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Americans are more stressed than ever AND more stressed as a whole than most people from other countries. A recent Gallup poll found that Americans report feeling stressed and worried at the highest levels in a decade. So if you are wondering, how can I reduce my stress levels and stop worrying and start living you are not alone!
Here are 25 simple and scientifically proven ways to reduce your stress and start enjoying life more today including tips on what to eat and drink, how to breathe, what to listen to, watch and read!
First, let’s talk about the amazing ways that breathing can help calm your mind and body!
I love starting with the breath because it is something that is with us all the time and that we can easily control. We can use a stress relieving breathing technique anywhere we are and pretty much no one will be able to tell.
Our breathing is like a stress relief stealthy ninja!
Take a slow, full, deep inhale and when you are just at the top of the inhale and your lungs are full, relax and let the breath go. You don’t need to force it out. Just let it go out naturally. Then when you get to the bottom of the exhale, start another slow deep inhale.
Slow and full, in and out. Relax the exhale. Don’t pause between the inhale and exhale.
This is one variation of a really useful breathing method called Conscious Connected breathing and you can learn more about it, including how to alter it a little to help energize you, help you fall asleep, help you wake up, etc. in this blog post I wrote about breathing your way to a calmer mind: The One Tool You Need
So tip # 1 on how you can overcome stress and anxiety: Breathe…slow and full
If your mind is going a hundred miles an hour and you are feeling mentally exhausted and stressed out then it’s time to get your body in gear. Exercise is one of the best stress relief activities. Many of us spend a lot of our day sitting in front of a computer or working in some other situation where we aren’t moving very much. We are working like crazy and our minds might be totally exhausted, but we’re not really working our bodies that much.
One of the best ways to overcome stress is to move your body more.
To find out a little bit about how stress works you can check out this post that explains that and talks about why stress is bad for us and how it can lead to other diseases.
Why is this the case? When we are stressed out, we produce stress hormones, in particular, adrenaline and cortisol. You can find out more about this process in a blog post I wrote on why stress is bad for us here.
Exercise helps us metabolize or burn off these stress hormones. So even if it’s taking a brisk 10 or 15-minute walk during your lunch hour when you are having “one of those days,” exercise can really help. Of course, setting up a regular exercise plan is a great way to deal with any residual stress you might have even on days when you aren’t noticing that you are all that stressed. You can learn 5 steps to take to start loving exercise in this post I wrote: 5 Steps to Becoming an Exercise Enthusiast!
I know! I know! It’s great to be able to get a jolt of energy by slugging down a big cup of coffee in the morning or drinking a diet Coke or energy drink in the afternoon. But while that caffeine kick might wake you up, it will also add to those feelings of stress and even create more anxiety.
Remember that I mentioned that stress increases levels of the hormone cortisol in your body? Well, caffeine does, too. So when your cortisol levels are already high, the last thing you want to do is add more cortisol into your hormonal mix. That’s like pouring gas on the fire.
If you are really used to that caffeine boost it can take a little while to wean yourself away from it. But it is totally worth it! Try some decaf green tea for a change!
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. That means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry though. It won’t cost you a penny more! You can read my affiliate disclosure here.
There have been many studies that have shown how helpful it is to have a good support system of friends and family if we want to live a long and healthy life. I am a total advocate of this. You need to have people you can talk to about good things and bad things and not feel judged.
A stress buddy is one particular person that you’ve made a deal with that they will listen to you when you need to pour your heart out and quickly get some things off your chest and you will listen to them when they need to do the same.
You don’t need to counsel each other or solve each other’s problems. You are just there to listen to each other when the stress levels are about to boil over.
When I am totally stressed out, I can text you to set up a 3-5 minute phone call appointment with you. At an agreed to time, I will call and I’ll have 3 minutes to just rant, rave and pour out anything that’s got me stressed out.
At the end of that time. You will say something like. “Wow. I hear you and I understand why you are so stressed. Let’s take 1 minute to breathe together.” One of you will set your phone timer and then for the next minute you will just take long, slow, deep breaths together (See Conscious Connected Breathing above).
And that’s it. You don’t have to spend half an hour on the phone going over everything and trying to solve the problems causing the stress. That might be something you want to set up a time to do in the future. But these stress buddy phone calls are just super quick calls to diffuse the tension and stress so you can get on with your work or your day.
Like a stress buddy, a journal can be a way that you can get your biggest stressors off your mind and onto paper, where you can leave them while you get back to what you need to do.
The nice thing about journaling is that you can do it anytime and almost anywhere, be it in or the morning when you wake up or during lunchtime at work.
