10 Unexpected Ways to Reduce Stress Right Now

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People are really stressed out. In fact, according to The American Institute of Stress, over half of all Americans feel stressed during the day. Furthermore, a 2022 poll conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 27 percent of respondents were so stressed most days that they could not function. Inflation, violence and crime, work, and political climate are some of the most common stressors that people report nowadays.

Whether you are a college student, parent, mother, or a business professional, stress is something that is inescapable. But that doesn’t mean it needs to control your life either. You can combat stress and anxiety with typical approaches, including listening to music, taking a walk, doing deep breath exercises, or writing in your journal. But if you are looking for other stress-reducing strategies, below are a few ideas you may not have tried yet.

1. Have a heart-to-heart with yourself

Researchers at Michigan State University found that addressing yourself out loud is an effective way to manage emotions in stressful situations. Specifically, get to a private location where you can relax and speak freely, then try addressing yourself in the third person. Why? This allows you to speak of yourself as you might speak of a friend and could help replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Sometimes, hearing yourself say something out loud can make it more tangible and perhaps help you to achieve a level of clarity that silently thinking and worrying may not allow.

2. Head to the toy store

You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy a trip to the toy store. Pick up a Rubik’s Cube, Brain Teaser Puzzle, some Silly Putty, or another toy that you remember from your childhood. Tinkering away at something that triggers fond memories, and nostalgia is an easy way to give yourself a pick-me-up just when you need it the most.

3. Smile or laugh for no reason

“Laughter Yoga” is an exercise involving prolonged voluntary laughter that is meant to provide similar physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. The idea is that “fake” laughter can create the same chemical responses in your brain as the real thing. Before you dismiss it out of hand, just be aware that there are about 5,000 Laughter Yoga clubs worldwide.

4. Eat healthy and take your vitamins

Most Americans don’t get all the nutrients they need from daily food intake, and it could be impacting your mood. For example, Vitamin C helps relieve stress and enhances your overall mood, but half of Americans fall short of meeting their daily average requirements.

According to The Council for Responsible Nutrition, most Americans fall short of average requirements for Vitamin D and E, while more than a third of Americans fall short of the average required intake for calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin A.

Talk to your medical professional to see if a daily multivitamin could be just what the doctor ordered. In the meantime, eating a banana can’t hurt; after all, potassium is a big energy- and mood-booster.

5. Take a break from your phone

The constant barrage of text messages, notifications, and news alerts coming from your mobile device can be stressful. After all, social media apps are designed to be addictive, and obsessive scrolling can feed your FOMO (fear of missing out) or even trigger urges and unhealthy behaviors that you’re trying to avoid. Try turning off your phone for an hour a day just to take a breather. The messages will still be there when you turn it back on.

6. Get a hug from a loved one

Hugs are universally comforting whether you are excited, sad, saying goodbye, or even stressed. What is it about a hug that feels so good? The answer lies in oxytocin, sometimes known as “the love hormone.” Oxytocin causes a reduction in blood pressure and of the stress hormone norepinephrine. So next time something feels overwhelming, ask for a hug from your loved one because it benefits both of you and can be one of the simplest ways to reduce stress.

7. Find a relaxing scent

Aromatherapy can have instant mood-lifting effects, and according to one study, it can even calm tension headaches and migraines. Using green apple-scented pens, researchers at The Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation found that the scent drastically reduced discomfort from migraines (for subjects who liked the smell of green apples, that is). Following that logic, perhaps you can see if your favorite scents have similarly healing or relaxing effects. As far as essential oils go, a whiff of peppermint oil is said to calm light-headedness and lift mood. Meanwhile, lavender is a calming choice for bedtime. What aromas have a calming effect on you? Once you nail down your favorite scent, consider carrying around a small bottle of essential oil or using an aromatherapy diffuser.

8. Write a to-do(ne) list

Combat that “Imposter Syndrome” by not only writing down the things you have to do, but the things you’ve already done. Go a step further and make a list of goals, but also include the achievements and milestones that have brought you to where you are now. Truth is, sometimes to-do lists can be daunting; a To-Do(ne) list will remind you how far you’ve come and could give you some motivation to keep pushing forward.

9. Edit your social media feed

We mentioned earlier that you should turn off your phone sometimes to avoid obsessive scrolling through social media feeds. We also mentioned that social media platforms are designed to be addictive, but always remember that you can “edit” your feed by taking the time to get to know your settings. Consider silencing accounts that stress you out and prioritize accounts that show motivational, encouraging messages. Additionally, be sure to use all the tools in your toolbox: share, follow, mute, and unfollow. While there can be real-world ramifications to unfollowing friends and relatives online, using the hide and “mute” features on certain platforms can achieve the same results without social repercussions.

Next time you’re online, be mindful of how you feel before and after your screen time and ask yourself whether it might be worth editing your social media feeds.

10. Get artsy

From adult coloring books, to drawing, to paint-by-numbers there are tons of ways to express yourself creatively and blow off some steam. Painting can be a constructive way to externalize inner struggles and expel nervous energy. Get inspired by watching painter Bob Ross, on the PBS classic television show, The Joy of Painting. It’s free on Youtube. 

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