Are you stressed out or have you found yourself in situations where you need ways to calm yourself down? If yes, then this article is for you. Stress has become an everyday part of life, especially for those who work long hours at jobs or take care of kids full time. According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, over 60 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders each year. Stress also leads to many other health concerns in the long run.
Stressful situations often cause us to react emotionally. When we experience negative feelings and emotions – from anger to fear – our body releases certain stress hormones called neurotransmitters (like adrenaline and cortisol), which trigger physiological changes that prepare us to respond to a threat. These physiological changes include increased heart rate and blood pressure, the release of energy reserves, tightening of muscles, and dilating pupils. This preparation only lasts for a short period. After the situation passes, our physiological response becomes inactive, allowing us to return to normal.
Emotions that are linked to high stress in the body could be anger, frustration, anxiety, overwhelm, irritation, agitation, panic, and nervousness, to name a few. These emotions are all indications of an activated stress response and dysregulated nervous system. To release this stress response and ‘calm down,’ there are certain practices we can implement it benefits us on an emotional, physical and mental plane. This is especially important for when we want to be less reactive within a certain situation that might bring these emotions up for us. It also builds our awareness and emotional intelligence towards what we might find triggering and how to move through that.
It’s important to manage stress because it negatively affects brain development. The good news is that stress can be counteracted through relaxation techniques and calming techniques, so leading a less stressful life is very possible. There are several things you can do to reduce stress levels in your daily life to benefit your physical, mental, and emotional health. Keep reading to discover 32 effective stress relievers and ways to calm down.
32 Ways to calm yourself down
1. Breathing Exercise and Deep Breathing
One of the most powerful ways to relieve stress is to simply focus on your breathing. Start with taking slow deep breaths, followed by exhaling slowly. Notice the air going into your lungs and feel your abdomen expand as you inhale. Imagine the air entering your stomach and expanding so much it fills up all the space inside. As you continue to breathe deeply and slowly, notice any tension leaving your body.
Meditation is another great way to relax and de-stress. There are many types of meditation but one type focuses on concentration. Just sit comfortably and close your eyes. Focus on your breath and allow thoughts to come and go without judgment. You may see images in your mind’s eye, hear sounds, smell scents, or even taste food. Simply observe and accept whatever comes up rather than reacting. Try not to judge or analyze anything while meditating. When finished, gently open your eyes and assess the effects the practice had on you.
3. Take Time Out – Chill Time
When you’re feeling stressed, getting away from the circumstances can help. Whether it’s going to the gym, sitting in nature, or doing yoga, spending time outside will provide you with a sense of peace. Taking some time out allows your mind and body to rest and recharge. Sometimes physically walking away from an intense encounter (eg. an argument) might be the best thing to do to evaluate your response rather than react through an emotional outburst.
4. Drink Water
Dehydration creates more stress in the body. Drinking plenty of water helps keep the body hydrated. By hydrating the body, you eliminate stressors caused by dehydration.
5. Eat Healthy Foods
Eating healthy foods has been shown to boost energy levels and decrease fatigue i.e stress. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts/seeds, fish, low-fat dairy products, and skinless poultry are examples of nutritious choices. Avoid unhealthy foods like fast food, sugar-laden drinks, fried foods, sugary snacks, red meat, excess salt, white flour, and trans fats.
6. Get Moving
Physical activity increases endorphins (feel-good hormones) which lowers stress levels. Exercise is known to improve sleep quality and promote relaxation.
7. Sleep Well
Getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night can have positive results on mood and overall health. Resting to recover from the stress of all kinds is essential.
8. Create Space
Having too much stuff around can lead to clutter and excessive stress. Organize your belongings to make room for what matters most. Decluttering your physical environment has a huge impact on your mental state.
9. Practice Gratitude
Every day when you wake up think about something you’re grateful for in your life. Being grateful reduces negative emotions such as anger and frustration.
10. Listen To Music
Listening to music provides an escape from the stresses of everyday life. Turn on some relaxing tunes and dance if you want!
11. Play Games
Everyone needs a break. Playing games releases dopamine–a neurotransmitter that causes feelings of pleasure – and produces endorphins, which reduce stress.
12. Unplug Your Devices
Charging devices keep them ready to use. If you find yourself constantly checking emails, texts, etc., try to turn off your phone overnight. This gives your brain a chance to unwind and recharge.
13. Plan Ahead
Putting things into perspective can be helpful. Look back on past experiences and learn from them. Make plans for the future so you don’t get overwhelmed but with this, it is also helpful to know that having a flexible plan is always best – stress can also be caused by setting up high expectations of a plan and not being able to stick to it. Be kind to your mind!
14. Be Present
With all of that being said planning is great – but we don’t want to be stuck in the past or worried about the future. When we focus solely on the present moment, there are no distractions. We’re less likely to react to stressful situations. Instead, we become aware of our surroundings and how they affect us.
15. Go For A Walk
Walking is considered one of the best ways to manage stress. It takes your mind off worries and helps regulate blood pressure.
16. Relax In Nature
Spending time outdoors is proven to lower stress levels. Try meditating or walking along a trail.
17. Connect With Others
Volunteering, talking to friends, or reaching out to someone who may need support can help reduce stress.
