Stress doesn’t have to come from your fast-paced job or an impending dinner with the in-laws. Stress can strike at the strangest of times and be brought on by something as seemingly banal as “what should I have for dinner tonight?” The important thing is to recognise when stress is wearing you down and have a toolbox of hints and tips to bust that stress and go back to feeling on top of the world. Next time you feel stress sabotaging your life, grab your de-stress toolbox and try one of these seven quick and scientifically-backed ways to de-stress right now!
1. Deep breathing
A very powerful but often overlooked tool in your de-stress toolbox is deep breathing. Deep breathing or ‘tummy’ breathing simply can’t be done when the body is experiencing stress. The highly adrenalised ‘fight or flight’ response to stress forces the body to take shallow, fast breaths. So challenge your body to rid itself of stress. Make a conscious attempt to breathe slowly and from the diaphragm to shift the body and mindset to a more relaxed state. Experts can advise you on different breathing techniques, but even slow in and out from your tummy can help bust stress right now.
2. Mediate or yoga
Muscle tension is an immediate and adverse symptom of stress. Aching shoulders, headaches and tightness are the psychological embodiment of stress. To bust stress from your physical self why not try stretching the body and the mind with meditation or yoga. With yoga or meditation technique in your de-stress toolbox you can fight stress on many levels; stretch away fatigue and weariness, bring clarity of mind and mindfulness to your thoughts, and combine all this with deep breathing to force the mind-body to shift into a relaxed response.
3. Get a massage
If meditation or yoga are not practices you ascribe to but you’d still like a mind-body approach to bust stress, why not try a massage. The principles are similar; the focus is on releasing tension from muscles and allowing the mind to have a quiet space to slip into and focus on the present i.e., actually enjoying the benefits of the massage in the here and now. Add to the experience aromatherapy from the oils and scents used by your masseuse and you’re in for a whole-of-being state to bust your stress away.
4. Get active
Getting active is a similar tool to meditation or yoga in that it fights stress both physiologically and mentally. However, where meditation and yoga serve to bring the body out of a fight or flight state by creating an alternate relaxed state, getting active uses your store of adrenalin and burns it off instead. Getting active is a great, immediate way to de-stress, but also consider it as a long-term life goal for maximum benefits in stress reduction. Research suggests all it takes is 20 minutes of focused exercise to achieve significant positive results.
5. Listen to music
Music has the charms to soothe the savage beast. Or so says the old proverb. But music really does help to shift a negative mood and aid in relaxation and calming the stressed or troubled mind. It doesn’t seem to matter which music is listened to, rather that music plays a part in focusing attention on emotion and thus works as a way to self-regulate that emotion. Music, in this instance, has the charms to help you self-soothe your own savage beast; stress.
6. Talk to a friend
Another old proverb, a problem shared is a problem halved, has a good basis in fact. Talking has been a hallmark of counselling and clinical therapy for a long time because, quite simply, it allows you to unburden your worries and concerns in a safe non-judgmental environment. However, if you have a trusted friend you can turn to, why not ask her if you can unburden some of your issues for an immediate stress relief. She might not have answers for you, and oftentimes that’s not the important part of talking. Simply knowing someone has listened can ease your stress and anxiety.
7. Have a laugh
Laughter is not only good for creating an uplifted mood, laughter can also be a powerful reliever of stress. Laughter enables the release of endorphins which flood the body with drug-like ‘good vibes.’ Facial muscles are also activated when laughing and tensed muscles begin to relax. Laughter can distract from worries or anxieties and has the ability to reframe issues that are causing stress or tension. For these reasons, the healing power of helpless laughter takes out the seventh place in your de-stress toolbox.
These seven, scientifically-backed ways to de-stress are the fundamentals to a good de-stress toolbox and are easy and discreet to employ in nearly any setting or situation. Don’t be afraid to ‘go to the tools’ the next time stress strike.
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Author: Marcus Clarke
Marcus has a degree in psychology, a masters degree in health psychology and has worked within the NHS as well as private organisations. Marcus started psysci a psychology and science blog in order to disseminate research into bite-size, meaningful and helpful resources.