We’ve known that journaling is a powerful tool for quite a long time now. In fact, back in 2011 there was a study done that showed, just writing down what’s stressing you out on a piece of paper and then crumpling up that piece of paper and throwing it out can help clear your mind and reduce your stress.
Using essential oils and aromatherapy is a great way to reduce your stress. Even the renowned Mayo Clinic website mentions that studies have shown that aromatherapy may have health benefits including relief from anxiety and stress.
Here are 4 awesome essential oils to help you reduce stress:
You can click each to check their prices on Amazon.
The easiest way to use essential oils is to smell them. Just putting a few drops on a cotton ball or on a handkerchief and keeping that handy to smell throughout the day is an easy way to help calm your stress and anxiety.
This personal inhaler kit you can get via Amazon is a great way to have whatever essential oil you need right there and handy every day.
To find out more about essential oils and how they can help you reduce stress and help with other health and wellness issues check out this post: 7 Awesome Essential Oils to help you Relieve Stress and for more awesome Stress Relief Resources you can go to my Stress Relief Resources Page.
There are several vitamin supplements that have been shown to reduce stress & anxiety when taken appropriately.
In clinical studies B vitamins have been shown to help increase energy while decreasing stress – total win, right? They also help you stay calm in high stress situations. This National Institute of Health Study explains more if you want the science behind the claim.
There are several ways that the mineral Magnesium helps reduce stress but here are 2 quick ways.
1) It reduces the amount of stress hormones like cortisol that we talked about above that are released in your body. And it also works like a filter to prevent those stress hormones from entering your brain and making you feel more stressed.
2) It stimulates GABA receptors in the brain. What does that mean? Well basically GABA stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid and when you don’t have enough GABA then your brain kind of gets stuck in the “on” position making it really difficult if not impossible to relax.
Not all forms of magnesium are equal, however. Two of the best for their calming properties are Magnesium Glycinate and Magnesium Taurate.
Kava Kava is an herb that works on your GABA receptors (like magnesium does) so that you can calm your mind and relax.
Passion Flower or Passiflora incarnata is another amazing herb that can calm anxiety and stress and even help you fall asleep at night.
This National Institute of Health article discusses how Passiflora worked as well as a prescription anxiety drug (midazolam) in dental patients undergoing a tooth extraction. So it’s definitely something to check out if you are feeling anxious or stressed.
Part of the reason we end up feeling so stressed and anxious is that we often have too much on our calendars. If we are running ourselves ragged morning til night is it any surprise that we end up stressed out and burned out?
By learning to say no to some things we can really start feeling less stressed and more relaxed so we can enjoy our lives.
If you’ve developed a habit of always saying yes, then you may want to check out this free, short and super practical workbook I wrote on how to say no with grace and ease: The Lost Art of Saying No and How It Can Set You Free Many readers have told me it’s been a game changer in their lives and has really allowed them to take back control of their calendar and design their life the way they want to – WITHOUT feeling guilty!
When you have a realistic (rather than overly optimistic) idea of how much time you will need to devote to a given activity then you will end up with a much more manageable schedule and a lot less stress.
My husband is generally overly optimistic when he thinks about how much he can get done in a certain amount of time. He’ll leave the house with a list of 6 places to stop and say he’ll be back in an hour or so. I know (from long experience and just the general nature of how time and space work) that it will likely take twice as long.
Do you have unrealistic ideas about how long it actually takes to accomplish a task? If so, start timing yourself on recurring tasks so that you have a better idea and can plan realistically and adjust your schedule so that you don’t feel so stressed out by all you have to do in a day. Everyone only has the same 24 hours. If you are trying to pack 36 hours of activity into a 24-hour day – well you can guess how that’s going to work out and how that might be adding to your stress.
Having a good life planner can help keep us on track with this. Erin Condron has some of my favorites and you can check out styles and prices here at the Erin Condron site.
Being mindful just means that you are here, in the present moment, paying attention to what’s going on right now. When we are mindful it helps deal with stress and anxiety. How does this work?
When we are feeling stressed our minds are often racing off into the future thinking about the next thing we have to do, or how we’re never going to be able to accomplish something, or how our boss might not like the job we did on the report that we just turned in. When our minds are focused on future worries, it is super easy to feel anxious and stressed.
Similarly, if we are rehashing an argument that we had with our spouse or our mom, then we end up bringing those negative feelings we had during the argument back to life again, kind of like waking up a bad Frankenstein monster and inviting him to attack us.
And, of course, you don’t want to. But that’s actually what you are doing when you are rehashing or bringing up bad situations from the past.
