When life gets stressful—as it does for ALL of us from time to time—it helps to have some quick and effective stress-busting hacks in your bag of tricks.
Next time you feel like pulling your hair out, don’t. Instead grab this list and try one of these easy, and fun ways to reduce stress and feel better fast. And be sure to share it with any friends or loved ones who could use some stress relief too.
1. Take a breath:
You don’t have to do a specific deep breathing exercise for this one to work. Just close your eyes, and take as deep a breath as you can, filling your belly, not just your lungs. Let it out slowly, and repeat until you feel calm. Research has found that deep breathing can improve mood, mental focus, and help you deal with stress.
Too much uninterrupted screen time has been linked to stress, especially when you remain plugged in right before bed. According to Swedish researchers heavy use of cell phones and computers is linked to stress, sleep disorders and depressive symptoms. Take breaks throughout your day, and turn off all your electronics at least one hour before bed.
Couples who only kiss in the bedroom report being far more stressed than people who steal smooches on a regular basis. According to scientists kissing releases chemicals that target stress hormones. So pucker up and say goodbye to your stress.
If you don’t have anyone to kiss right now, that’s okay. Hugs work, too. A 20 second hug from a loved one is all it takes. In fact, according to research published in the journal Psychological Science hugging is so powerful it not only can be a source of support when you’re feeling stressed it can also help keep you from getting sick.
5. Chew gum:
Believe it or not, there’s actually been a study that shows chewing gum can help drive down stress. According to the lead researcher Dr. Andrew Scholey chewing gum helped to reduce stress and anxiety in study volunteers, while improving their alertness. Not bad for some chewing gum. So choose your flavor.
6. Listen to music:
From classical to country, dubstep to Dino, as long as it’s music you love it will help relax you. Your favorite tunes flood your brain with dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel good. Turn it up and dance!
Laughter really is the best medicine. A true belly laugh reduces stress hormones and increases oxygen intake, two things that will automatically make you feel better. When researchers at Loma Linda University had a group of healthy adults watch funny videos for 20 minutes their stress hormone levels plummeted and their short term memory recall was significantly better than folks who just sat.
8. Have a banana:
Blood pressure rises when you’re stressed and even temporary spikes over time can damage your blood vessels and heart. But studies show potassium rich bananas can help keep blood pressure under control. Plus they help with the physical recovery from stress, an added bonus.
9. Pet a pet:
Fur therapy is a proven way to reduce stress. Reach for a cat, dog, or even a hamster to pet and let their unconditional love go to work erasing your stress. No pets of your own? No problem find a local animal shelter and volunteer. And who knows you may even find yourself heading home with your own pet one day soon.
10. Get tense:
Technically, it’s called progressive muscle relaxation. Starting at your toes you tighten and then relax each of your muscles one by one all the way up to the top of your head. Studies show progressive relaxation effectively relieves stress and anxiety.
11. Take a bath:
Soaking in warm bubbles can’t help but be soothing. Add dim lighting, soft music, and a few drops of lavender essential oil, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for relaxation.
12. Sip on a cup of tea:
Sipping on a cup of tea is a terrific way to soothe frayed nerves. In an eight week, double-blind, University of Pennsylvania study chamomile—which is rich in the bioflavonoid apigenin—slashed feelings of anxiety by 50 percent in over half of the participants. Not an herbal tea fan? No problem, according to a study out of Britain, black tea can do the trick as well. So pick your favorite and enjoy.
13. Make a move:
Making a move can mean a 10 minute walk around the block, a quick session with a punching bag, or practicing some yoga moves. As long as it gets you moving it will cause your brain to release feel-good chemicals called endorphins that naturally help relieve stress.
Just being around a friend can help ease stress and make you feel loved and at peace. If you’re talking, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company, it’s hard to feel anxious and tense.
We get it. You’re stressed out and you don’t feel like you have anything to smile about. Do it anyway. You’ve heard of fake it to you make it, right? Well it turns out the very act of smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, helps reduce stress. When researchers had volunteers place chopsticks in their mouths to produce three different facial instructions—a neutral expression, a standard smile, and a super wide smile—and had them preform stress producing tasks, the ”smilers” had lower heart rates and lower reported stress levels.