When you’re feeling stressed - and it happens so easily - it can be hard to relax. Getting rid of your day to day stress often seems really hard. However, there are a few simple ways to relax, which are especially useful if you can’t get away from the thing that's stressing you out!
Relax Your Body
A relaxed body equals a relaxed mind, according to Harvard Medical School. A relaxed body actually sends calming signals to the brain that can help to reduce mental tension. Working out can help to relax the body, as it releases endorphins, which can boost your mood. Exercise can also reduce stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.
You can also relax your body by taking a warm bath. This can help to increase your blood flow, which in turn reduces stiffness and pain in your body, especially the joints. You can even go one step further, and visit a sauna. This is a great way to alleviate the body from any tension caused by stress, and allow your mind to quiet down. Saunas can also help to trigger anti-inflammatory responses in your body which can help to give some relief to conditions such as asthma and arthritis which can add to your stress.
Get a Massage
A study that looked at the effect of back massages on students who were studying for exams found that the group that received back massages had less muscle stiffness and a lower level of cortisol - this is the hormone that is associated with stress. This can make it a simple way to relax, whether you book a spa afternoon or simply buy an at-home back massager.
Spending time with canines can come with many feel-good benefits - the simplest of these is that making eye contact with your dog can release the feel-good chemical oxytocin! This chemical can reduce stress responses and can help reduce your blood pressure. It's not just dogs, animals, in general, can help us humans let go of stress.
Meditation is a great way to relax, which is backed up by science. In one analysis that looked at several studies of relaxation training, specifically in people with anxiety, the effects of a daily meditation were much more substantial than other relaxation techniques. Meditation can also be used as an antidepressant method.
Get into Nature
When everything is just feeling a little too much, it’s ok to take a break and step into nature. Being outside can make you feel relaxed and de-stressed, and there’s scientific reasoning behind it. Being in nature can reduce blood pressure and lower your heart rate, as well as lower the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Being outdoors can also release tension in your muscles. If you can’t get outside in nature, just listening to nature sounds can have the same effect on your mind - a study that monitored MRI results of participants who listened to natural sounds found the results outward focused - which means less stress, anxiety and depression.
Take Deep Breaths
Breathing deeply can be the most effective way to bust stress. When you’re stressed and feeling anxious and panicked, you tend to take shorter breaths, reducing the supply of oxygen to your brain. By deliberately taking bigger and deeper breaths, you can increase the supply of oxygen to your brain, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that slows down your heart rate, and increases your intestinal activity, relaxing your stomach muscles.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
One of the best relaxation techniques involves slowly tensing up all your different muscle groups, from toes to head. Hold the tension for up to five seconds and then slowly relax the muscles. This may help to boost your awareness of the physical sensations that are associated with being relaxed and not-tense.
Take a Vacation
A relaxing vacation can boost your mood. In a study that looked at happiness levels in people who rated their travels ‘very relaxed’ reported feeling happier than those who didn’t go away, or even those who went away but didn’t rate their travels as ‘relaxed’. This feeling of happiness lasted up to 2 weeks!
Yoga as a stress reliever is a tried and tested method. Many types of workouts are good to combat stress, but yoga is unique in the way it makes you focus on your breath as well as movement, as well as stretching and releasing any tension in the body. Yoga also includes a level of meditation and mindfulness which can help you focus and forget what’s stressing you out.
A study in 2008 found that chewing some gum can reduce the levels of cortisol in your saliva by up to 16 percent! This can be a simple way to de-stress if you’re really busy or don’t have time for some of the other options on this list.
Let it Out
Sometimes if you’re really stressed, all you need to do is let it out. One of the easiest ways to release stress is by just some good old fashioned shouting or screaming. Even a sign can help to release tension - or singing a song you love can release happy hormones such as endorphins and oxytocin.
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