The Wavelength

20 Quick And Easy Ways To Reduce Stress

When you experience stress, your adrenal glands release the stress hormone cortisol and your body goes into a state of alert, known as "fight or flight." This results in physiological changes like an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and rapid breathing.

When short-lived, it can boost alertness and performance, helping you get a task done. But, when stress lingers for days, weeks, or months, it can negatively impact your physical and mental health and well-being.

Using effective coping mechanisms to manage and reduce stress can have life-changing results. Here are 20 simple stress relief techniques you can use to help lower your cortisol levels, calm your heart rate, slow your breath, and boost your mood.

1. Take a deep breath

Arguably the easiest and quickest way to destress is to simply breathe. Deep breathing exercises activate your body's parasympathetic response, which triggers a state of relaxation.

The goal is to focus your awareness on your breath by consciously making your breath slower and deeper. Try this simple 3-step exercise:

  1. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your lungs fully expand
  2. Hold your breath for a few seconds
  3. Slowly exhale in a controlled manner

Repeat this a few times to calm your heart rate and mellow out your body and mind.

2. Go for a walk

Turns out, there's evidence to back the saying "walk it off." Similar to other types of physical activity, walking prompts the release of endorphins, which can boost your mood and promote a feeling of calm.

The best part is that you don't need to do a 60-minute power walk every day. Research shows that even brief, occasional walks can have beneficial effects.

3. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the act of becoming aware of how you are feeling in a given moment, without trying to interpret, judge, or change it.

Practices like meditation and yoga utilize breathwork and physical exercises to increase mind-body awareness and have been associated with less stress and anxiety and a better mood. Yoga, in particular, may even help manage cortisol levels.

4. Get a good sweat

Exercise lowers cortisol levels and stimulates the production of "feel good" hormones, known as endorphins. Endorphins are responsible for feelings of happiness and can elevate your mood after exercise.

Engaging in physical activity can improve mood, reduce stress, and may even have beneficial effects for people experiencing anxiety and depression.

Aim to incorporate 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine as part of your overall stress management strategy.

5. Get a good night's sleep

Sleep deprivation can negatively affect your mood, make you more irritable and lead to higher stress levels. The Sleep Foundation recommends getting between 7 and 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.

If you're having trouble falling and staying asleep, incorporate a wind-down routine and look for ways to improve sleep hygiene. A natural and effective sleep supplement can also be a game-changer for getting the quality, restorative sleep you need to wake up refreshed.

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6. Call a friend or family member

Research shows that social support can have both physical and emotional benefits for people going through a stressful event, and even reduce the level of distress. Conversely, lower levels of emotion-focused support are associated with stress, loneliness, and depressive symptoms.

If you're having a stressful day, calling a loved one may help you feel better.

7. Dance like no one's watching

Dancing is another type of physical activity that releases feel-good endorphins. It can serve as an outlet for emotional expression and research indicates it can increase life satisfaction. Moving your body can benefit your mental health, reduce stress, and support emotional resilience.

8. Eat the right foods

Many of your mood-regulating hormones and chemical messengers are produced by the beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut. Eating gut-friendly foods such as fruits and vegetables can nourish your gut microbiome and, in turn, support mood and mental wellbeing.

On the other hand, research suggests that people who consume diets high in ultra-processed foods are more likely to experience higher stress levels, depression, and anxiety.

Prioritize a healthy diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds to support your mental health and help you better cope with everyday stress.

9. Watch a movie

Netflix to chill? Watching comedies can help you de-stress by making you laugh, which reduces cortisol levels. Even movies that make you cry can help combat stress by regulating your heart rate and respiration rate.

Whenever you need a distraction from negative thoughts and anxiety, watching a movie can be an enjoyable way to support your mental health.

10. Get lost in a good book

Reading books, especially fiction, engages your mind and imagination. Reading can distract you from daily stressors and help your body relax by lowering your heart rate and inducing muscle relaxation.

One study suggests that reading may reduce stress by 68%! It also found that individuals who read for just six minutes had less muscle tension, a slower heart rate, and felt reduced stress levels.

11. Get a good laugh

It's no joke! The act of laughing has therapeutic benefits and induces positive changes in the body. It boosts endorphins, aids in muscle relaxation, and can help improve your mood. A good laugh can lighten your mental load and put the body in a state of relaxation, making you feel calmer.

