Many people experience stress and anxiety regularly. In fact, 70% of US adults express feeling stressed or anxious on a daily basis.
Here are 16 ways to manage stress and anxiety better.
1. Get moving
Physical activity is a fantastic way to handle stress.
Although it might sound odd, stressing your body through physical activities can lessen mental strain.
Consistent workouts offer the best outcomes. Individuals who stay active are generally less anxious compared to those who aren’t active.
- Hormonal effects: Physical activity reduces stress hormones, such as cortisol, over time. Moreover, it boosts endorphins, mood-enhancing chemicals that also serve as natural pain reducers.
- Better sleep: Being active enhances your sleep, which can often be disrupted by anxiety.
- Boosted confidence: Engaging in regular physical activity can enhance self-confidence and mental well-being.
Find a physical activity you like, be it walking, dancing, climbing, or yoga.
Movements like walking or jogging that engage large muscles repetitively can be particularly calming.
Summary: Consistent physical activity can diminish stress and anxiety levels by boosting endorphins and enhancing sleep and self-perception.
2. Explore natural supplements
There are various natural supplements known to help with stress and anxiety. Here’s a quick look at some:
- Lemon balm: Part of the mint family, lemon balm has properties known to combat anxiety.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: In one research, medical students taking omega-3 supplements saw a 20% drop in anxiety symptoms.
- Ashwagandha: An herb from Ayurvedic tradition, ashwagandha is believed to address stress and anxiety, with studies supporting its effectiveness.
- Green tea: Rich in polyphenol antioxidants, green tea might reduce anxiety by elevating serotonin levels.
- Valerian: Known for its calming properties, valerian root affects gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors to decrease anxiety.
- Kava kava: A psychoactive herb, kava kava is known for its calming effects and is becoming more popular in Western countries for managing stress.
If you’re considering supplements, especially if you’re on medication or have health issues, it’s wise to consult a healthcare professional.
Summary: Some natural supplements, including ashwagandha, omega-3s, green tea, and lemon balm, can help in managing stress and anxiety.
3. Ignite a scented candle
Using essential oils or lighting up a fragrant candle can help diminish feelings of stress and unease.
Certain fragrances have a particularly calming effect. Some of the most soothing ones include:
- Roman chamomile
- Ylang ylang
- Orange or its blossom
This method of leveraging scents to enhance mood is termed aromatherapy. Research indicates that aromatherapy can reduce anxiety levels and bolster sleep quality.
Summary: Using aromatherapy, like lighting scented candles or essential oils, can aid in lowering feelings of stress and unease.
4. Monitor your caffeine consumption
Caffeine, found in beverages like coffee, tea, and some chocolates, as well as energy drinks, acts as a stimulant. Consuming it in excess can heighten anxiety levels.
Everyone has a unique tolerance to caffeine.
Suggested read: What is caffeine, and is it good or bad for health?
If you feel overly alert or anxious after having caffeine, think about reducing your intake.
While numerous studies suggest moderate coffee consumption can be beneficial, it’s not suited for everyone. Typically, drinking up to five cups daily is deemed moderate.
Summary: Excessive caffeine can amplify feelings of anxiety. However, individual reactions to caffeine vary widely.
5. Pen your thoughts
One effective stress-management technique is writing down your feelings.
You can either note down the sources of your stress or list things you’re thankful for.
Centering your thoughts on positive aspects through gratitude can potentially alleviate stress and anxiety.
Summary: Maintaining a journal, especially with a focus on positivity, can be therapeutic in managing stress and anxiety.
6. Pop a gum
For a straightforward and instant stress buster, consider chewing gum.
Research suggests that individuals who chew gum tend to feel more at ease and experience reduced stress.
One theory proposes that gum-chewing induces brain wave patterns akin to those in relaxed individuals. Another suggests it enhances blood circulation to the brain.
Moreover, a recent study observed that stronger chewing led to better stress reduction.
Summary: Chewing gum, as supported by research, can be a simple tool for relaxation, promoting a sense of well-being and stress reduction.
7. Connect with loved ones
Being around friends and family offers invaluable emotional support during challenging times.
Having a close-knit circle provides a feeling of belonging and self-value, especially when the going gets tough.
Research indicates that women, especially, benefit from spending time with friends and kids, releasing oxytocin, a natural stress-reducing hormone. This phenomenon is termed the “tend and befriend” response, contrasting the “fight-or-flight” reaction.
However, it’s important to note that both genders gain from having solid relationships.
Another research highlighted that individuals with fewer social ties were more prone to feelings of depression and anxiety.
Summary: Cultivating strong relationships can be a buffer during stressful periods and can decrease anxiety risks.
8. Embrace laughter
Feeling anxious and laughing seldom go hand in hand. Laughing is not only therapeutic but also offers several benefits in stress relief:
- It counteracts stress responses.
- It eases muscle tension.
Over time, consistent laughter can enhance your mood and even bolster your immune system.
One study focusing on cancer patients observed that those engaged in laughter-based activities felt more stress relief compared to those who were merely distracted.
Consider indulging in a comedy show or spending time with pals who bring out your giggles.
