For most of us living in this day and age, everyday life can be quite a struggle. With mortgages to pay off, credit card bills, utility bills, loan debt, and medical expenses, life can seem like an endless struggle. Not surprisingly, most of us are drowning in stress with reports showing that nearly 20% of the population suffered from an anxiety or stress disorder in the past year.
Out of sheer desperation, many of us turn to unhealthy quick fixes, but there are healthy alternatives that require little time or effort and will cost you nothing. It’s important to embrace and practice these stress reduction techniques as chronic stress can put you at risk of more serious lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Below, are some of the most effective stress reduction techniques that you can try out at home or at work or even when you’re travelling. They won’t cost you a cent and will just take up 5 minutes of your time, so give them a try!
5 Quick & Easy Stress Reduction Techniques:
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Meditation is one of the most powerful tools for coping with stress and anxiety, bringing both short term stress relief and long term stress management benefits. While there are many different forms of meditation and all of them can help you better cope with stress, mindfulness meditation is one of the simplest and most effective approaches that you can rely on.
Simply put, mindfulness meditation involves being in the present moment. Instead of allowing your mind to be consumed by stress and chaotic thoughts, you focus on your breathing and tune into all of your senses. Research suggests that the practice isn’t just helpful for coping with everyday stress, but can also help in the management of clinical depression, chronic stress, and anxiety disorders.
“Set peace as your highest goal and organize your life around it.” – Brian Tracy
2. Guided Imagery
You can think of guided imagery as a kind of virtual vacation, where the virtual reality is created by your imagination, not technology. To practice the technique, you imagine yourself in the most comforting scenery or situation, whether on a mountain top or at the beach. You focus on the scene down to the finer details, such as the sound of the waves or wind, the feel of sand on your feet, or the smell of the salty air.
To make it easier, you use recordings or apps, where someone guides you through the scene, creating a mental picture. Guided imagery has been shown to lower stress levels and promote relaxation, but it can be challenging for those who struggle with intrusive thoughts. That’s where mindfulness can again help as it makes it easier to focus on the activity and tune out those unwanted thoughts.
3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation may sound highly technical, but it’s one of the simplest and most effective stress reduction techniques there is. It simply involves relaxing all of the muscles in the body, beginning with a focus on your breathing. You can use instructional videos and apps to get started and from starting with your breath, you will be able to consciously tighten and relax individual muscles, whether it’s your facial muscles or those in your toes!
With practice, you’ll find this easier to achieve and you will be more attuned to muscular tension and stress, being able to control these sensations more effectively. Clinical studies have found that the technique is so effective at promoting relaxation that it is even recommended for women dealing with postpartum depression, labor pain, and menstrual pain, as well as patients battling conditions that cause chronic pain.
4. Planners & Journals
One of the biggest problems with stress is that your mind is often cluttered and lacking in focus. This is where using a planner or journal can help. By putting your thoughts, feelings, or worries down on paper, you can evaluate them in a more objective manner and come up with possible solutions or outcomes. This helps you to get clarity and focus, allowing you to relax and better handle life’s challenges, which otherwise stress you out. In addition to tracking stressors, you can also use your journal to reflect on positive experiences that make you feel grateful or happy.
“The day she let go of the things that were weighing her down, was the day she began to shine the brightest.” – Katrina Mayer
5 minutes may not be enough time to visit a friend or socialize at a party, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Human beings are inherently social animals and we require some amount of social contact. Simply calling a friend to chat for a couple of minutes, spending a few minutes with family members, or just getting a hug can help to lower stress levels almost instantly.
Studies have found that the very act of hugging a loved one can trigger the release of oxytocin. This is a hormone that promotes feelings of wellbeing and happiness. If you’re not connected to other people or don’t have close friends and family members, you can get similar benefits from contact with a pet, whether it’s your dog, cat, or hamster.
No matter which stress reduction technique or combination of techniques you choose to use, just remember that effective stress management can take practice and patience. Keep experimenting with these techniques, don’t give up, and seek help from a counselor or psychologist if you can’t get any relief.