In this exceedingly busy age, being stressed out can seem like the norm. But ongoing stress isn’t something to be taken lightly. Left to its own devices, it can grow worse and lead to more serious health issues. Read on to learn some of the possible ways you might be able to relieve stress and anxiety with simple relaxation methods.
If you are still experiencing high levels of stress, talk to a mental health professional. They can help you understand the root cause of your stress and come up with a solution for managing it based on your unique needs.
Stress vs. Anxiety
But by definition, stress is your body’s reaction to stressors (everything from work deadlines to financial problems or job loss).
It’s generally a short-term experience. Anxiety must be diagnosed by a medical professional. Anxiety is a sustained, internal issue that’s triggered by stress and doesn’t necessarily fade away once the threat is quashed.1
Though separate entities, mental stress and anxiety are troublesome twins – and they love to egg each other on. Too much stress can lead to bouts of anxiety. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety, it can cause you great stress.
This pair can be hard to tell apart because they might share a lot of the same physical symptoms.
Possible Symptoms Of Stress And Anxiety
The signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety can often be similar. These might include:
- Racing thoughts
- Trouble breathing
- Compulsive behavior
- Heart palpitations
- Increased anger and mood swings
- Skin rashes
- Weight gain or loss2,3
When you’re in “fight or flight” mode, your stress hormones race, your heart pounds, you breathe faster, and your muscles tense up. But when you’re relaxed, you breathe slow and deep, your heart rate goes down, and your muscles relax. The body isn’t capable of being relaxed and anxious at the same time.4
Methods of Relaxation: Mindfulness, Breathing, Meditation, and More
Breathing is the key element behind almost all relaxation techniques. It stands to reason that meditation, which is in itself a breathing exercise, might be a great way to help you handle your stress levels.
And science agrees. Many studies have successfully explored the positive benefits of breathing exercises and meditation.5
So, how can you embrace a meditation practice yourself?
Here’s a very simple mindfulness meditation that you can learn in just five steps, and practice anywhere. It really is that easy to get started, and the stress management benefits can be profound.
Mindfulness Meditation In Five Steps
Mindfulness meditation involves paying attention to whatever arises in the present moment. So, rather than trying to shut your brain off and think about “nothing,” you instead just embrace everything.
- Take a seat. Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
- Decide on a target time. Five minutes is a nice, easy starting point that will allow you to form an easy daily habit. You can increase this time as you get better at the technique. Set a timer, so you don’t need to think about the time.
- Get comfortable. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, or cross-legged on a cushion – whatever feels best to you.
- Start with your breath. Close your eyes and focus on the feeling of your breath as it goes in and out of your lungs. You’ll want to use diaphragmatic breathing. All this means is that you breathe deeply down into your diaphragm (where we are meant to breathe from), instead of shallowly into your chest (where we breathe from when we’re stressed.) Now, just simply keep your attention on those deep breaths.
- Take note when your mind wanders. It will wander, so just note that it has and have no judgement. Then, gently bring your attention back to the feeling of your breath.
And that’s it. You just meditated. You can also search for some guided meditations – online or on phone apps – where someone will vocally lead you through a meditation. Just choose a voice that feels calming to you.
Another great technique is progressive muscle relaxation. This is where you tense a group of muscles as you breathe in, and you relax them as you breathe out, working all the way through the body. You may like to start with an audio recording until you learn the specific order of the muscle groups. These recordings can easily be found online.
Physical Health: Get Plenty Of Exercise And Sleep
When looking for simple relaxation methods to help calm your mind, exercise might not seem like the most relaxing choice. However, physical activity can be a phenomenal way to deal with stress. Plus, you’ll get all the amazing physical benefits of working out at the same time.
So, What Makes Exercise So Great For Stress?
Well for one, many a study has found that regular participation in aerobic exercise can decrease tension, elevate mood, promote more restful sleep, and improve self-esteem. In fact, even just five minutes of aerobic exercise can have a positive impact on your stress level.6
Secondly, regular aerobic exercise has been shown to release oxytocin.7,8 Oxytocin is a hormone (often dubbed the “love hormone”) that is said to contribute to relaxation, trust, and psychological stability.9
Finally, exercise has been shown to reduce adrenaline and cortisol levels – the body’s stress hormones.10
Getting plenty of exercise can also help you to get plenty of sleep. And, this is just as important, because research suggests that sleep deprivation can lead to an increase of stress.11
Herbal Teas For Relaxation
If you’re looking for ways to ease stress, you might want to add some herbal teas to your arsenal. Some herbal teas, have shown to be quite effective in promoting relaxation.
Valerian root, in particular, has shown in multiple studies that it may be able to induce relaxation enough to improve sleep quality.12
Feeling Stressed Often? Know When To See A Medical Professional
Mental health issues should never be taken lightly. If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, not sleeping, suffering from panic attacks, or low moods, it’s absolutely essential that you go to see a medical professional.
There’s no shame in struggling with mental health. It’s just another facet of your body’s overall health.
So if it isn’t functioning as well as it could be, just like a sprained ankle, it’s time to get some help so it can be healed.
There are many options available when it comes to treating mental health and wellness. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, for example, helps people to find new ways to challenge and change negative thought patterns.13
The Best Ways To Relieve Stress?
Ultimately, finding what works best for you is the key to relieving stress. Whatever mind or body method you choose, carve out a routine and stick to it.
Fighting stress can be a daily battle for some, so if you’re armed with stress-busting tools, you can find your zen and help keep stress at bay.
Again, if you notice that your stress levels are having an effect on your mood, sleep or overall wellbeing, see a medical professional immediately.
As mentioned, there are many ways they might be able to help you deal with high levels of stress. The sooner you start working towards relieving some of your stress, the sooner you can get back to feeling happy and healthy again.
How to Make Yourself Fall Asleep: Easy and Practicable Ideas
Quit Your Desk Job for Better Mobility
How a Morning Routine Can Boost Your Health and Happiness