12. Play with your furry friend

Good news: owning a pet might make us happier and calmer! Research indicates that dog owners tend to have less anxiety, stress, and loneliness, and may experience greater life satisfaction and self-esteem. Dogs provide companionship and keep you active, both of which can have beneficial effects on stress levels and mood.

Petting a dog may also boost brain activity associated with emotional interactions, making people more sociable and helping to alleviate the negative feelings associated with isolation.

13. Set work boundaries

Are you one of those people who compulsively checks your email, even after work hours? It may be time to set some boundaries. Some research indicates that people who check their inboxes less frequently experience less daily stress.

One good strategy is to schedule times for checking your email, and avoid checking it any time outside those times – especially before bedtime!

14. Learn how to say "no"

Putting too much on your plate can easily lead to stress and overwhelm. Whether it's work, your personal life, or both, you may often find yourself taking on more than you can handle. Learning how to say "no" to things that overpack your schedule can be a helpful stress-management skill.

It's important to remember that putting your mental health first isn't selfish. Be kind to yourself, respect your limits, and prevent avoidable stress by politely declining commitments when necessary.

15. Manage the caffeine

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and can increase alertness – which might be exactly what you want to get your day going. However, too much caffeine can make you feel jittery and increase anxiety and stress levels, not to mention affect your sleep quality.

Try cutting back, especially in the afternoon. A great alternative is to take a natural energy supplement that enhances energy and focus without making you feel jittery or anxious.

Unlike high-caffeine energy drinks, Blueshift Energy + Focus leverages the natural power of plants, aminos, and B-vitamins for fast-acting, long-lasting, low-caffeine energy that doesn't overwhelm your adrenals.

16. Don't skip meals

Have you ever been "hangry"? If so, you know that skipping meals can have a big effect on your mood.

When you skip meals, your blood sugar drops, which can make you feel fatigued and irritable. It also becomes more difficult to focus since your brain runs on glucose. Additionally, when your blood sugar drops, your body increases the production of cortisol, which can make you even more hangry – and stressed!

With a little bit of planning, you can easily avoid missing meals. The trick is to bring a healthy snack with you wherever you go. If hunger strikes, it can hold you over until you are able to eat a proper meal.

17. Start journaling

Journaling is a simple coping tactic that involves writing down your thoughts and feelings. Research has found journaling to help with stress management and is associated with fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Journaling may help you feel in control of your emotions, which can improve psychological well-being. It can help you identify stressors and recognize triggers so you can better manage stress in the future. It can also help you practice positive self-talk and reduce negative thoughts.

18. Go outdoors

Nature therapy, also known as ecotherapy, is the practice of being in nature and connecting with the earth to support mental health.

Evidence suggests that spending time in nature, such as parks and forests, can alleviate stress. Spending as little as 10 minutes in a natural setting can positively affect the psychological and physiological markers of mental health.

Next time you're feeling stressed, go for a hike, a walk in the park, or visit a botanical garden.

19. Get off your phone

Smartphones and computers have become an unavoidable part of everyday life. Although we may need these devices to perform work and communicate with one another, using them excessively can exacerbate stress and depression symptoms.

Several studies have found an association between excessive screen time and increased levels of stress and mental health disorders. Spending too much time on your phone can also increase anxiety levels and hinder your sleep quality.

Throughout the workday, try to take breaks from your computer and set screen time limits for your phone.

20. Take a daily stress-relieving supplement

Certain nutrients play a role in the body's mood regulation and stress response. Magnesium, for example, can block stimulating neurotransmitters in the brain and can therefore promote a relaxation response.

Research found that individuals with low magnesium levels are more susceptible to stress and supplementing with magnesium may help support a healthy stress response.

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Other supplements are uniquely formulated to help the body better cope with and manage stress. Blueshift Calm, for example, contains adaptogenic herbs, calming amino acids, and adrenal-supporting nutrients to help you unwind and relax.

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Key Takeaways

A little bit of stress is part of everyday life, but chronic stress can hinder your mental and physical health. Learning healthy coping skills to better manage stress can be extremely helpful for your overall well-being. Incorporating a few of these simple yet effective stress-management techniques into your everyday life can make all the difference. You might find that you become better at navigating difficult situations and feel happier, healthier, and more in control of your emotions.