help you stay healthier, relieve stress, and meet new people. You can find plenty of places to show up at that are filled with people who don’t expect you to be perfect and will just be happy that you came.
Sadly, almost everybody struggles with stress from time to time. Very often, these simple and natural techniques can help dampen your automatic stress response and keep your mind clear and optimistic. If not, you may need some help to overcome your obstacles, and more relaxed people do ask for assistance when they need it. A doctor, therapist, or even financial counselor can provide the additional counseling you need so you can manage your stress well on your own.