3 Ways to Relieve Stress
In North America, we live in a busy, fast-paced society, and most of us are stressed... a lot. Stressed about work or school, stressed about relationships, stressed about day-to-day life in general. A little bit of stress is okay. Our body will naturally react and we will be able to cope effectively. We might not like it, but it can be good for us. In fact stress that doesn't last too long and isn't more then moderate in intensity can actually improve our cognitive functioning, make us more alert, improve memory, and increase immunity against viruses like colds. Chronic (long-term) stress has really negative effects on our physical and mental health. Whether or not the stress is moderate and acute, or more chronic, we want to be able to effectively cope with it. Sometimes we need to actively change a situation we're in (which is beyond the scope of this post) and other times we just need some quick ideas to help ourselves in the moment.
Exercise - any kind of physical activity can be really helpful. It gets those endorphins flowing through your brain, which can improve mood (and it has the added benefit of being good for us physically as well). Exercise can range from walking to running to swimming to bicycling to weight training to yoga to team sports and more. Next time you feel stressed, see if you can get physically active instead of just relaxing on the couch. Even if your mobility is limited, a short walk around the block and/or doing some stretches can help a lot.
Mindfulness and Relaxation Practices - mindfulness, including meditation, has been shown to reduce the effects of stress long-term as well as making us more resilient. Our breath stimulates the vagus nerve and our parasympathetic nervous system, especially when we breathe into our belly. This tends to make us feel more relaxed, and present. Another option is progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) where we purposefully tense and then release muscle groups in our body, bringing on physical relaxation, which tends to lead to mental relaxation as well.
Music - Listening to music and playing music decreases the release of stress hormones and can bring on feelings of physical and mental relaxation. Music can be used to validate our mood or to change it, depending on what you're listening to. Expressing yourself through playing music can really make an impact, regardless of how well you play. Interestingly, this was a coping skill I used as child and teenager for anxiety - I would sit and play the piano.
There are a ton more ways to bring on stress relief (I could make this a super long post). I thought these are 3 easy ways we can all incorporate to some degree to help get us through stressful situations. Of course, you can always book an appointment with a licensed mental health professional, especially if you are dealing with chronic stress.