The Right Ways to Relieve Stress

Life happens—and there’s nothing we can do to change that. Even though stressful situations are a normal part of life, they’re not easy to cope with. And sometimes, life throws you curveballs that you’ve never dealt with before.

According to a study by Ohio State University, living with persistent, chronic stress (like stress from job loss or caring for an elderly parent) can change your genes, leading to an increase in inflammation that can contribute to health problems. When you feel anxious, your body releases stress hormones—the fight-or-flight chemicals that helped our ancestors escape or confront life-or-death situations. The problem is, the uncertainties we face today aren’t generally as life-or-death, and they don’t resolve to a quick getaway. So, we have to deal with the body’s stress response in a different way.

Here’s how to cope with stress in a healthy way so you know exactly what to do the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, drained, or burnt out.

Incorporate Meditation Into Your Daily Routine

Meditation is free and therapeutic—and it’s one of the best ways to find relief from stress and promote relaxation. Simply put, mindfulness and relaxation techniques help draw your attention to the present to build your resilience to pressure and other stressful situations, making them powerful stress relievers.

Depending on your preferences, you might practice deep breathing in a quiet place, or you can use a guided meditation app. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to stick to traditional mindfulness meditation to reap the mental health benefits of meditation. You might try tai chi, progressive muscle relaxation, belly breathing, or other types of meditation to lower your stress levels.

Instead of pressuring yourself to “clear your mind”—a common mistake people make when starting out—just pay attention to your instructor and yourself, whether it’s the thoughts flowing through your mind or your body’s response to deep breathing. Start by dedicating five or ten minutes to meditation each day and see how you feel.

The best thing about meditation? You can practice meditation anywhere: where you work, where you rest, or even outside in the garden. Meditation is highly recommended as part of living a stress-free lifestyle, and countless guided meditation apps are available to help you start your journey.

Take Care of Your Physical Health

Your Physical Health

Your mental health is intertwined with your physical health—and poor physical health can contribute to mental and physical stress. What’s more, ignoring your physical wellness can make the physical symptoms of stress, like headaches and muscle tension, even worse.

When stress hits, healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way in promoting stress relief, lower blood pressure, and lower cortisol levels. Some ways to take care of your physical health include:

  • Getting your body moving. Research shows that as little as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day is enough to release endorphins, which leave you feeling more positive. If you struggle with finding the motivation to exercise, try buddying up with a friend or joining a workout class. Finding some kind of physical activity that you enjoy, whether that’s a long walk, swimming, or pilates, can help you build resilience and self-confidence in the long run. Any type of physical movement that can raise your heart rate and get your blood pumping is fair game.
  • Eating a healthy diet. Living with the effects of stress can feel exhausting, and the foods we eat can have a major impact on our energy levels. Eating a balanced diet can help you feel more energized, giving you the energy you need to combat mental stress. Meanwhile, avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine, can help keep your cortisol at a healthier level.
  • Spending some time outside. Walking near nature can help keep your pressures in perspective, reminding yourself that there’s a bigger world out there beyond your stressors. Everyone can take advantage of nature’s therapeutic properties—whether tending to a garden or going on a hike. Spending some time in green spaces is a valuable opportunity to leave behind the stresses of modern life and reconnect with the world around you.

Reach Out for Social Support

Reach Out for Social Support

It might be tempting to withdraw from your closest friends and family members, but social isolation only contributes to stress. Research shows that a strong social support network is a valuable tool for stress reduction. The benefits of meaningful social relationships are both long-lasting and far-reaching: They help us manage our emotional health, improve our outlook on life, and boost our self-esteem. At the same time, social relationships benefit our physical health by strengthening our immune system, illness recovery rates, and longevity.

In times of stress, reach out and talk to someone you trust. Try making a list of the people in your life who lift you up. Then, schedule a conversation, video call, or some upcoming time together. Even if you’re feeling too overwhelmed to schedule plans or leave the house, a phone call can go a long way in relieving stress. Those who love you and care about you are there to support you and remind you exactly why you’re so important to them.

If you don’t feel comfortable confiding in your friends, consider joining a local support group or meeting with a mental health professional. Whether it’s a psychologist, counselor, psychiatrist, or marriage and family therapist, creating a safe space to explore your thoughts and feelings is the first step to feeling better.

Make Your Mental Health a Priority

There’s no denying that stress can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Although taking a step back and practicing self-care can help you combat the impacts of stress, if the underlying cause of stress is not treated, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.

Whether you’re facing chronic stress related to a mental illness or you just want to bring your stress down to a manageable level, taking the time to decompress can help you practice better stress management. If you need an escape from daily life, an intensive therapy retreat can help you change the momentum and get back on track.

At the end of the day, the best way to relieve stress is to take action. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out to your therapist and health care provider for professional support. Seeking professional help is a sign of strength—not weakness. And it’s important to remember that therapy is an effective treatment for stress. It can help you develop healthier stress-relief strategies, identify the underlying cause of your stress, and live a more productive, fulfilling life.