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Stress and anxiety can affect us all at some point in our life, however if not managed properly stress levels can build up and have detrimental effects on our health. Thats why it’s important to recognise when you are stressed and find ways to reduce it before it becomes a problem. The following post will give you 15 simple ways to reduce stress and anxiety and prevent stress build up before it becomes a problem.
What is stress?
To successfully reduce stress you need to know what it is and how it happens.
Stress is the bodies natural response to feeling threatened or under pressure. It’s very common and can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life. However too much stress can affect our mood, our body and our relationships. In extreme situations, stress can make us feel out of control, anxious, irritable and affect our self-esteem.
Experiencing a lot of stress over a prolonged period of time can also lead to a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often called burnout.
The stress Response
Stress is the bodies biological response to a perceived threat or situation. If your nervous system detects danger it kicks in to protect you, known as the fight or flight response.
Firstly our body judges a situation and decides whether or not it is stressful. If it does perceive a threat a part of the brain called the hypothalamus will release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rev up your heartbeat and send blood rushing to the areas that need it most in an emergency, such as your muscles, heart, and other important organs.
When the threat has gone the hypothalamus should tell all systems to go back to normal. However in times of chronic stress like work pressures, relationship issues or the daily pressures of life this stress response will continue putting your health at risk.
Why is stress dangerous to your health
When stress hormones are activated in the body on a regular basis, it can take a toll on your health. Symptoms of chronic stress include; irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches and insomnia.
Chronic stress can also have a more serious impact on our health even putting our life at risk, for example:
During a stress response blood is pumped around the body faster in order to divert more oxygen to our muscles so you’ll have more strength to take action. But this also raises your blood pressure. As a result chronic stress can lead to increased blood pressure over time leading to a increased risk of strokes or heart attacks.
Ways to reduce stress
So we know what stress is and how it can affect our health and wellbeing so how can we actually manage it?
There are so many ways to help you reduce stress levels and not every method will work for everyone. So here is my list of 15 ways to reduce stress and anxiety, hopefully some of them will be beneficial.
Exercise is probably one of the most important things you can do to combat stress. There are a few reasons for this, firstly when you exercise endorphins are released which improve your mood and act as natural painkillers. Secondly, exercise can improve sleep quality which in turn can help you wake up more rested and ready to take on the day. Thirdly exercise can have an impact on confidence which can can affect self-esteem and wellbeing.
Exercise is also widely known for its physical health benefits such as reducing blood pressure, managing blood sugar levels, controlling weight as well as strengthening bones and muscles.
You don’t have to do anything too strenuous, however you do need to work up a sweat. If new to exercise or if it’s been a while start up slow and gradually increase the time.
Spend time with friends or family
Social support from friends or family can be a valuable experience when tying to reduce stress and anxiety. Being part of a friend network can give you a sense of belonging and self worth which can help immensely in tough times.
Essential oils may help reduce feelings of stress or anxiety. Why not light some scented candles and relax in a hot bubble bath.
Popular scents renowned for their stress relieving benefits include; Lavender, Rose, Bergamot, Chamomile, sandalwood, Ylang ylang, Orange blossom and Geranium.
Meditation is well known for relaxing the mind and reducing stress levels. Try and meditation for a few minutes a day and see how you get on.
How to meditate:
Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you. Gently close your eyes and follow the sensation of your breath as it goes in and as it goes out. If your attention starts to wander simply return your attention to your breath.
Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze, open your eyes. Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.
That’s it! That’s the practice.
Writing down our thoughts, anxieties and worries in a journal can help us focus our thoughts.
You don’t need any fancy books or journals, just a simple note book will do. Each day write down any issues, fears, worries or feelings that have manifested throughout the day and try and examine why these made you feel the way you did. Tracking these problems day to day will help you recognise triggers and learn ways to better control them in the future.
Laughter is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, it can also reduce tension by relaxing muscles.
If stressed laughter may be the last thing on your mind so try and distract yourself with a funny movie or TV show or hang out with some friends that you know will make you laugh.
Deep breathing exercises
Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.
Breathing exercises work best when done regularly as part of a daily routine. The goal of deep breathing is to focus your awareness on your breath, making it slower and deeper. When you breathe in deeply through your nose, your lungs fully expand and your belly rises. This helps slow your heart rate, allowing you to feel more peaceful.
Get yourself in a comfortable position either siting or lying down and breath in taking your breath as far down into your belly as possible. Whilst doing this try using your nose to breath in and use your mouth to breath out. Breath in gently counting 5 times and then on the fifth breath, hold it whilst again counting to 5 and then breath normal again. Continue doing this in cycles for around 3-5 minutes.
