It is common for many people to experience anxiety or stress at one point or another in their lives. In accordance with the American Psychological Association, millions of adults suffer from stress or anxiety on a daily basis.
Stress is often associated with daily life issues such as work, family responsibilities, health concerns, and financial obligations.
Moreover, factors such as genetics, the level of emotional support a person receives, the style of coping a person uses, as well as their personality type all influence a person’s vulnerability to stress, thus some people are more susceptible to stress than others.
Further, research shows that parents, people in professions such as healthcare and social work, people of color, as well as LGBTQIA+ people, are more likely to suffer from high levels of stress.
Minimizing the chronic stress of daily life as much as possible is important for overall health. Specifically, chronic stress is harmful to our health because it increases our risk of a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, anxiety disorders, and depression.
Moreover, it is extremely important that you understand that stress is not the same as mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression, which are conditions requiring medical attention. It should be noted that even though the suggestions below may relieve many types of stress, they may not help people with these medical conditions.
Here are 16 ways to relieve stress and anxiety using evidence-based methods.
1.Get more physical activity
The benefits of moving your body on a consistent basis may assist you when you’re feeling stressed.
A 6-week study in 185 university students found that participating in aerobic exercise 2 days per week significantly reduced overall perceived stress and perceived stress due to uncertainty. Exercise also significantly improved self-reported depression, according to the study.
Studies have shown that engaging in physical activity can significantly reduce stress levels and improve mood, as opposed to sedentary behavior, which may lead to increased stress levels, mood disorders, and sleep disturbances.
In addition, regular exercise has also been shown to help improve the symptoms of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression that are very common.
Starting with gentle activities such as walking or bicycling is the best way to get into shape if you are currently inactive. A hobby or activity that you enjoy is likely to increase your likelihood of sticking to it for a longer period of time.
2. Follow a healthy diet
You are affected by your diet in every aspect of your health, even when it comes to your mental health.
According to studies conducted by the National Institute of Health, people who consume a diet high in ultra-processed foods and added sugar are likely to experience greater levels of perceived stress.
In addition to these shortcomings, chronic stress may also lead to overeating and a desire to reach for highly palatable foods, which may negatively impact your overall health and mood.
Plus, not eating enough nutrient-dense whole foods may increase your risk of deficiencies in nutrients that are essential for regulating stress and mood, such as magnesium and B vitaminsTrusted Source.
In order to properly nourish your body, it is very important to limit the amount of highly processed foods and beverages that you consume and eat more whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, fish, nuts, and seeds. In turn, this could help you to be more resilient to stress as a result.
3. Minimize phone use and screen time
People all over the world are depending on smartphones, computers, and tablets as an essential part of their daily lives.
Using these devices too often may increase the level of stress, even though they are often necessary.
In the last few years, researchers have examined the relationship between excessive smartphone use and “iPhone addiction” with increased stress levels and mental health disorders.
It is well known that a lot of time spent in front of screen in general is associated with lower psychological well-being and increased levels of stress, which is true for both adults as well as children.
Additionally, prolonged exposure to the screens can lead to a decrease in sleep quality, which in turn can result in greater stress levels.
4. Consider supplements
A variety of vitamins and minerals play an important role in your body’s stress response and mood regulation. Consequently, a deficiency in one or more nutrients may have an adverse effect on your mental health and ability to cope with stressful situations.
In addition to this, some studies have shown that certain dietary supplements may help reduce stress and enhance mood.
As an example, your magnesium levels may become depleted when you are chronically stressed out.
Minerals such as calcium and magnesium play an important role in the body’s response to stress, and because of this it is important to make sure you get enough of both on a daily basis. It has been shown that supplementing with magnesium can reduce chronic stress in individuals suffering from chronic stress.
In an eight-week study involving 264 people with low magnesium levels, researchers concluded that taking 300 milligrams of this mineral daily was helpful in reducing stress levels. Taking magnesium and vitamin B6 together was even more effective in reducing stress levels.
Furthermore, there are a variety of supplements, such as rhodiola, ashwagandha, B vitamins, and L-theanine, which have also been shown to help reduce stress.
In spite of this, dietary supplements may not be appropriate or safe for all people. For those who are interested in using supplements to relieve stress, they should consult with a healthcare professional.
