16 Simple Ways to Alleviate Stress and Minimize Anxiety
Sometimes the world just appears crazy and beyond our control, and indeed, that can certainly escalate any stress we're experiencing from our day-to-day lives. But something you can do? Take steps to organize the chaos inside your own mind. By addressing persistent concerns, performing a bit of tidying up, and infusing your life with a dose of simplicity, you can create space for more affection, optimism, and happiness. To assist you, we have 16 methods to feel more relaxed, swiftly.
1. Pardon someoneStill nursing a wound because you weren't invited to a wedding years ago? Consider relinquishing the burden. "Sometimes you may fear that you're 'giving in' if you let go of a grudge, but you're just giving yourself the opportunity not to let something that occurred in the past affect your future," says Elana Miller, M.D., an integrative psychiatrist in Los Angeles. Not only will the act of forgiveness help you move on, but research has also demonstrated that it can decrease levels of anxiety and stress.
2. Listen to music you adoreListening to music with the intention of relaxing aided in reducing levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in college students during exams, and they also self-reported feeling less stressed, according to a study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. Uplifting music had the opposite effect—but in general, listening to the music they enjoyed appeared to be highly significant. So if lively music is your preference, you may just find your muscles loosening up.
3. Take a leisurely sip of teaHolding a cup of tea in your hands can make you feel cozy and tranquil, and being mindful can enhance the benefits, says New York City–based meditation instructor Kirat Randhawa. "Take notice of the color of the tea leaves, the shape of the mug, the fragrance, what the tea tastes like, and how it feels in the body," she suggests. Harney & Sons Yellow & Blue Tea, which combines soothing chamomile, lavender, and cornflowers, provides an extra-relaxing sip.
4. Have that concerning "thing" examinedYou know, that mole, ache, or lump you convince yourself is nothing (you're probably correct!) but that you're not entirely sure about. Such matters can nag at you, and research informs us that uncertainty is much more stressful than knowing what to anticipate, whether it's good or bad. So go ahead and have a doctor examine it! Either you'll be able to let go of that concern or you'll start treating it promptly. "Often what seems like a big deal for you is routine for your doctor—they've seen it all and can alleviate some of your worry," says Dr. Miller.
5. Take one minor actionWhether the topic is politics, eco-anxiety, or racial injustice, worry about the condition of the world we share leaves many of us feeling overwhelmed or immobilized.
But engaging in a tangible measure each day (supporting a movement, contributing time or money to a purpose, or cycling rather than driving if it's environmental degradation that is burdening your conscience) brings you incrementally nearer to an improved society and might impart a sense of increased self-determination.
6. Go for a strollEven just a 10-minute brisk walk can decrease your levels of anxiety, studies demonstrate. It makes sense, considering that any type of exercise enhances mood-regulating neurochemicals in your brain. This includes serotonin, which assists in inducing a sense of tranquility, and dopamine, which activates the brain's reward system. Combine your walk with listening to music you adore, or have a phone conversation with a friend, and you'll receive an additional boost. Alternatively, walk with a friend or even a group because socializing is another enjoyable activity.
7. Apologize for that uncomfortable momentWhether you unintentionally said something offensive to a colleague or completely forgot your sister's birthday, guilt may be silently bothering you. By addressing the issue, you'll fix any damage or realize that it wasn't as dramatic as you initially thought. "We often feel as if there's a spotlight on us, believing other people are thinking about us much more than they actually are," says Dr. Miller. "Honestly, no one has the time and energy to judge us as harshly as we judge ourselves."
8. Restrict your use of social mediaNegative news—and the loud arguments about everything from global politics to the latest reality show—can feel like an incessant toothache. However, staying up late devouring every rant can leave you stressed and exhausted. "Doomscrolling is a way for your brain to attempt to maintain control in an uncontrollable world," states neuropsychologist Judy Ho, Ph.D., a professor at Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education and Psychology. "But we usually feel terrible afterward." Ho suggests limiting scrolling to 25 minutes and setting a firm deadline when that time is up.
9. Spend time with your furry friend (or someone else's!)There is a plethora of research indicating that interacting with dogs and cats has positive effects on mood improvement and stress relief. For instance, when college students were given the opportunity to interact, pet, and cuddle with these animals for 10 minutes in an animal visitation program, they experienced a decrease in cortisol levels and reported less psychological stress, according to a study. Other research demonstrated an increase in feelings of emotional support when the pet belongs to the individual. So if you have a dog or cat, take advantage of their presence when you're feeling tense; and if you don't, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter—for the well-being of the animals as well as your own!
10. Exchange to-do’s with a friend
There’s always one task you just can’t complete, and seeing it reappear on your to-do list can increase your stress level. Instead, ask a friend who doesn’t mind hemming your daughter’s skirt to assist you with that, and do a task she dislikes (such as updating her computer) that seems easy to you.
11. Perform a therapeutic mini-cleanup
Spending just a few minutes tidying up a specific area that has been bothering you (like the crumb-filled sofa cushions or that sticky shelf in your pantry) can provide you with quick benefits. This requires a little preparation and a brief burst of physical activity, both of which can reduce stress, as stated by Debra Kissen, Ph.D., cochair of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s public education committee. Moreover, think about how much better you'll feel when you can sit on the couch without hearing an odd crunching sound!
12. Connect online or meet up for support
It is easy to believe that you are the only one struggling with a personal challenge. Support groups can be beneficial for any situation. "You can receive advice on coping, but simply realizing that this is a shared experience can alleviate a significant amount of stress," says Dr. Miller. Additionally, the feeling of camaraderie is a major advantage.
13. Take deep breaths through your feet
When you feel overwhelmed with various demands, you can ground yourself by focusing on your feet, according to Randhawa. If you're indoors (or outdoors in a clean and safe environment), take off your shoes and stand tall with relaxed shoulders. "As you inhale, pay attention to each toe and then your entire foot on the ground," she suggests. "This has a way of truly helping you feel in command of your body, and you'll ponder, 'How would I like to respond in this moment?'"
14. Cancel an engagement
Examine your calendar and identify one commitment that you genuinely don't have to attend, such as a meeting that can proceed without you or a social gathering that you're not excited about. Opt out and replace it with...nothing. "You know your body requires sleep, but it also needs rest, and those are two distinct things," says Asha Tarry, L.M.S.W., a psychotherapist and the author of Adulting as a Millennial. Granting yourself permission to do nothing will recharge your energy, reduce your blood pressure, and enable clearer thinking, she adds.
15. Extend your bodyStretching unwinds and loosens the body, naturally, but there is also evidence that it can alleviate the mind—because when your body is tense, your mind becomes, well, constricted as well. A controlled trial revealed that engaging in 10 minutes of stretching after work for three months made individuals feel less uneasy and exhausted. And as per the University of California, Berkeley, stretching in a deliberate and attentive manner is an excellent way to alleviate stress. Inhale in a measured and managed manner, and focus on the muscles you desire to stretch.
16. Enhance the appeal of MondayOn Sunday, when the clock begins ticking towards Monday morning, you may encounter a surge of anxiety concerning deadlines, toxic colleagues, or a stressful commute. To diminish the "Sunday Scaries," plan something enjoyable for Mondays: a lunch date with a cherished colleague, a post-work self-care appointment for a manicure, or an evening dedicated to binge-watching your favorite streaming series.
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Related StoriesMarisa Cohen
Marisa Cohen is an editor in the Hearst Lifestyle Group's Health Newsroom, who has covered health, nutrition, parenting, and culture for numerous magazines and websites during the past two decades.
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