Here are 9 stress relief strategies that actually work – from A Life of Productivity.
Exercise, or play sports
Exercise and physical activity not only tell your body to release stress-battling hormones, but both practices have a ton of other benefits too, like allowing you to procrastinate less, focus more, and act more disciplined. Exercise has consistently been shown to be one of the most effective activities to reduce stress, and it’s also the thing on this list that people put off the most. If you’re serious about relieving stress, you should not overlook how effective exercise is at calming you down.4 And the practice not only reduces stress in the short-term. Research has shown that exercise actually “reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress” in the long run!5
I harp on the benefits of meditation all the time, and I even recently spent 35 hours meditating to observe its effects. Meditation is much easier than it sounds on the surface (I wrote a guide on how to meditate if you’re curious), and its effects are incredible. Meditation reduces your blood pressure, reduces your negative emotions, and if you’re looking to reduce stress, helps you relaaaxxxx more than anything else on this list. You don’t need anything special to get started, either.
I personally can’t think of a better way to escape life than to pick up a good book. One study found that reading can reduce your stress by an astounding 68%, because “your mind is invited into a literary world that is free from the stressors that plague your daily life”.6
Listen to music
Listening to music is so effective at relieving stress that there’s a whole organization named the American Music Therapy Association designed to study and promote music’s effects on health. Studies have shown that listening to slow, relaxing music slows down your pulse and heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and actually decreases levels of stress hormones in your body.7 Listening to more music is one of the easier items on this list to fit into your routine, and it’s also one of the most effective.
Go for a nature walk
Going for a nice walk outdoors not only provides you with exercise, but it also significantly reduces your stress levels8. One study found that, even if it was dead-cold outside, participants’ memory and attention spans improved by 20% when they took a walk through nature!9
Spend time with friends and family
Investing time into your relationships has “far-reaching benefits for your health”. A strong social support network made up of friends and family gives you a sense of belonging, increased self-worth, security, and mostly important, significantly reduces your stress levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, “taking the time to build a social support network is a wise investment not only in your mental well-being but also in your physical health and longevity.”10
Go for a massage
I personally can’t think of anything more relaxing than a massage. “Clinical studies show that even a single 1.5-hour session can significantly lower heart rate, cortisol levels and insulin levels-all of which help reduce stress“.11 Especially if your healthcare plan covers massages (like many of them do up here in Canada), I can’t think of a nicer, more relaxing way to relieve stress.
Invest time in a creative hobby
When you invest time in a creative hobby, similar to when you pick up a good book, your mind has a chance to take a break from stress-inducing activities and jump into a fun place with no deadlines, rules, or pressure. Whether you’re into woodworking, writing, or painting, spending time with a creative hobby allows your mind to take a break and relax, while still engaging in something productive!
Pray, or attend a religious service
Praying or attending a religious service have been shown in studies to reduce participants’ stress levels because both activities connected them with a higher purpose. Connecting yourself with a higher purpose (whether through a religious practice or otherwise) greatly reduces your stress levels, and doing so has also been shown to provide you with more mental, emotional, and physical energy!
The bottom line: Activities like exercising, reading, listening to music, and spending time with a creative hobby are all much more productive ways to reduce your stress levels. They actually reduce the stress hormones in your body instead of just covering up their effects.