10 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety

January 19, 2018

10 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are common experiences for most people.

In fact, 70% of adults in the US say they feel stress or anxiety daily.

Here are 16 simple ways to relieve stress and anxiety.

1. Exercise

Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress.

It might seem contradictory, but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can help relieve mental stress.

And the benefits are strongest when you exercise regularly. People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety than those who don't exercise.

There are a few reasons behind this:

  • Stress hormones: Exercise lowers your body's stress hormones in the long run, such as cortisol. It also helps release endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers.
  • Sleep: Exercise can also improve your sleep quality, which can be negatively affected by stress and anxiety.
  • Confidence: When you exercise regularly, you may feel more competent and confident in your body, which in turn promotes mental well-being.

Try to find an activity you enjoy, such as walking, dancing, rock climbing or yoga.

Activities that use repetitive movements of large muscle groups, such as walking or jogging, can be particularly stress relieving.

2. Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks. High doses can increase anxiety.

People have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate.

If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back.

3. Write It Down

One way to handle stress is to write things down.

While writing down what you're stressed about is one approach, another is writing down what you're grateful for.

Gratitude may help relieve stress and anxiety by focusing your thoughts on what's positive in your life.

4. Laugh

It's hard to feel anxious when you're laughing. It's good for your health, and there are a few ways it may help relieve stress:

  • Brings more oxygen into your body and organs.
  • Stimulates and relieves your stress response.
  • Relieves tension by relaxing your muscles.

In the long term, laughter can also help improve your immune system and mood.

A study among people with cancer found that people in the laughter intervention group experienced more stress relief than those who were simply distracted.

Watch a funny TV show, hang out with friends who make you laugh and even find humor in your troubles.

5. Learn to Say No

Not all stressors are within your control, but some are.

Take control over the parts of your life that you can change and are causing you stress.

One way to do this may be to say "no" more often.

This is especially true if you find yourself taking on more than you can handle, as juggling many responsibilities can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

Being selective about what you take on — and saying no to what will unnecessarily add to your load — can be a good start to controlling your stress levels.

6. Take a Yoga Class

Yoga has become a popular method of stress relief and exercise among all age groups.

While yoga styles differ, most share a common goal — to join your body and mind.

Yoga primarily does this by increasing body and breath awareness.

Some studies have looked at yoga's effect on mental health. Overall, they have found that yoga can enhance mood and may even be as effective as antidepressant drugs at treating depression and anxiety.

However, many of these studies have been limited, and there are still questions about how yoga works to achieve stress reduction.

In general, the benefit of yoga for stress and anxiety seems to be related to its effect on the nervous system and stress response.

It may help lower cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate and increase gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that is lowered in mood disorders.

7. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness describes practices that anchor you to the present moment.

It can help combat the anxiety-inducing effects of negative thinking.

There are several methods for increasing mindfulness, including mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga and meditation.

A recent study in college students suggested that mindfulness may help increase self-esteem, which in turn lessens symptoms of anxiety and depression.

8. Deep Breathing

Mental stress activates your sympathetic nervous system, signaling your body to go into "fight-or-flight" mode.

During this reaction, stress hormones are released and you experience the physical symptoms of stress — your heart beats faster, you breathe quicker and your blood vessels constrict.

Deep breathing exercises can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation response.

There are several types of deep breathing exercises, including diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing and paced respiration.

The goal of deep breathing is to focus your awareness on your breath, making it slower and deeper. When you breathe in deeply through your nose, your lungs fully expand and your belly rises.

This helps your heart rate slow down, allowing you to feel more peaceful.

9. Spend Time with Your Pet

Having a pet may help reduce stress and improve your mood.

According to one study, dog owners reported lower levels of stress than non-dog owners.

Interacting with pets may help release oxytocin, a brain chemical that promotes a positive mood.

Having a pet may also help relieve stress by giving you purpose, keeping you active and providing companionship — all qualities that help reduce anxiety.

10. Drink Anxiety Tea

Stress is a killer! Use this tea blend to relax your nervous system and ease your mind. The ingredients include:

  • Lemon balm: Lemon balm is a member of the mint family that has been studied for its anti-anxiety effects.
  • Valerian: Valerian root is a popular sleep aid due to its tranquilizing effect. It contains valerenic acid, which alters GABA receptors to lower anxiety.
  • Kava-kava: Kava-kava is a psychoactive member of the pepper family. It has long been used as a sedative in the South Pacific and is increasingly used in Europe and the US to treat mild stress and anxiety.