5. Practice self-care
It may be helpful to take time out of your busy schedule to practice self-care on a regular basis. Here are some examples to get you started:
- going for a walk outside
- taking a bath
- lighting candles
- reading a good book
- preparing a healthy meal
- stretching before bed
- getting a massage
- practicing a hobby
- using a diffuser with calming scents
- practicing yoga
Studies have shown that people who engage in self-care report lower levels of stress and improved quality of life, while a lack of self-care is associated with an increased risk of stress and burnout.
In order to live a fulfilling and healthy life, it is essential to take time for yourself. It is especially important for people who have a tendency to experience high levels of stress, such as nurses, doctors, teachers, and caretakers.
It is not necessary for self-care to be elaborate or complicated. It simply means to take care of your well-being and happiness.
Certain scents, such as those found in candles and essential oils, have been shown to be particularly soothing. To get started, here are a few suggestions:
- Roman chamomile
- orange or orange blossom
Aromatherapy is the practice of using scents to improve your mood. A number of studies have suggested that aromatherapy can reduce anxiety and improve sleep.
6. Reduce your caffeine intake
Caffeine is a chemical that is found naturally in coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks that stimulates the central nervous system.
Anxiety symptoms may worsen and increase if you consume too much caffeine.
Additionally, overconsumption can interfere with your sleep quality if you do it too often. This, in turn, may result in an increase in stress and anxiety symptoms.
Every individual has a different threshold for how much caffeine they can tolerate. Consider cutting back on caffeine if you notice that drinking coffee or energy drinks makes you jittery or anxious. Instead, you can drink decaffeinated herbal tea or water instead.
Even though many studies have shown that coffee is healthy in moderation, it is recommended to keep caffeine intake under 400 mg per day, which equates to 4–5 cups (0.9–1.2 L) of coffee per day.
Nevertheless, people who are sensitive to caffeine may experience heightened anxiety or stress after consuming much less caffeine than this, so it’s important to consider how sensitive you are to caffeine.
7. Spend time with friends and family
It may be helpful to get social support from your friends and family to help you cope with stressful times.
A study conducted on 163 Latinx young adults in college found lower levels of support from friends, family, and romantic partners to be associated with loneliness, depressive symptoms, and perceived stress.
For one’s overall mental health, it is essential to have a social support system. There are social support groups that may be able to help you if you are feeling alone and don’t have family or friends to turn to for support. Consider joining a sports team or joining a club that you are passionate about, or volunteering for a cause that you care about.
8. Create boundaries and learn to say no
It is true that not all stressors are within your control, but there are some that are. Putting too much on your plate will increase your stress load and limit the amount of time that you can spend on yourself.
If you are in control of your personal life, you can reduce your stress levels and protect your mental health.
To achieve this, it may be necessary for you to say “no” to things more often. The rule applies especially if you find yourself taking on more than you are capable of handling, since juggling many responsibilities may leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
In order to reduce your stress levels, you should be selective about what you take on – and say no to things that will unnecessarily add to your workload.
As well as that, setting boundaries – especially with people who add to your stress levels – can be a healthy way to safeguard your well-being. You may be able to achieve this by asking a friend or family member not to drop by unannounced or by canceling standing plans with a friend who often causes drama.
9. Learn to avoid procrastination
Staying on top of your priorities and avoiding procrastination are two ways by which you can effectively control your stress levels.
Taking the time to procrastinate can have a detrimental effect on your productivity and leave you scrambling to catch up. This can lead to stressful situations which negatively affect your health and sleep quality.
Researchers in China found that procrastination led to a higher level of stress in 140 medical students. The study also found that procrastination and delayed stress reactions were associated with more negative parenting styles, such as punishment and rejection.
It may be helpful if you make a habit of making a to-do list organized by priority if you are prone to procrastinating on a regular basis. Make a list of all the tasks that need to be done and work your way through the list.
You should concentrate on the things that need to be accomplished today and make sure you give yourself chunks of uninterrupted time. Multitasking and switching from one task to another can be stressful in and of themselves.
10. Take a yoga class
In recent years, yoga has become a popular method of stress management and exercise for people of all ages.
The yoga styles differ, however, most share a common goal – to increase body and breath awareness by bringing your body and mind together.
