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Everyone gets stressed from time to time. Between work presentations, traffic, worrying about family members and paying bills, it’s inevitable that you’ll be anxious or tense on occasion. Luckily, there are free, easy ways to try and calm yourself down and live a happier life overall. Here are fifteen tips for reducing stress.
If you’re anxious, a caffeine-free blend is your new best friend. Have a hot cup of chamomile, jasmine, mint or other herbal tea. Don’t have any tea at home? You can even just make a hot cup of water and flavor it with lemon juice and honey.
Having a warm drink and taking a moment to pause is more important than the flavor. As you drink, think about how you’re hydrating your body and taking good care of yourself.
You don’t need to be a seasoned meditator to enjoy the benefits of deep breathing. Sit or lie comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe deeply in through your nose. You can count your breaths if you choose, or visualize something as you inhale and exhale, like ocean waves swelling and crashing.
Then, place a hand on your stomach and feel it rise as you inhale. Breathe out through your mouth and feel your stomach get flat again. This is called diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, and it’s a great way to calm your nerves.
No gym membership needed! Take a walk, do some gentle stretching, bust out a few jumping jacks or do pushups against the wall. If you have a lot of pent-up stress, feel free to hit a punching bag or pillow, allowing yourself to express your frustration. It’s very cathartic and great exercise.
Even if you’re stuck in the office, open the windows if the weather is nice. Breathe the fresh air. Enjoy the sounds of the world outside, like children playing, cars passing and birds chirping.
If you live in a loud area and are subjected to construction noise or ambulance sirens, put on some headphones and listen to music. You’ll still get the benefits of feeling the cool breeze.
Take your dog to the park, then play fetch with him and enjoy some quality time running around. Hold your cat and let her fall asleep on your lap. Brush your horse or go for a ride through the pasture.
If you have an animal, take the time to interact with them for even just a few minutes. You’ll probably feel happier afterward.
Do some personal grooming. Step away from the computer for a moment to comb your hair, brush your teeth, cut your nails, take a hot bath and then change into fresh clothes. Next, rub some lip balm on your lips and lotion on your hands.
Maybe put on a little makeup if it boosts your mood. Finally, spritz on some nice-smelling perfume with a calming scent like lavender or rose.
Although these are all minor things, together they can add up to have a great mood-boosting effect.
If you’re in a relationship, ask your partner for a massage. Odds are they’d be happy to give you a back rub. They might not have professional training — and maybe it’s painfully obvious — but you can watch massage tutorial videos together, trying out different techniques and discussing what you like best.
Above all, you’ll probably feel better just by spending time with your significant other, even if their massages could best be described as unrefined.
Hunger can lead to stress. You might be peckish and not even know it. Have a snack with some protein like turkey, tofu or fish, some fiber, like beans or a salad, and some long-acting carbohydrates like brown rice or a sweet potato. Add a small amount of healthy fat such as olive oil, an avocado or a handful of nuts to your plate, too.
Even if you don’t feel like you’re reducing your stress levels, a healthy meal still fuels your body to tackle the next thing on your to-do list.
When was the last time you called someone out of the blue and caught up with them? Phone a loved one and have a friendly chat. They’ll probably be thrilled to hear from you. Or, you can text them if that fits better into your busy schedule.
Another fun, old-school idea is to start writing letters back and forth with a friend. It’s more deliberate, gives you a physical memento to keep and lets you personalize your message more than you could with a text.
Switch up your environment. If you work from home, then try sitting in a different part of the house, or even out in the yard on a nice day.
Do you normally stop at the same coffee shop every day on your commute home from the office? Visit a different one. You’ll get a chance to meet new people and try different flavors.
Make a list of things you’re grateful for. If you’re having a rough day and can only think of one thing you’re happy about, that’s still a great start. Broaden your perspective and think of anything good that’s ever happened to you, no matter how small.
Maybe you saw a really beautiful butterfly on the way to work, or someone smiled at you on the subway. Even if something happened years ago, you can include it on your list if you’re having trouble finding anything good in the present.
One tip for reducing stress is to write down the things that are stressing you out. This might seem like the opposite advice of making a gratitude list, but it’s not an excuse to make a list of complaints. On the contrary, it’s a way to organize your thoughts so they’ll stop bouncing around in your head.
Once you’ve written everything down, it often becomes easier to see how you can address the things that are bothering you. Is there anything you can work on today?
Maybe an unpaid bill is looming over your head, for example. Pay as much of it as you can so it won’t feel so daunting. Or, your email inbox is overflowing, and you feel too scared to even open it. Start by deleting ten emails a day until it’s organized and free of spam.
Make art. Draw, paint, or fold paper into origami. Play music, cook food or create a miniature garden — whatever you like to create. Use any materials you have available.
There’s no need to buy expensive or fancy supplies to make something great. Sometimes, it’s just the process of creativity that reduces stress.
What can you listen to that will make you feel relaxed? Maybe hearing some reassuring affirmations would calm you down.
Or, perhaps listening to a podcast by someone with a soothing voice would help. You could try listening to ASMR videos while you do chores, or put on white noise like the sound of rushing water or airplane engines as you work.
Focus on what you need to do today. As long as your plans are in place for tomorrow, try to stop thinking about what you’ll have to do next. Stay in the moment and work on one thing at a time.
What works for other people might not work for you, but you’ll probably find that at least one of these techniques bolsters your mood. Even if each one makes you feel just 1% better, you can combine several stress-reducing methods for a greater effect. Take a moment to pause, have some tea and remember to breathe. You’ve got this!