[A collaborative post – This article was originally published in April 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.]
Feeling a bit blue lately? What do you do to reduce stress?
Stress is a normal part of our human experience. We’re always trying to find ways to reduce stress in our lives – whether it’s from working, studying, or family.
Stress can be triggered by trivial matters and by major life crises. It also builds up gradually when you have more things to do than the time in which to do them. It can leave us feeling sick, or even in pain – and finding ways to reduce stress is crucial in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
I know some people encounter more stressful events than others. And the way we perceive and react to stress is often more significant than the amount we face.
Effective Ways to Reduce Stress
There is no need for anyone to suffer from the kind of stress overload that results in health problems. In fact, there are many practical ways to reduce stress. Here are some suggestions from myself: They won’t all work for you, but all you need to find are a few new ones you haven’t already thought of yourself.
The first week of April was a magical one for me, as I started on an epic movie marathon featuring none other than the beloved Harry Potter series. It’s a timeless favorite of mine, right up there with The Lord of the Rings.
Back in my university days, stress often hung over me like a dark cloud, especially during those essay-writing marathons. And what was my secret potion to banish the stress demons? Horror and action movies! There’s something strangely therapeutic about the heart-pounding excitement of these genres that always helped me unwind.
If you’re a fellow cinephile, you might agree that movies and series can be more than just entertainment; they can be your trusty stress-relief companions after a long day of work or study. So, why not grab some popcorn, dim the lights, and let the cinematic adventures whisk you away from the worries of the day?
I used to have a rather unhelpful habit of hitting the sack way too late, and boy, did it wreak havoc on my daily routines. Mornings were especially brutal, and I often woke up feeling like a grumpy old troll.
With the shift to working from home, I made a conscious effort to turn things around. Now, I’m a staunch advocate for a solid 8 hours of sleep each night. And let’s not forget the power of the catnap – quick power naps of no more than 30 minutes can recharge your batteries like you wouldn’t believe. So, if you’re ever feeling like a weary wanderer during the day, just remember: a short nap might be your secret weapon to staying energized and on top of your game!
Play with your pet
In 2016, a survey of 2,000 pet owners, conducted by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) revealed that 74% of them experienced mental health improvements from owning a pet. Alongside providing a form of therapy, owning a pet can add a level of structure and routine, as well as additional exercise to your lifestyle, helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
For me, hanging out with my dog after a stressful event greatly reduces my cortisol levels and possibly buffers the impact of the event.
When I know my brain needs rest, I like playing games to reduce my stress. Instead of playing it on my phone, I use my computer because I won’t be too addicted. Once I found a game that I liked, I kept playing it every day on my phone, and I knew for sure it would disturb my work.
So, rather than installing games on my phone, I play free online video games on my computer. The good thing about playing online games is that the website offers you a collection of dozens of fun games to choose from. If you want to train your brain to stay focused, you can play simulation games like Tap Supermarket (I had a lot of fun playing this!).
As someone who spends a lot of of time typing, I also like to practice my typing skills so I choose typing games. Their games are fun and quite addictive!
Take a walk
According to research psychologist Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., the author of The Joy of Movement, incorporating a little nature every day is beneficial to managing your stress levels. Depending on how you’re social distancing, getting to a park every day may not be easy, but even a short daily walk outside (hello vitamin D!) would suffice and help you clear your head.
Connect with nature in your backyard. Exposure to nature is proven to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.
My evening routine includes a leisurely walk with my furry friend – that’s how I reduce stress in action. After a long day of work, glued to the computer screen like a tech-savvy barnacle, there’s nothing quite like the therapeutic stroll with my dog.
Hang out with ‘positive’ friends
As an ambivert, some people who just know me sometimes get confused with my personality. Actually, it’s easy for me to make friends because once I get comfortable I’ll talk a lot – but, at the same time, I also like to enjoy the atmosphere and unconsciously prefer listening to talking. When people find out that I didn’t talk at all, they get confused and think that I have something on my mind.
I just prefer to have a few friends with a positive mindset (who can be my motivator) than having a lot of friends who don’t align with my personality. Having friends who can listen to your problems or just have small talk is very important. Not everyone can be a good listener.
I have one close friend, we met during my university life and it’s been nine years. I feel comfortable when talking about my problems with her – we also have the same lifestyle (ordinary life of single girls lol) so I like to hang out with her.
Visit your favorite places
Ah, my secret stress-busting arsenal – the trio of coffee shops, bookstores, and beaches. These are my sanctuaries, my go-to places when the world gets a bit too overwhelming.
First up, the cozy coffee shop – the aroma of freshly ground beans, the soft hum of conversation, and the warmth of a well-brewed cuppa – it’s a soothing symphony for my senses. Just one sip, and the troubles of the day seem to melt away.
Then there are bookstores, where every shelf holds the promise of a new adventure. The mere act of flipping through the pages of a good book transports me to different worlds, untangling the knots of stress in my mind.
And last but not least, the beaches – nature’s own stress-relief remedy. The rhythmic lapping of waves, the feel of sand between my toes, and the vast expanse of the ocean horizon – it’s a tranquil escape that never fails to rejuvenate my soul.
But there’s one more twist in my stress-busting tale – the zoo. Yes, the vibrant and sometimes quirky world of animals. When stress starts to rear its ugly head, a visit to the zoo is like hitting the reset button on life. The playful antics of animals, their carefree spirit, and the sheer diversity of life on display – it’s a reminder that there’s a big, beautiful world out there.
The important thing to remember is, when you’re feeling stressed, remind yourself that it’s normal — acknowledge and embrace what you’re feeling then, you can turn to one or more of the tips above. You also don’t have to wait to feel stressed to incorporate the tips above. Practicing even one of them prior to feeling stress can help to keep stress at bay before it occurs.