These days, instant stress-relief is a welcome opportunity.
That’s why stress busters are a great option to have in your back pocket to use anytime.
With more cases of anxiety popping up in the general population, along with other pressing stressful events, having a healthy way to cope with stress can reduce blood pressure, ease nerves and evoke calmness.
Stress is associated with a variety of unpleasant potential health conditions like anxiety, depression, fatigue, heart disease, and more. Because of this, it’s helpful to have several stress busters you can use any time you feel stress building up.
Here’s a look at 17 ways to knock stress down, plus 17 correlating challenges to help you mellow out!
1. Eat Dark Chocolate
Now you have an excellent excuse to eat chocolate! If you need to chew out some stress, you might as well do it with delicious chocolate. Just an ounce of dark chocolate may provide stress-reducing benefits, along with a punch of fiber and antioxidants. Plus, researchers claim dark chocolate consumption can change your brainwave frequency to provide benefits in memory improvement.
Stress Buster Challenge: Try some dark chocolate this week to see if you feel any more relaxed!
2. Use Your Sense of Touch
When overwhelming thoughts loom, get yourself back to the here and now as quickly as possible. One way to do that is to focus on an object in your hand. It can be as simple as holding a smooth pebble, counting a rosary, molding play dough, or another small item that can be held in the palm of your hand. Doing so can help you feel grounded and come back to the moment.
Stress Buster Challenge: In a moment of stress, have an item you can hold in your palm while you take deep, calming breaths.
Track your emotions and let go of stress by writing it all down. Research shows that journaling is an effective way to tackle and prioritize any fears, conflicts, problems, or concerns you’re facing. If you’re a daily journaling type, you can track triggers and ways to control your response to those triggers. It also offers a chance to focus on a particular worry or thought, making you less likely to go down a spiral of anxious thoughts and concerns when you’re working through just one on paper.
Stress Buster Challenge: Buy yourself a journal this week and commit to writing in it once per week.
4. Explore Autoregulation Exercises
This type of exercise includes a group of techniques meant to replace stress with peace. Like regular exercise, several options are available to try. It includes using the mind to relax the body since both can be impacted by stress. Autoregulation exercises include deep breathing and meditation. It also includes progressive muscle relaxation, where you tighten muscles for about 20 seconds before relaxing.
Stress Buster Challenge: Explore deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation once this week.
5. Look at Life With Gratitude
It’s hard to feel positive about life if you can’t seem to find anything happy to be grateful about. Luckily, most of us can think of at least a few things we’re thankful for in life. Throughout your day, take stock of what’s abundant in your life or that simply brings you happiness. You can write it down or just pause and reflect. It can be anything from enjoying a good cup of coffee to having a laugh with a friend. Gratitude reflections help shift your mindset and can make you feel overall more optimistic.
Stress Buster Challenge: Check out our free download: Your Guide to Cultivating Gratitude in the Workplace !
6. Wash Dishes
Throughout the day, there are many moments that make it easy to take pause. These are the minutes that can be easily filled with distracted thinking and overwhelming stress. Instead, take simple activities — like washing dishes — as an opportunity to focus on mindfulness. One small study of college students found that those who mindfully washed dishes lowered nervousness levels by 27% and inspiration levels by 25%. Even life’s most boring activities can be turned into a moment of peace.
Stress Buster Challenge: Next time you wash your dishes, enjoy the smell of the clean soap, the warm water running over your skin, and the moment you have to yourself to create a sense of calm.
Our five senses are a powerful way to take in the world around us. In the garden, you can use all of those senses in a way that’s relaxing. You can hear the wind rustling the leaves, bees buzzing. You can taste fresh herbs. You can see the bright contrast of different plants. You can feel soil on your hands. You can smell the scent of herbs, flowers, and soil. Being in the outdoors is also relaxing and when you’re gardening and physically moving your body has its benefits, too. Getting your hands in the soil can also make you feel happy, thanks to dirt microbes that may be responsible for boosting serotonin levels.
Stress Buster Challenge: Buy yourself a few potted plants or plan to garden on the next sunny day.
Sometimes, just going back to the basics is all we need to bust stress. Getting adequate sleep, eating well, and moving the body often all count as “the basics.” You might also consider a vacation or mental health day as a way to reset your mind and body. This can be particularly helpful after a stressful situation like the death of a loved one or a serious illness. Physically and mentally taking the time to discharge is important to do on a regular basis.
Stress Buster Challenge: See how you can build some recharging time into your week and write it down.
9. Admire a Desk Plant
If you can’t physically go out and be in nature, staring at nature may be just as beneficial, researchers say. The effects of certain indoor plants impacting air quality have been studied often, but now studies show an intentional look at nature can have a stress-reducing impact. Take a three-minute nature break to look at your favorite potted plant in your office for an almost immediate Zen feeling.
