Control Your Anxiety and Stress
In our day to day lives, we all experience stress one way or another. Stress is typically part of our daily lives, but that doesn’t mean it has to control us; we can learn to control it. Stress can be physical, mental, emotional; there are many ways in which stress can take form.
There is also an endless list of things that can cause stress, as it truly varies from person to person. It can be outside pressures, overwhelming responsibility, feelings of uncertainty, dramatic changes in life, illness, etc… Hard times throughout life can cause an increase in stress hormones, and one of the main symptoms of stress is anxiety. About 18% of the US adult population are affected by anxiety disorders (1). And while anxiety can be treated by one’s own self, the majority of those affected don’t reach out for help or even know where to start.
One way for us to help better ourselves is to, ultimately, start with ourselves. We can adjust our lifestyles to help reduce that anxiety and stress, whether it be through the foods that we eat or the activities that we take part in. Through different activities that we introduce into our lifestyles, we can help reduce that anxiety and stress!
Top 10 Activities to Reduce Anxiety and Stress
Whether it be the oxygenation of our blood, refurbishments of our cells, the hidden effects of chewing gum, the activities that we do on a daily basis also affects our minds and bodies. The foods that we eat also affect our anxiety and stress levels, so you can check out the top 10 natural foods to help reduce anxiety and stress here!
Here are 10 activities that you can introduce into your lifestyle that can help reduce anxiety and stress!
One of the most important activities that you can take part in is also the same activity that anyone can do at anytime… deep breathing! Make sure to note that this is different than regular breathing, this focuses on breathing through your diaphragm, also known as belly breathing. You can learn more about diaphragmatic breathing through a technic called 4-7-8 breathing here!
Deep breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing (2), has been proven to help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improve your overall bodily health (3). Studies have linked controlled, deep breathing with reduced levels of cortisol, a stress hormone (4). Further research has also linked deep breathing to reduced blood pressure and slower heart rates, helping reduce stress and anxiety (5, 6). Try this calming activity at anytime, anywhere!
Listen to Music
Looks like listening to your favorite tunes can actually be a way of reducing your anxiety and stress! Typically speaking, music that is more focused on “relaxation” will be more effective in reducing anxiety and stress (7). But singing along to your favorite song also helps reduce your stress and enhance serotonin production (8).
Other studies have not only linked listening to music to reduce stress and anxiety, but also help relieve headaches and pain (9, 10). Another study also linked listening to relaxing music to the prevention of stress-related increases in blood pressure and heart rate (11). Listening to music has also been linked to reducing anxiety, and even pain, amongst individuals who might be undergoing medical/dental procedures (12, 13). Go ahead and enjoy your tunes, even sing along to them!
You know the age old expression, “stop and smell the roses”? Well, it seems like it holds more promise than we had originally thought! Aromatherapy uses natural scents, whether it’s essential oils or candles, to help evoke certain feelings, whether it be calm, energizing, etc. And it seems that certain scents seem to be linked to reduced stress and anxiety (14)!
A study linked the essential oils from lavender to be helpful in reducing anxiety and stress amongst individuals with anxiety disorders (15). Other studies have linked aromatherapy to reduced stress amongst work and school environments (16, 17). And not only has aromatherapy been linked to reduce your anxiety and stress, but also help with improving sleep quality, which subsequently helps further reduce stress and anxiety (18)!
Another age old expression, “runner high”? Well, looks like there really is some science behind it. Exercise is one of the most important things that you can do to help reduce stress and anxiety. Any sort of cardio exercise gets those endorphins, a feel-good hormone, secreted by your body.
Studies have shown that regular exercise helps combat stress and helps reduce anxiety, as well as an endless number of other benefits to your body (19, 20)! Other studies have also linked exercise to prevention of anxiety disorders, as well as reducing current anxiety (21, 22, 23, 24). Helping oxygenate those blood cells, clearing pressure off your mind, exercise is one of the best ways to help reduce stress and anxiety (25).
Although this one might sounds a bit odd, chewing gum has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety! Studies has researched chewing gum to reduce anxiety and stress, as well as reduce fatigue and better mental performance (26, 27). A study linked chewing gum and the reduced anxiety and stress to lower levels of cortisol after chewing gum for a duration of time (28). Another study also linked chewing gum to reduced anxiety and stress, as well as improved alertness (29)!
Try Meditation and/or Yoga
As the two tend to go hand in hand, try giving yoga and meditation a try! A mixture of the mindfulness that yoga brings along with the focused, deep breathing techniques of meditation is key for successfully reducing stress and anxiety. Whether it’s at the start of your day, or right before you go to sleep, or both, try to squeeze in some you time with yoga and meditation.
Studies have linked the focus of the musculoskeletal system in yoga to feelings of reduced stress and anxiety (30). Whether it be decreased cortisol levels, lowered blood pressure, or an increase in GABA hormones, yoga seems to help (31, 32). Mixing guided imagery into your meditative routine has also been proven to reduce anxiety and stress (33)!
Play with a Pet
That furry little animal that’s always looking at you, wanting you to spend more time together, can help reduce stress and anxiety! Whether it be your pet or someone else’s pet, running your hand through their fur lowers your stress and anxiety levels! Give them the love that they deserve!
Studies have linked lower levels of cortisol amongst university students after petting an animal, reducing their levels of anxiety and stress (34, 35). Other studies have also shown that, after playing with animals, individuals had increased levels of oxytocin (36), a hormone associated with good feelings and love (37, 38). Those studies, as well as others, have proven that playing with animals reduces stress and anxiety amongst individuals, whether you know you need it or not (39, 40)!
Whether you need to put on a funny movie, or go see a friend that can always put a smile on your face, it’s important to laugh. Genuine laughter always makes someone feel better, but it’s also working on a biological level!
Studies have shown that having a good laugh helps oxygenate your bloods cells and reduce your stress and anxiety (41, 42). Not only does laughter help with reducing stress and anxiety, but also helps improve moods and psychological distresses (43). Another study also linked laughter to reduced stress, and even be helpful in the prevention of certain diseases (44).
Hug a Friend
Some people might be more keen on giving a big ol’ hug, while others prefer a handshake. But just remember this, it seems that the physical act of a hug can help reduce your stress and anxiety! Next time, instead of reaching out for handshake, maybe go in for good hug instead!
Studies have linked hugs to decreased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and reduced levels of anxiety and stress (45). Further studies have also linked hugs to increased levels of oxytocin, which in turn helps reduce feelings of stress and anxiety (46, 47). Another study has also linked receiving a hug to reduced negative moods amongst conflict (48). So, next time you and your partner or friend get into an emotional tussle, hug it out!
Get Adequate Sleep
We all know that sleep is one of the most important things that our bodies need, and we don’t even have to technically do anything to achieve it! But getting a good nights rest is crucial to good health. Getting enough sleep, as well as good quality sleep, has been shown to help keep stress and anxiety at lower levels.
One study has shown the effects of poor sleep amongst student athletes and the negative effects on their stress and anxiety (49). Other studies have linked poor sleep to other anxiety disorders and increased levels of stress (50, 51). However, further studies have also linked good sleep to improved mood, as well as reduced levels of anxiety and stress (52)! Another study has even linked a quick 10/20 minutes nap to health improvements and reduced stress (53).