There is a therapeutic benefit to looking back to our past to get closure or find ways we can move forward sometimes, but bringing up negative memories over and over again is only likely to add to your stress.
So getting your mind to focus on what’s going on right here, right now, is a great way to calm your mind.
If you are stressed out and with a good friend or loved one, just ask for a hug! Getting a nice long hug (they say 20 seconds is a good amount of time) can actually lower your stress and help you deal with a bad day.
How does it work? It’s all about those hormones again. Hugging for 20 seconds releases oxytocin which is sometimes called the “love hormone.” Oxytocin lowers blood pressure (which is often higher when we are stressed) and it also reduces the stress hormone norepinephrine. If you want to learn more about the science behind this you can check out this article from Harvard Medical School.
Petting your dog or cat or even someone else’s dog or cat can also help reduce the stress hormone cortisol and lower your blood pressure. Plus, pets can help bring us back to the present moment and help us be mindful. It’s easy to be distracted with our work and obligations and phones…but when you can just pay full attention to your beloved furry friend and be there – present for them – in the moment – it benefits you both! This is probably my favorite stress relief technique!
As much as our phones can complicate our lives and cause us additional stress and even depression – yes, I’m talking about you Facebook! (Read about one study at Science Direct) There are apps that we can add to our phone that can help us de-stress and stay calm. In fact, the CALM app is one I use daily to help me meditate. But CALM also has programs to help you relax and to help you fall asleep. There is a paid version, but for some simple meditation options, you can even just use it for free. Just do a search on your phone for CALM or other meditation apps.
Laughter is great medicine for stress. With our phones at our fingertips, we have access to all kinds of funny videos via YouTube. Find a channel you like and subscribe so that you have instant access to 5 minutes of laughter whenever you want.
The Bad Lip Reading channel on Youtube always cracks me up and lightens up my day. I’m not sure what that says about me or my sense of humor, lol, but just visit YouTube and find something that tickles your funny bone. Then when you need a lift, take 5 minutes out of your day to watch one video. CAUTION – don’t fall down the YouTube rabbit hole!
When we are all stressed out our muscles tighten up. You may notice that you hold a lot of stress/tightness in your shoulders, neck, lower back, etc. When you do a progressive relaxation activity it can help you release that tension.
Progressive relaxation is something that it’s easier to do at home or someplace where you have privacy and can lay down without worrying about being interrupted. There are different ways to do it so I’ll just give you one way that the Mayo Clinic mentions.
To do progressive relaxation you’ll want to start in as relaxed a position as possible. Then going from your toes to your head tense and relax each of your muscle groups in turn.
So for example, if you started at your feet you would want to tighten or tense the muscles in your toes and feet and hold the tension for about 5-10 seconds and then let them release and just relax your whole body for 30 seconds. Then tighten the muscles in your legs for 5-10 seconds and release. Then relax for 30 seconds. You just move progressively up your body until you’ve tensed and relaxed each muscle group.
With this stress relief technique, it can be really helpful to have an audio resource to guide you because then you don’t have to worry about counting out the time or what body part to focus on next.
This is a link to a downloadable MP3 you can get through Amazon that has a very nice narration with harp music behind it to help lead you through the process of progressive muscle relaxation.
If you are dehydrated, your cortisol levels (there’s that darn stress hormone again!) are likely to be higher. So on a stressful day be sure you are drinking enough water to stay hydrated.
But rather than just gulping down the water, take a minute to really focus on the glass and how it feels in your hand. Notice how the water feels in your mouth and going down your throat. Pay attention to the coolness of the water. Visualize it going into your body and nourishing you. That kind of attention brings you back to the moment and makes you mindful, which we talked about in #10 above.
When you come home from work after a stressful day turning on some quiet, relaxing music can help you relieve some of the stress you’ve been through. Even more helpful might be listening to a recording of nature sounds such as a rippling stream.
Bonus points if you are actually making music, say playing the piano or guitar or flute. Playing a musical instrument can lower blood pressure, decrease your heart rate and reduce stress. So tickle those ivories or, if you aren’t an actual musician, that’s O.K., too! Just playing with a child’s xylophone or tambourine to make some impromptu music can short circuit the brain’s stress response. This WebMD article talks more about why this works.
If you’ve got 10 or 20 minutes that you can be by yourself in a quiet and private place, try doing a relaxation visualization.
Turn the lights down low. Make yourself comfortable.
Take a few deep breaths (use the Conscious Connected Breathing method from #1 for double the impact)
Close your eyes and imagine a beautiful peaceful place. It might be on the beach or in a garden or even in a cozy cabin. Just imagine somewhere peaceful and quiet and safe.
