Stress is a universal experience. But the ways we choose to process, manage, and relieve it? Well, there are as many different techniques as there are people on the planet!
If you’re like most people, the more options for stress relief, the better. Beyond the classic remedies of meditation, exercise, and quality sleep, there are so many ways we can actively reduce excessive stress each day.
So, let’s explore a few of these lesser-known, yet still science-backed ways we can create a little more calm in our days.
10 Unusual and Surprising Stress Busters (Backed by Research!)
While doing chores and cleaning the house might not be everyone’s favorite stress relief exercise, research proves that it does help to keep stress levels down. But, it’s not enough to just do the chore. We have to be mindful while completing the task.
A study from Florida State University showed that students who did a mundane task like washing dishes in a mindful, intentional way had a 27% decrease in nervousness and a 25% increase in motivation.
So, why not try this experiment yourself? Take on a simple, repetitive task like washing the dishes but do every step intentionally. Smell the soap, feel the warmth of the water. Or, try weeding the garden, organizing your closet, or any other household to-do and feel the stress melt away (all while enjoying the benefits of your hard work!).
Cuddle a loved one.
Touch is a powerful therapy, making us feel calm, loved, and safe. Studies show that hugging, kissing, cuddling, or holding hands with a loved one can release endorphins and feel-good hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. These hormones help to balance cortisol and keep our stress levels down.
Aside from the biochemical reasons touch makes us feel good, cuddling can also improve our mental and emotional states simply by making us feel more connected to another human being. Touch helps us deepen our relationships (a major factor in many longevity studies) and helps us realize what’s really important in life.
Make time for a massage.
It’s no surprise that getting a massage is a relaxing way to practice self-care. But the benefits of this therapy are more than skin-deep. Massage therapy has been proven to reduce stress hormones, increase feel-good hormones, and improve the body’s immune system.
Stay on top of your stress by scheduling a massage therapy appointment before and/or after times where you expect your stress levels to be high (such as before major exams, a particularly busy month of the year, or in winter when stress and depression levels tend to rise).
Tip: How to Relieve Stress Quickly
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Take up a crafty hobby.
Is a busy mind the root of your stress? Quiet your thoughts with a crafty hobby. Repetitive crafts like knitting or crochet are particularly helpful in lulling the mind and body into a relaxed state, similar to meditation.
Learning these skills can be a more stimulating activity, but once you’re comfortable with the method it can help lower heart rate, reduce high blood pressure levels, and reduce cortisol levels. Beyond stress relief, crafts can help reduce depression, offer an outlet for creativity, and potentially ward off cognitive diseases of aging like dementia.
Knitting or crocheting not your thing? Try one of these other stress-relieving crafts.
Take five, outside.
Being in nature is as primal a stress relief technique as it comes. There is something truly calming about stepping away from the modern world and connecting with the outdoors.
Research shows that there’s more to spending time outside than just a feeling. Studies show that being in natural environments like green spaces or forests can lower blood pressure and drop cortisol levels.
Can’t make it outside? While physically being immersed in the outdoors (and taking in the fresh air, smells, and sounds) is the best way to enjoy the stress relief benefits of nature, you can still find relaxation by looking out your window or going on a virtual walk through the woods.
Perfect your posture.
Pause for a moment and check your posture. If you’re like most people who spend hours per day on their computers or phones, it’s likely that your head is down or jutted forward, your back is curved, and your shoulders are slouched.
Science shows that our posture can determine how we feel at any given moment. Slouching leads to reduced self-esteem and mood, while sitting up straight or standing tall can boost our confidence, improve our brain function, boost productivity, and even make us more resilient to stress.
Now, take a deep breath in and sit up straight!
Watch something simple and soothing.
A quick and easy way to quickly relieve stress is to watch something incredibly simple, slow, and soothing. Studies find that simple pastimes like watching fish swimming in an aquarium, a candle flame flickering on your table, or people-watching outside your window can reduce stress and calm anxiety.
Sleep under a weighted blanket.
Weighted blankets are quickly becoming a popular trend in our overstressed society and for good reason. Studies confirm that deep touch pressure, the method behind weight blankets, is an effective way to shift the body out of stress and into “rest and digest” mode. Under the gentle weight, the body’s muscles relax and the mind becomes quiet. Studies also show that weighted blankets help to reduce anxiety and insomnia.
Lend a hand.
No matter how stressed we get, we can always lend a helping hand – and it might just be the best thing we could do to ease our stress. Helping others has been shown to increase our sense of purpose and well-being, which effectively lowers cortisol levels and keeps stress at bay. No need for grand gestures (although they’re always appreciated) – even small helpful actions like opening the door for someone can do the trick.
Give what you can, when you can.
Giving often makes us feel good – but can it actually improve our physical health and reduce stress? As it turns out, just like helping others, giving to those in need also gives the mind and body a boost.
To find out, researchers measured blood pressure levels on two groups of people: one who spent extra money on others and one that spent extra money on themselves. Blood pressure levels stayed in healthier ranges in the group that gave, which points to physical evidence of stress relief in action.
Giving is an amazing habit to take on, but giving too much or feeling obligated when you times are tough can cause stress. So, give what you feel comfortable with (in time, money, or service) and when you feel comfortable to do so. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – giving should feel good!
Build Your Stress Relief Toolbox
We’re always looking for new and different ways to make stress relief part of our everyday lives. With these simple (and science-approved!) exercises, a moment of peace is never too far away. Share with us – what is a unique habit that helps you feel calm?