Spend time with a pet
Pets come with some powerful health benefits. Caring for an animal can help relieve depression and anxiety, lower stress levels, and even improve heart health.
There are many therapeutic benefits to owning or playing with animals. Having a pet can also increase exercise levels, provide companionship, help meet new people, reduce anxiety, add structure to your life and provide sensory relief. Just the simple task of stroking an animal can lower blood pressure and reduce stress and anxiety.
If you don’t have your own pet why not offer to take out a friend or neighbours dog for a walk.
Caffeine is an a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks. High doses can increase anxiety, however everyone will have different thresholds of how much they can tolerate.
If you are starting to notice anxiety levels increasing after having caffeine or becoming more jittery then consider cutting back.
The practice of mindfulness is the process of understanding your own thoughts and taking notice of the world around you at any present moment.
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better. Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.
The theory behind mindfulness is that by using various techniques to bring your attention to the present, you can; Notice how thoughts come and go in your mind, notice what your body is telling you and create space between you and your thoughts, so you can react more calmly.
For more information on how mindfulness can work for you check out the Oxford Mindfulness Centre website which has lots of free resources to help you learn more about mindfulness practice.
Talk it out
It can be hard to talk to someone about how you feel especially if the issues are personal, however talking is a great way to reduce stress and get feeling off your chest!
Talking to someone about your feelings can help see a picture more clearly and gain another perspective. Talking will also help you sort out the problem and help put plans or coping strategies in place.
If however you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know then there are lots of organisations available that can help.
The NHS has a list here of a variety of organisations, charities and support groups that can offer help and support if you are unable to talk to a family member or close friend.
Get out in nature
Getting out in nature is one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Take a walk around a local park or woodland, the fresh air will reawaken the brain and calm your thoughts.
If possible take a trip out to a local nature reserve or some scenic countryside, somewhere that can provide a tranquil environment. Many towns and cities have beautiful parks but visiting them is not quite the same as becoming deeply immersed in the countryside.
Relax in nature as your brain slowly forgets the noise of life and listens instead to the mesmerising sounds of nature.
Make time for self care
Self care is the act of caring for yourself and making a conscious effort to do things you enjoy and will benefit from, in order to improve mental and physical well being. It’s about being aware of your own health, identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. It sounds simple, looking after yourself but how many of us actually spend time each day to do something for ourselves.
Positive self talk
Self talk can be both negative and positive. It can be encouraging, and it can be distressing. Much of your self-talk depends on your personality. If you’re an optimist, your self-talk may be more hopeful and positive. The opposite is generally true if you tend to be a pessimist.
Positive self talk can have many benefits as well as give you a more optimistic outlook. Other benefits include; increased vitality, greater life satisfaction, better physiological wellbeing as well as less stress and anxiety.
The trick is to train yourself to have more positive self talk than negative which only comes with practice. However over time positive self talk will become the norm.
A few tips that can help include:
Identify negative self talk traps, pinpointing these experiences make you more aware and help you anticipate and prepare.
Check in with your feelings; evaluate why you are becoming negative, how can you turn it around?
Surround yourself with positive people; you will soon realise you have absorbed their positive outlooks.
Give yourself positive affiliations; Post small reminders in your office, in your home, and anywhere you spend a significant amount of time. Maybe start a gratitude jar.
Listen to music
Listening to music can have a southing effect on our minds and bodies especially slow melody tunes. Like wise, fast uplifting tunes can motivate and inspire.
One of the great benefits of music as a stress reliever is that it can be used anywhere. Even if you have a busy schedule you can still listen to music. Got a load of household chores that need doing, then turn up the volume to some fast paced motivational tunes and you’ll soon have it all completed! Got some uni work to complete, then try some slow classical tunes that have help been proven to focus the mind.
Music provides a wonderful backdrop for your life and you can find increased enjoyment from what you’re doing while reducing stress from your day.
Put together a custom playlist for different moods and you may soon notice a significant decrease in stress.
The bottom line
Although stress and anxiety may arise in your workplace and personal life, there are many simple ways to reduce the pressure you feel. The above tips will help your mind move away from the source of stress, relieve anxiety and improve your overall work-life balance as well.
So there we have it, my 15 ways to reduce stress and anxiety. If you want to focus on becoming the best, happiest version of yourself, subscribe to the blog below or follow me on your favourite social media.
Thanks for reading,
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