Are you finding yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed and need ways to relieve stress fast? Here are 9 simple ways on how you can eliminate stress quickly at home or at work.
Do a Deep Breathing Exercise
Deep breathing is a great way to lower stress in the body. It increases the delivery of oxygen to the brain and activates our parasympathetic nervous system response, causing our heart rate to decrease and our body to calm down and relax.
The best part about breathing exercises is that it can be done anywhere. It requires no props or equipment and can be done even in a crowded setting without anyone noticing.
HOW TO: Try Belly or Diaphragmatic Breathing
Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
Take a slow deep breath and inhale with your nose. As air fills your lungs down to your belly, your hand should push outwards.
Hold your breath for 1-2 seconds, then begin to exhale slowly with either your nose or mouth.
Your belly should begin to flatten to its original position as your lungs deflate.
Keep the hand on your chest as still as possible.
Repeat this breathing technique for 10 minutes.
- Reach for a Stress ball
During stress, our muscles tense up due to the release of stress hormones from our activated fight-or-flight response. Stress balls help relieve stress and tension by allowing our body to focus on a physical object via repeated clenching and releasing motions. This repetitive action provides a channel for physical release of energy, thereby promoting relaxation.
Squeezing on a stress ball has been shown to promote sleep, reduce blood pressure and improve focus and creativity.
Squeeze and Hold:
With a stress ball in palm, squeeze for 5 seconds and release. Repeat 10 times, then repeat with the other hand.
With a stress ball in palm, pulse continuously for 10 times then stop.
Repeat for 5 sets, then repeat with the other hand.
- Listen to Soothing Music
Slow tempo classical or ambient music can have a calming effect on the body by affecting brain wave speed and influencing our body to relax. Studies show that music at 60 beats per minute produces alpha brain waves that are between 8-12 Hz, which is the frequency present when one is relaxed but conscious.
Choose music with concurrent binaural beats or sounds of nature. These sounds help relax the body by reducing our fight-or-flight response.
Different frequencies of binaural beats can also have different effects on our bodies depending on the frequency selected, such as anxiety relief (Alpha pattern 8-12 Hz), improved sleep (Delta pattern 0.5-4 Hz), increased concentration (Beta pattern 13-30Hz) and creativity (Theta pattern 4-7 Hz)..
Mindful meditation is one of the most popular and widely-researched types of meditation. It works by training the mind to cultivate an increased awareness of being in the present moment.
This form of meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve general well-being and physical health. Even a practice as short as 2 minutes can have positive effects on the mind and body.
HOW TO: Try Body Scan Meditation
Begin seated or lying down.
Close your eyes and start by focusing on your breath.
Breathe in slowly and deeply, noticing the rise and fall of your chest.
Begin the scan from the top of your head. Notice how the various parts of your head feel – the top of the head, your eyes, cheeks, ears, mouth, back of the head.
Continue this exercise down your body until you reach your feet.
Once you have completed the scan, release your focus and bring your attention back to your surroundings, before gently opening your eyes.
- Go for a Walk
Step outside for a brief 10 minutes to clear your mind and get some sunlight and fresh air. Aside from being a physical escape from a stressful environment, walking can also help improve mood, boost endorphins and reduce stress hormones.
TIP: Try Mindful Walking
Incorporate some meditation as you walk by paying attention to the different sensations on your body as you do so. Ask yourself:
How do the muscles on my leg feel as I take one stride after another?
How does the ground below me feel?
How does the weather outside feel like today?
Repeat this mindful process with other senses of the body such as sight, smell and sound as you walk.
- Try Acupressure
Acupressure is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) method of applying pressure onto pressure point locations on the body to stimulate the movement of vital energy or Qi (chi).
Stress dissipates Qi and can cause energy pathways (or meridians) to become blocked, resulting in illness. Acupressure opens these channels and encourages good flow of Qi, which is synonymous with balance and good physical and mental health.
This alternative treatment promotes wellness and healing in the body and is also able to relax muscles, reduce pain and boost blood circulation.
HOW TO: Try These Acupressure Points
Location: Midpoint In between the eyebrows
Benefits: Calms the mind, decreases anxiety and restlessness, alleviates insomnia and headaches
Method: Using either your index or middle finger, rub the point in a circular motion for 2 minutes
Location: In between the 2 tendons of the wrist, 2 finger widths below the palm
Benefits: Calms the mind, decreases anxiety and alleviates insomnia
Method: Use your thumb and press into the point firmly 20 times. Then, rub the point in a circular motion for about 2 minutes.
- Whiff Some Aromatherapy
The use of essential oils such as lavender, lemon, bergamot and ylang ylang can help lower stress and anxiety and improve mood. Research shows that aromatherapy has the ability to activate parts of our brain in the limbic system such as the hypothalamus and amygdala, which are associated with emotions, memory and mood.
The ease of use of aromatherapy makes it a great choice for busy people. A few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball can be placed on the desk or in the vent of the car when on the go. It can also be used in conjunction with other stress-relief methods to give added stress-relief benefits.
Choose a diffuser over scented candles. Some candles contain synthetic fragrance oils instead of real essential oils and will not give you the same benefits. Smoke and fumes emitted from candles are also carcinogenic and harmful to health.
Our muscles can carry a lot of tension when we are stressed, resulting in them becoming stiff, tight and sometimes painful. Stretching provides relief by loosening up the muscles and boosting blood circulation to both the muscles and the brain, sending signals for our bodies to relax.
Stretching exercises do not always have to be a yoga or pilates routine. It can simply mean stretching on its own. When doing so, try holding the stretch for 15-30 seconds, focusing on your breathing at the same time. By focusing on yourself and the activity, this in turn becomes a meditative activity as well.
When working at your desk, try incorporating desk exercises throughout your day such as those that include a mix of sitting and standing body stretches to help boost blood circulation and aid muscle relaxation.
- Watch an ASMR Video
ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) has been defined as a tingling sensation that starts from the scalp and moves down to the neck and spine. Not everyone is able to experience ASMR, however studies have shown that it can lower heart rate, induce calmness and increase positive emotions associated with human bonding.
ASMR videos commonly use both audio and visual stimuli to elicit positive feelings of relaxation and calm. However if you do not find the audio aspect of ASMR calming, try watching videos that are solely visual, such as someone doing a calming activity like painting, baking, wax carving, latte art or cake decorating.