Summary: Seek joy in daily occurrences, surround yourself with humorous individuals, or enjoy comedic content to mitigate stress.
9. Embrace the power of refusal
While some stress triggers are beyond your control, others are manageable.
Empower yourself by controlling aspects of your life that induce stress. One effective strategy can be mastering the art of saying “no.”
This becomes crucial when you feel stretched thin with commitments. Overloading yourself can lead to feelings of being swamped.
Choosing your tasks wisely and turning down excessive responsibilities can help maintain your peace of mind.
Summary: Overcommitting can be stressful. Learning to decline offers or tasks can be a proactive way to manage potential stressors.
10. Combat procrastination
Another strategy to manage stress is to be proactive with your tasks and eliminate procrastination.
Delaying tasks makes you react impulsively, often leading to last-minute rushes. Such hasty approaches can elevate stress, impacting your overall health and quality of sleep.
Adopt the practice of curating a task list, categorizing items based on urgency. Set achievable timelines and tackle tasks methodically.
Allocating dedicated time slots for specific tasks can be beneficial since constant task-switching or multitasking can induce stress.
Summary: Organizing your tasks and addressing them timely can help diminish stress associated with last-minute rushes.
11. Take a yoga class
The ancient practice of yoga offers a harmonious blend of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation. It aims to bridge the gap between the mind and body.
Different styles of yoga cater to different needs, but they all fundamentally focus on creating a union between the body and mind.
Various studies have delved into yoga’s impact on mental well-being. Most findings suggest that yoga can elevate mood and might even rival the efficacy of certain antidepressants in managing depression and anxiety.
It’s worth noting that many of these studies have limitations, so the exact mechanisms through which yoga alleviates stress remain under exploration.
Nevertheless, yoga’s positive influence on stress and anxiety seems to be associated with its modulation of the body’s stress responses, potentially decreasing levels of cortisol and other stress hormones while enhancing neurotransmitters linked with positive mood.
Summary: Incorporating yoga into one’s routine can be a potent tool against stress, potentially by adjusting stress hormone levels and enhancing mood.
12. Engage in mindful activities
Mindfulness is the art of being deeply present, anchored to the here and now.
This practice can be a bulwark against the stress and anxiety that often arises from overthinking and negative spirals of thought.
Various techniques, such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga, and meditation, are available to foster mindfulness.
Recent research among university students found a positive correlation between mindfulness and self-esteem, which indirectly reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Summary: Mindfulness can serve as a valuable ally in mitigating feelings of anxiety and depression.
13. Revel in physical affection
Physical expressions of affection, such as cuddling, kissing, hugging, and intimate relations, can act as potent stress busters.
These actions trigger the release of oxytocin, often termed the “love hormone,” and simultaneously reduce cortisol levels. As a result, physical indicators of stress like elevated blood pressure and heart rate see a decline.
Fascinatingly, humans aren’t unique in seeking solace through affection. Even chimpanzees have been observed comforting stressed peers through cuddling.
Summary: Physical forms of affection can stimulate the release of positive hormones, reducing indicators of stress.
14. Soak in calming melodies
Music possesses an innate power to soothe the soul.
Instrumental tracks with a slow tempo can evoke a state of relaxation, reflected in reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and diminished levels of stress hormones.
While specific genres like classical, Celtic, Native American, and Indian melodies are often lauded for their calming attributes, the key is to listen to what personally resonates with you.
Additionally, the tranquil sounds of nature, such as flowing water or chirping birds, have a therapeutic effect. Hence, they’re frequently integrated into meditative soundtracks.
Summary: Personal musical preferences can serve as an antidote to stress, with some genres and natural sounds being particularly tranquilizing.
15. The power of deep breathing
When you’re mentally stressed, your body’s “fight-or-flight” system kicks in. This leads to the release of stress hormones and some noticeable physical changes like a rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, and tightened blood vessels.
By practicing deep breathing, you can switch on the body’s relaxation system. There are different deep breathing techniques you can try, like diaphragmatic breathing, belly breathing, or paced respiration.
The main idea is to concentrate on your breath, taking slow, deep breaths. Breathing deeply through your nose causes your lungs to fully fill and your belly to rise. This calms your heartbeat, helping you feel serene.
Summary: Deep breathing brings on a feeling of relaxation. There are various techniques to help you master this calming skill.
16. The joy of pets
Owning a pet can greatly reduce feelings of stress and boost your mood.
Suggested read: 11 natural ways to lower your cortisol levels
When you play with or pet animals, your brain releases oxytocin, which is a mood-enhancing chemical.
Beyond just the mood boost, having a pet provides purpose, keeps you moving, and offers companionship. All of these factors can help lessen anxiety.
Summary: Engaging with your pet offers a delightful way to lower stress levels.
Stress and anxiety can pop up in both your job and personal life, but there are plenty of straightforward methods to lessen the tension.
These strategies usually focus on shifting your attention away from what’s causing the stress.
Activities like working out, staying present, listening to music, and enjoying close connections can help ease anxiety. Plus, they contribute to a better balance between your work and personal life.