Reducing stress not only helps you think clearly, but is a necessary step to long-term physical and mental health.
Stress is a common factor of the human experience: we all have it. There is acute stress, that which is related to the here and now, and chronic stress which is persistent and long-lasting. There is even good stress and bad stress, believe it or not. The thing is, the human body does not differentiate between all of these types of stress, so no matter whether you’re good-stressed from a great session at the gym (exercise is a stressor, too!) or you're bad-stressed from a financial, family or work situation, unless you work to mitigate these stressful reactions, your body is suffering the consequences. Stress affects almost everything: from a lack of energy and a decreased ability to focus, to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and hormonal imbalances; even anxiety and insomnia can arise when your body is stuck in fight-or-flight mode.
Ways to reduce stress
So we all experience stress, and we all need to find ways to reduce our stress levels. There are big picture things we can do to combat stress: things like taking care of ourselves in mind and body, getting quality sleep each night, eating regular healthful meals, etc. But there are also smaller, daily practices you can incorporate into your life to help effectively manage stress and elicit the body’s relaxation response. Here are some ways to reduce stress and tension both at work and at home.
How to reduce stress at work and at home
1. Say no
One of the most important, yet most overlooked ways to reduce or manage stress: reduce the stressful load. This involves you learning to say “no” when you need to. Limit the time you spend and the interactions you have with friends, coworkers or even family members who are emotionally draining. Don’t participate in arguments that don’t don’t require your attention. Take a break when you need to, allow yourself to ask for help when necessary and be forgiving in your expectations of yourself.
2. Practice relaxation techniques
There are a myriad of techniques you can incorporate daily that can help you relax and de-stress. You can simply try deep belly breathing, focusing on full, cleansing breaths. You can sit and meditate silently, or use Youtube to find a relaxing meditation sequence to listen to. You can practice yoga or tai chi, either at home or in a studio. The idea is to do something that you enjoy and that relaxes you every day. Relaxation techniques like these can slow your heart rate and breathing, lower your blood pressure, and bring your mind and body into a more balanced state. They’re usually free, can be practiced almost anywhere, and don’t require a huge time commitment - as long as you do them everyday.
3. Augment your relaxation techniques with aromatherapy
Combine some aromatherapy practices with any of the above techniques to increase the stress-relieving benefits. Aromatherapy on its own can help ease stress, anxiety, boost relaxation and help you get to sleep. You can do a self-massage with an aromatic lotion, meditate with incense, do yoga while using an essential oil diffuser or you can light a few aromatherapy candles and take a warm bath. Some common scents that you can use to help relieve stress are lavender, lemon, bergamot, ylang ylang and jasmine.
4. Lay down with the Heatbag
There’s just something about heat that is both comforting and calming. Turns out there is some science to back it up! Heat actually relieves tension and stress in the body since it increases blood circulation and provides a fresh dose of oxygen and nutrients to your cells. The Heatbag can help relieve tension in the neck and shoulders or provide its warmth to the chest (think of it like a nice warm hug!) to induce the body’s relaxation response.
5. Go outside
Being in nature can reduce stress and the release of stress hormones as well as give you a mood boost. Take a walk, go for a hike, spend some time in your garden, or just simply sit in the sun — but try to spend some time in nature.
6. Practice positivity and optimism
Don’t underestimate the power of positive thinking! Positivity and optimism not only combat stress but are also essential for our mental health. Positivity leads to happiness, energy and a greater sense of calm. Be mindful of your self-talk and the conversations that go on in your head. Take things one day at a time. Don’t place too much emphasis on future worries. Focus on today.
Stress relief is different for everyone, and the right technique is the one that resonates with you most and that allows you to bring about the deepest feelings of relaxation. Try a few different ways to reduce stress from this list and see what works best. Once you do, try to incorporate the practice into your daily life. Regular practice of stress-relieving techniques will help you combat the negative effects of stress and anxiety, help you sleep better, boost your energy levels, and get you feeling like your best self so you can lead the healthiest, most fulfilled life possible.
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