Feel yourself becoming more and more relaxed as you sit in that beautiful place and just breathe.
Let yourself smile at how peaceful and relaxed you are feeling.
Bring your senses into play. What is the temperature like? What wonderful smells do you smell? What beautiful sounds are you hearing?
Allow yourself to stay in this beautiful place you’ve created for 5-10 minutes. Breathing and relaxing.
Then, when you are ready, wiggle your fingers and toes, and open your eyes.
You can record your own guided visualization on your phone and keep the voice memo handy to listen to whenever you need it.
Adult coloring books are all still really popular and if you’ve got ‘em, use ‘em. But even doodling on a scrap of paper while taking a few deep breaths can help calm your mind and reduce stress.
As with making music mentioned in #17 above, when we do something creative (even if we are bad at it) our cortisol (stress hormone) levels are reduced and we feel less stressed.
We are bombarded with SO MUCH information every single day from news alerts on our phones to cable news networks, to billboards, radio stations, you name it. We have no shortage of information coming at us pretty much all the time.
BUT, what kind of information is it? Positive happy information? Or information that makes us anxious and worried and even afraid?
With all that “bad news” coming in it can really help to try to counteract it by reading something positive.
You can buy an affirmation book like this one or a positive thoughts card deck like this one from Amazon or you can easily make your own cards or a booklet with positive thoughts that put your mind back on the path to less stress and more enjoyment.
There are a lot of things we do in our lives that feel like obligations. We have to wash the dishes. We have to mow the lawn. We have to go to work. We have to…
BUT WAIT! What if instead of thinking and saying “I have to…” we decided to say “I choose to wash the dishes.” I choose to mow the lawn.” “I choose to go to work.”
Just by making that shift in what we are saying (out loud and in our heads) we gain a little power back and come at life from a place of power rather than obligation. Practice it. It makes a surprising difference.
Gratitude is almost like a magic pill it helps with so many things that bother us. When we focus on feeling grateful our stress levels go down because we are focusing on the good, rather than on the bad. Being able to recognize all the good things in your life, even during really bad times, helps build resilience and that’s a great stress buster.
You can get ahold of 3 Simple Cheat Sheets to Make Every Day a Good Day, including one that works as a gratitude list, that I created here for free. Or if you want to read more about how to use the 3 Simple Cheat Sheets just click here to go to that post.
Spending time with a good friend or a family member you enjoy can help you feel a sense of belonging and that in turn can increase your feelings of self-worth which helps lower our feelings of stress. Plus, just being with a good friend and sitting next to them can increase that wonderful oxytocin hormone!
Procrastination is a HUGE stressor. So, if you are someone who always waits until the last minute to get something done. Start to change that stressful habit. How can you change your procrastination habit?
Instead of just putting a deadline or “due date” on your calendar, figure out realistically how much time you will need to get that particular project done and put a start date on your calendar so you know when you need to begin.
Then break that project up into reasonable, bite-sized pieces and put the benchmark due dates on your calendar as well.
For example, phase 1 needs to be done by July 15th. I want to get Phase 2 done by, July 21st. That way you’ll be working on the project over time and won’t be overwhelmed or totally stressed out because you waited until the last minute.
A lot of times I get stressed out by things I have absolutely NO control over. And sometimes I’m stressed by things that aren’t really any of my business. That’s when you have to look yourself in the mirror and say. “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” And let it go. Focus on what you CAN control. Believe me. It’s enough.
So there you have it – 25 super practical ways that you can reduce your daily stress. If you enjoyed these 25 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Stress please share this post on Pinterest or Facebook.
To see my recommended stress relief essential oils, books, and more check out my Stress Relief Resources Page.
If you’re interested in creating a happier, stress-free life all the way around, you might also enjoy these posts:
3 Simple Habits for a Calmer & Happier Life – You don’t need to have a total life makeover to start feeling less stress. These 3 simple habits can start helping you feel better and more relaxed today.
The Simple Way to Declutter Your Mind – If you feel like your mind is going 100 mph, then this post can help!
3 Steps to Figuring Out What You Really Want (and why that’s important!) – This one does amazing things for reducing your stress levels!
Money 101 – 3 Steps to Starting a Savings Habit – We are so often stressed out by money. Start getting your finances in order and watch your stress go down! This post will help you get started with baby steps.
The holidays can be notoriously stressful. So plan ahead and actually make a plan so you can enjoy the holidays instead of feeling burned out!
If you’re interested in simplifying your life so you have time to focus on the things you love, then grab your free The Seven Days of Simplicity Action Plan.
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