Stress Buster Challenge: Purchase a desk plant for your office or home and admire it daily!
10. Get a Massage
The power of touch can be incredibly stress-relieving. If you’ve ever gotten a professional massage, you’ve likely felt the stress seemingly melt away. Massage has been proven to reduce stress symptoms on both a physical and psychological level, making it a perfect stress buster to work into your self-care routine on a regular basis. Trigger point therapy, for example, has been shown to decrease heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure. It doesn’t have to be a professional massage, either. A loved one can rub your sore muscles with positive effects, too.
Stress Buster Challenge: Schedule a massage for yourself or set aside time for your partner to give you one. Don’t forget to return the favor!
11. Sniff a Favorite Scent
Scents have the power to bring us back to happy moments. Aromatherapy, in particular, is known for its ability to reduce stressful emotions. Clary sage, chamomile, and lavender are essential oils used often for their powerful relaxing effects when inhaled. Consider mixing these with a carrier oil like jojoba oil and rubbing the scent on your wrist to sniff when stress hits.
Stress Buster Challenge: Diffuse your favorite calming scents in an essential oil diffuser to fill a room.
12. Enjoy Nature
Being outdoors is a great way to revive your energy levels while taking stress levels down a notch. Researchers have found that all it takes is 20 minutes in nature to minimize stress. The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, followed participants for two months as they enjoyed 10 minutes or more of outdoor time at least three times a week. Whether just sitting or walking in nature, the time outdoors also lowers heart rates, creating a calmer feeling.
Stress Buster Challenge: Get outdoors for at least 20 minutes every day this week.
13. Create Art
When was the last time you set aside time to create? If the arts are appealing to you, consider making it a weekly habit to craft or do an artsy activity. Whether you like to doodle, paint, knit, or scrapbook, art projects are a simple way to reduce stress quickly. One study found 75% of participants creating art had reduced cortisol (stress) hormones after 45 minutes of creating. There was no correlation between past art experiences and the reduction of cortisol, either.
Stress Buster Challenge: Pick up a simple craft to try this weekend.
Reading is a great way to escape the current moment and unwind in a quiet, focused manner. When you read, it can relax the body by reducing muscle tension and lowering the heart rate. The University of Sussex found reading can lower stress by as much as 68% for some people!
Stress Buster Challenge: Head to the library or bookstore to pick up a new read! Or download a new one.
15. Explore a Stress Management App
If you haven’t explored the plethora of mental health apps, you may be missing out on an opportunity to have a perfect stress reliever right at your fingertips. Mental health apps in particular can be helpful when it comes to stress management. Beating the Blues, Happify, and MoodMission all focus on mood and dealing with the stress that comes with anxiety or depression.
Stress Buster Challenge: Download and use a stress management app for the next month.
16. Work on a Challenge
Sometimes, the brain needs a good distraction. Whether you’re dealing with overwhelming health news, caring for a loved one, or tackling job stress, a little distraction goes a long way. Think of various ways you can challenge yourself to put your focus on anything but your stress. Organizing a closet, working on a crossword puzzle, or creating something new can distract the brain in a healthy way and help you de-stress.
Stress Buster Challenge: Pick one challenge you’d like to tackle this month that you know you’ll feel better about tackling once it’s all said and done!
17. Turn on Music
As you have likely noticed, listening to your favorite music is bound to put you in a good mood. Science shows that the body reacts to music in a positive way, too, due to its impact on emotions. Interesting research shows that “around 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat causing alpha brain waves,” according to the University of Nevada, Reno. It’s these brain waves that appear when we are relaxed and conscious. Stanford University researchers also have found that music may change brain functioning similarly to medication.
Stress Buster Challenge: Go on, turn up the beat and sing at the top of your lungs in the car.
Knockout Stress Often For a Healthy, Balanced Life
Stress can lead to feeling fatigued, worn out, and irritable.
If you feel exhausted 24/7, finding effective stress management techniques may be helpful. Alongside that, speaking with your doctor about other potential health conditions can clear your mind knowing you have a good clean bill of health — meaning one less thing to stress about!
Stress management helps you feel more in control of your life as you’ll feel happier and healthier. It can also increase your productivity levels when you’re not so exhausted all the time, too. Balance in life is key and learning how to tackle stress can help you achieve that rather quickly. Employees who can still operate under manageable stress are often less likely to burn out and keep a healthy work-life balance, too. Plus, it means fewer days off of work and a better, more relaxed lifestyle when you’re not working.
How do you keep stress away? What are some of your favorite stress-relief techniques? Share in the comments below!