stress relief

Top 10 Techniques for Stress Relief

Stress has become a fact of life, and for some, the daily norm. Although occasional stress can help improve our focus and performance, living with chronic stress can backfire by causing anxiety, depression, and serious health problems. 

Understanding who we are, knowing our major struggles, putting them in perspective, and taking action can help us deal with stress. The following strategies can also improve stress tolerance and help lessen the effects of stress on our health. 

Think Positively 

“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into positive,” said Hans Selye, author of the groundbreaking work around stress theory. When  optimism is hard to muster, cognitive-behavioral  therapy, which trains people to recognize negative thinking patterns and replace them with more  constructive ones, can also help reduce the risk of  chronic stress and depression. 

Get Out and Enjoy Nature 

While modern civilization has made our lives more convenient, it has deprived us of an essential source of stress relief—connection with nature. Studies show that interacting with nature can help lessen the effects of stress on the nervous system, reduce attention deficits, decrease aggression and enhance spiritual well-being. 

“Smell the Roses” for Better Mood 

Aromatherapy, or smelling essential plant oils,  recognized worldwide as a complementary therapy for  managing chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia  and stress-related disorders, can help you unwind.  Orange and lavender scents, in particular, have been  shown to enhance relaxation and reduce anxiety. 

Relax with a Cup of Tea 

During stressful times, coffee helps us keep going. To give yourself a break, however, consider drinking tea. Research shows that drinking tea four times a day for six weeks leads to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.1 Habitual tea drinking may also reduce inflammation, potentially benefiting your heart health. 

Laugh It Off 

Humor relieves stress and anxiety and prevents depression, helping put our troubles in perspective. Laughter can help boost the immune system, increase pain tolerance, enhance mood and creativity, and lower blood pressure, potentially improving  treatment outcomes for many health problems,  including cancer and HIV. Humor may also be related  to happiness, which has been linked to high self esteem, extroversion and feeling in control. 

Build a Support System 

Relationships are also key to health and happiness, especially for women. Women with low social  support, for example, are more likely to increase  blood pressure under stress. Loneliness may also  contribute to stress in both men and women, also  leading to poorer outcomes after a stroke or  congestive heart failure. On the other hand, active  and socially involved seniors are at lower risk for  dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Social support also  helps cancer patients to boost the immune system  and maintain a higher quality of life. 

Employ the Relaxing Power of Music 

Music, especially classical, can also serve as a  powerful stress-relief tool. Listening to Pachelbel’s  famous Canon in D major while preparing a public  speech helps avoid anxiety, heart rate and blood  pressure, which usually accompany public speaking.  

Singing and listening to music can also relieve pain and  reduce anxiety and depression caused by low back pain. Group drumming also showed positive effects on  stress relief and the immune system. Music therapy can  also elevate mood and positively affect the immune  system in cancer patients and reduce fatigue and  improve self-acceptance in people with multiple  sclerosis. 

To help people deal with stressful medical procedures, music can help reduce anxiety before surgery. When played during surgery, it can decrease the patient’s postoperative pain. Aiding recovery, a dose of calming music may lower anxiety, pain and the need for painkillers. 

Calm Your Mind 

In recent decades, many forms of meditation have gained popularity as relaxation and pain relief tools. Focusing on our breath, looking at a candle, or  practicing a non-judgmental awareness of our thoughts  and actions can help tune out distractions, reduce  anxiety and depression, and accept our circumstances.  In cancer patients, meditation-based stress reduction enhances quality of life, lowers stress symptoms, and potentially benefits the immune system. 

Guided imagery, such as visualizing pictures prompted by an audiotape recording, also shows promise in stress  relief and pain reduction. Based on the idea that the  mind can affect the body, guided imagery can be a  useful adjunct to cancer therapy, focusing patients on positive images to help heal their bodies. 

Enjoy the Warmth of Human Touch 

Just as the mind can affect the body, the body can influence the mind. Virginia Satir, a famous American psychotherapist, once said that people need 4 hugs a day to help prevent depression, 8 for psychological stability, and 12 for growth. While asking for hugs may not work for some, massage can help us relieve stress and reduce anxiety and depression. Massage has also been shown to reduce aggression and hostility in violent  adolescents, to improve mood and behavior in students  with ADHD, and to lead to better sleep and behavior in children with autism. 

Massage has other therapeutic properties as well.  Regular massage may reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension and may lead to less pain, depression, and anxiety, and better sleep in patients with chronic low  back pain. Compared to relaxation, massage therapy also  causes greater reduction in depression and anger, and  more significant effects on the immune system in breast  cancer patients. 

Give Exercise a Shot 

To get the best of both worlds, affecting the mind through the body while getting into good physical shape,  try exercise. In one study, a group of lung cancer patients increased their hope due to exercise. Exercise can also reduce depression and improve wound healing in the elderly. Tai chi, which works for people of all ages, may enhance heart and lung function, improve balance and posture and prevent falls, all while reducing stress. 

No matter which stress-relief methods you choose, make it a habit to use them—especially if you feel too stressed out to do it. As someone once said, the time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. *Courtesy of The American Chiropractic Association*

Share this post