18. Talk About Yourself
No this does not mean you are arrogant or selfish. Sharing information about ourselves is important for us to process this information and create a safe space for others to share too. It also gets our attention off whatever else is bothering us. Being vulnerable with what we are going through avoids us bottling and storing these emotions in our bodies.
19. Take Breaks From Television And Social Media
By limiting screen time, you give your brain a chance to relax. Don’t check apps such as Facebook late in the evening or during weekends since it could cause insomnia or anxiety.
20. Write Down Your Thoughts
Writing down thoughts and feelings allows you to process your emotions and figure out why you are upset. Keeping a journal also forces you to look inwardly, which will help you identify specific issues and problems.
21. Keep Track Of Small Things
Making small changes to daily routines like taking the trash outside once a week, doing laundry every other weekend, or turning off lights before leaving a room can improve your mood.
22. Avoid Negative People
Surrounding yourself with positive people lowers stress because they encourage positivity. This can be difficult as sometimes the closest people to us can drain our energy. Setting up relational boundaries is not easy but necessary.
23. Give Thanks
You never realize just how much you have until you take the time to appreciate what you do have. Appreciating yourself and those around you allows you to enjoy what you already have. This one is not that easy when you find yourself within a stressful scenario but even practicing gratitude towards past experiences can filter into the way we might view this experience. Again, it is a practice… a process.
Instant ways to calm yourself down
24. Pressure Point Massage
The pressure point massage is a simple technique that anyone can learn.
• Use the thumb of one hand to rub over the palm of the other.
• Rub the fingers over the knuckles of the hand being massaged.
• Rub the palms together.
• Place your thumbs over the eyes and move up toward the forehead.
• Press down into the temples.
25. Ground Yourself With a Palm Push
By pressing your hands together and holding for five to ten seconds, you give your brain proprioceptive input, which lets your body know where it’s located in space. This helps reduce stress and ground yourself.
You can do this anywhere; just take a moment to close your eyes and focus on your breath. Imagine that you are sitting under a tall, strong tree, and the roots reach deep into the earth. Feel how solid and grounded you feel. Now imagine that the trunk of the tree reaches up toward the sky, supporting the leaves above. As you breathe deeply, notice how much taller you feel. You are now rooted firmly in the present.
26. Sigh it out
The power of a mindful sigh lies in the fact that it doesn’t require much effort. It takes just a couple of seconds to do, and yet it can change everything. When we exhale a long sigh, it brings our mind away from whatever else we are thinking about, and into the present moment. By focusing on our breath, we can stop worrying about the future, and start living in the here and now.
27. Five-Second Wall Push
The wall push is especially beneficial to those with sensory integration issues. Simply place your hands flat on a wall and slowly press down while keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground. This simple act creates a sense of stability, and it works whether you’re sitting or standing.
If you’ve ever experienced an earth tremor, you can understand why this gesture is calming. Placing the weight of your body against a solid, unmoving surface and feeling the pull of gravity are both stabilizing, and even on a subconscious level, this helps us feel grounded.
28. Shake, shake, shake some more
Did you know that animals relieve stress by shaking? Let me explain. When you’re frightened, your body goes into fight or flight mode. If there are no predators around, your body might choose to freeze up. But most often, our bodies go into a state of hyperarousal, where we become alert and ready to run away at any moment. This causes us to tense up and feel anxious.
If you’re in a situation where you’re feeling nervous, try shaking out some of that tension. Animals do this naturally by shaking their heads and necks. They do it because it helps them release excess energy and relax.
I’m not saying that shaking off your anxiety is easy. Sometimes it feels really hard to let go. But it’s important to remember that shaking does help you shake off your fear. And it can even help you gain control over your emotions.
29. Box breathing technique
1. Start by inhaling deeply into your lungs for four seconds.
2. Hold the air in your lungs for another four seconds.
3. Release the air in your lungs through your mouth for four seconds.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 three times.
5. Now exhale slowly through your nose for four seconds.
6. Hold the air in for another four seconds.
7. Finally release the air through your mouth for four more seconds.
30. Close your eyes
Sometimes removing yourself from the visual stimuli within a stressful situation is the easiest. Closing our eyes brings us back to ourselves and aids us in focusing on our breathing. It creates some distance between you and the situation and gives you a moment to think before reacting.
31. Sensory deprivation
This adds to the previous point. For those of us that might be sensitive to sensory stimuli, it can be very helpful to block these senses temporarily. For eg. close the eyes, block out sound and find a quiet space just to come back towards yourself and find a sense of safety and grounding within yourself.
32. Pour cold water or ice on your wrists
This works the same way as taking a cold shower (although this method is probably more accessible when you need momentarily relief). Cold water shocks our nervous system almost into restart mode. It takes our mind away from the situation and practically forces us to breathe through the intense cold sensation on the skin.
If you would like more instant stress-relief techniques read here for methods to regulate your nervous system instantly.
As humans, we tend to get stressed and anxious quite often. We are never truly happy all the time because our emotions change depending on our environment and circumstances. Many things cause us stress and anxiety however, the main reasons include things like family problems, financial concerns, health issues, bullying, relationship problems, and other stressful situations.
The first step towards becoming calmer is acknowledging your own emotions. Once you realize that your feelings are causing you distress, you can start to address them and with these 32 simple techniques, you can practice just that. The power of mindfulness.