Stress is a normal physical and mental reaction to pressure that affects many people. It’s a part of life, but in some cases, it can accumulate — resulting in persistent tension and anxiety.
Fortunately, there are many simple, relaxing activities that can help reduce the impact of stressful situations. Try any or all of these activities to relax the next time you feel stressed.
Realize that stress is a totally normal and natural reaction to certain external causes. Your body is trained to feel stress as part of the fight-or-flight response. The body creates physical and mental responses to pressure, allowing you to react in new situations. This practical response to changes can keep you motivated and alert — so you can solve problems and overcome challenges.1
Unwanted Effects Of Stress
Your body produces hormones when stressed. Continued activation of the stress response chemicals can accumulate in the body. This built-up stress and anxiety can have a variety of negative effects on the mind, body, and health.2 Common signs of stress can include:
- Muscle tension and soreness
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Stomach and intestinal discomfort
- Sleep disruptions and fatigue3
Potential Health Benefits Of Relaxing Activities
Everyday stress can be tough to avoid. Fortunately, there are many stress reduction techniques that can help you unwind. Try out a few of these activities to relax the next time you feel overwhelmed or stressed.
Some simple breathing exercises can do wonders for your stress levels. Research shows that practiced, deep breaths can help support mental health by increasing comfort and relaxation.4
Instructions For Relaxing Belly Breathing
- Sit in a comfortable position, and breathe in through your nose so that your breath flows and fills your belly comfortably.
- Without pausing, exhale through your mouth.
- Count slowly to five on your in and out breaths. Don’t worry if you can reach five, just do your best.
- Breathe in again to repeat. Try to maintain concentrated breaths for 3-5 minutes to start.5
Read A Book
Reading can be an easy and enjoyable way to support stress relief. An engaging book can distract you from the daily anxieties and help promote relaxation. One study found that reading reduced stress by nearly 70% in participants.6
Try to read something you enjoy, whether it’s a book for adults or even a comic book. Any book will do — as long as it allows your mind to wander and imagine.
Body Scan Meditation
Relaxation practices, like meditation, may feel intimidating or strange to newcomers. But, meditation isn’t complicated or difficult. It’s the simple practice of returning your mind to the present by ignoring distractions. This can be achieved easily with breathing techniques or specific practices, like a body scan meditation.7
Research shows that meditation can help create a feeling of positive energy in your body.8
Enjoy some of the restorative effects with this simple body scan meditation.
Body Scan Meditation Instructions
- Lie down in a comfortable position. Breathe in and out slowly to bring awareness to your breathing.
- Move your focus to a specific part of the body — like your feet or back.
- Explore the sensations — tingling, pressure, tightness — that you experience in this specific part of the body.
- Move to a different part of the body and explore your focus.
- It is natural for your mind to wander during the exercise. If this happens, gently return your attention to your body.
- Over time, you’ll be able to extend your exploration and mindfulness meditation by several minutes.9
Play A Game
Games are a fun and expressive way to work through stressful times. Brain games or a collection of puzzle games offer your mind an opportunity to take a mental break. Studies show that this distraction may help promote relaxation. Try a game of cards or one of your favorite board games for some quality, relaxing entertainment.10
Take A Yoga Class
A yoga class can do wonders for your peace of mind. Even a few minutes of basic stretching and focused breathing can help you unwind. There are many simple poses and stretches that allow beginners to enjoy the relaxing benefits of yoga.11
Yoga can also do more than impart a deep sense of peace. Studies show that a regular yoga practice may help support:
- Muscle strength and flexibility
- Heart and cardiovascular health
- Better mood
- Better quality sleep and an overall sense of well-being12
Listen To Music
If you listen to music, then you already have relaxation techniques in place. And that’s great, because listening to music can have wonderful effects on your mood. Your favorite music may help you find fresh energy — or unwind after a long, stressful day. Research found that music listening may positively impact the brain as much as medication. So, bust out the record player to enjoy some rhythmic relaxation.13
Go Out Into Nature
A short walk outside in nature may do wonders for your stress levels. Researchers found that people who spent just 30 minutes a week outside reduced the creation of the stress hormone cortisol. You don’t need to go full mountain explorer to enjoy the potential benefits. Any natural setting, like a park or patch of grass, can help you connect to nature and promote relaxation.14
Take A Nap
No need to feel lazy about taking a midday nap. A 15-30 minute rest during the day can be beneficial. Power naps can help ease stress levels and even help boost your work performance. So, take advantage of a little rest to fight back the day’s stress.15
Ease Stress With Relaxing And Enjoyable Activities
You may notice that many stress reduction techniques are basically invitations to do fun things. That’s exactly what makes them so effective at helping to ease stress. Fun activities for relaxation distract the mind and allow you to detach from stressors.16
To get started, take a hike, listen to tunes, or simply relax on the couch to decrease the stresses of the day. Over time, you can cultivate a whole array of stress reduction techniques to help you live a relaxed and healthy life.
-A Guide To Relaxation: How To Calm Down When Stressed
-Spotlight On Mental Health And Well-Being: The Difference Between Good And Bad Stress
-5 Of The Best Plants That Clean The Air
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