Do you struggle with stress?
If so, you’re not alone.
A recent survey found 80% of Americans feel stress at work, with 1/3 of those saying the stress is severe. In addition, over 70% admit that extreme stress affects their physical and mental health.
Avery Morgan, Chief Communications Officer at EduBirdie, isn’t surprised. “The human stress response really boils down to two choices: fight or flee. This doesn’t always work well with modern-day stressors — we can’t fight our workload or flee our student debt, so we opt for a third option: we pretend everything is fine and hope it will pass.”
Unfortunately, says Morgan, it doesn’t. “We can only ignore the feelings of stress for so long before it leaves us feeling empty, helpless, and numb. Then, the stress hormones pile up and, before you know it, you’re mentally exhausted and breaking down over the slightest of inconveniences.”
While long-term solutions like therapy have merit, having more immediate strategies to deal with stress is also helpful. Not surprisingly, Google searches for “10-minute stress relief” have risen by +200% in the US.
Here are five simple yet powerful practices to banish stress quickly:
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1. Take a deep breath
When you feel stress creeping in, take a beat to slow down and focus on your breathing. Find a comfortable place to sit, slowly inhale through your nose, and exhale your breath through your mouth. Repeat this action several times, letting go of any tension with each exhalation, and you’ll instantly feel calmer.
2. Swap your HIIT class for a walk
While getting your sweat on can challenge you physically, your intense workout can also increase the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which is counterproductive for stress relief. So instead, opt for a gentler, mind-clearing exercise like yoga or walking to reduce stress and calm your anxiety.
3. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
When we’re stressed or anxious, our muscles tend to tense up, so if we can relax our bodies, we can also relax our minds. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique that involves tensing and releasing muscles in a specific order to reduce tension and stress. Start with your feet and work up to the head, tensing each muscle group for five to ten seconds before releasing. The relaxation response slows breathing, reduces blood pressure, and lowers heart rate, helping your feel calm. Better yet? It only takes about ten minutes.
4. Wear a smile
One of the surprising benefits of smiling is that it literally affects you at a biological level. Smiling—even when you don’t feel like it—instantly activates your brain to release feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin, which improve your mood. Smiling is also a free, drug-free way to relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and boost your immune system. And when we feel good, we worry less, gain a new perspective, and tend to be more productive.
5. Visualize peace and be grateful
Feeling stressed? Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a peaceful, happy place. Take note of the sights, sounds, and smells, and allow yourself to become fully immersed in the experience. Science suggests that visualizing a relaxing environment enables the body to respond as if it were there, producing hormones that promote relaxation and reduce stress. Want to feel even better? Practice gratitude regularly through reflection, journaling, or sharing your thoughts with a friend, which research shows produces a greater sense of well-being.
Though we can never eliminate stress completely, regularly employing these five strategies will alleviate it in the moment and help you feel calmer.