Several studies have shown that yoga can help reduce stress as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression. On top of that, yoga can also promote psychological well-being.
There seems to be a connection between these benefits and the way it affects your nervous system and your stress response.
Yoga may help to lower cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate as well as increase levels of gamma aminobutyric acid, which is a neurotransmitter that is low in people with mood disorders.
11. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a concept that describes practices that anchor you to the present moment.
There are a number of stress reduction techniques that use mindfulness, including meditation and mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which is a kind of cognitive behavioral therapy.
The benefits of practicing meditation regularly, even for short periods, can help boost your mood, decrease the symptoms of stress and anxiety and allow you to live a more balanced life.
Many books, apps, and websites can teach you the basics of meditation, so if you’re interested in trying it out, you don’t have to worry. If there is a therapist in your area who specializes in MBCT, we recommend you consider contacting them.
In addition to having a calming effect, human touch can also help you cope better with stress.
For example, research shows that when someone is experiencing stress and loneliness, positive contact and sex can help reduce that stress and loneliness.
There is evidence to suggest that these types of contact may reduce cortisol levels and release oxytocin. The effects of these substances on the body can reduce blood pressure and heart rate. It is a physically proven fact that that elevated blood pressure and a faster heart rate are both physical symptoms of stress.
It’s interesting to note that humans aren’t the only animals who cuddle to relieve stress. Chimpanzees also cuddle their stressed friends to ease their stress.
13. Spend time in nature
By spending more time outside you can help reduce the level of stress in your life.
In studies, it has been shown that spending time in green spaces such as parks and forests and being immersed in nature are healthy ways to cope with stress.
In a review of 14 studies, it was found that spending as little as 10 minutes in a natural setting may be enough to improve psychological and physiological markers of mental well-being in college-aged persons, such as perceived stress and happiness.
Although hiking and camping are great options, some people might not enjoy – or have access to – these activities. Although you may live in an urban area, you can try to find green spaces in the form of local parks, arboretums, and botanical gardens.
14. Practice deep breathing
As a result of mental stress, your sympathetic nervous system is activated, sending your body into fight-or-flight mode.
During this reaction, stress hormones are released into the body, triggering physical symptoms such as a faster heart rate, quicker breathing, and constricted blood vessels.
Deep breathing exercises may help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for controlling your relaxation response.
It is important to follow a deep breathing routine that includes diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, and paced breathing.
Deep breathing is a technique that entails focusing your attention on your breathing, allowing it to be slower and deeper. When you breathe deeply through your nose, your lungs fully expand, and your belly rises as well. The slowing of your heart rate as a result of this action makes you feel more relaxed.
15. Spend time with your pet
You may be able to reduce stress and improve your mood if you have a pet.
As soon as you cuddle or touch your pet, your body releases oxytocin, which is a hormone that is linked to a good mood.
Further, studies have shown that pet owners – especially dog owners – tend to be more satisfied in life, have better self-esteem, experience fewer feelings of loneliness and anxiety, and have a more positive outlook on life.
Having a pet may also help relieve stress by giving you a sense of purpose, by keeping you active, and by providing companionship.
16. Smoke Cannabis
As far as inhaling cannabis for stress and anxiety is concerned, a study by Washington State University (WSU) suggests that cannabis can be particularly effective in the short-term in dosages of one milligram or less per kilogram.
In a study conducted by the West Virginia State University research team, the team found that a puff of cannabis high in CBD and low in THC reduces the symptoms of depression in the best possible way, two puffs of any type of cannabis can reduce anxiety, and 10 or more puffs of cannabis high in CBD and high in THC can lessen stress symptoms the best.
The bottom line
Being chronically stressed has a negative impact on your physical and mental health, even though stress is an inescapable part of life.
However, several evidence-based strategies are available that can assist you in reducing stress and improving your psychological well-being.
There are many effective ways to increase happiness, such as exercise, mindfulness, spending time with a pet, reducing screen time, and visiting the outdoors more often.
Even though there are many ways to reduce stress on your own, it’s important to get the right kind of help when you need it.
If you’re experiencing overwhelming stress, how do you know you need help with your mental health? If you are experiencing anxiety or depression, you should speak with a therapist or health care professional about how you can improve your mental health.