20 practical methods for stress relief | The ultimate guide

The methods for stress relief can be categorised in three broad categories, namely:

  • Movement related methods. Everything that includes bodily exercises.
  • Meditation and mind related methods, which help you keep your head clear and your mind at ease.
  • Activity related methods are techniques and exercises that you can do to ease the symptoms of stress.

Each of the categories include many different techniques and ideas, which you can implement in your life.

However that’s not the most important points when it comes to choosing the right one.

The key is to find the stress relief activities or strategies, that fit your own personality and stressors.

 

I’ll let that sink in for a second.

 

To be honest with you, finding the best methods for stress relief is no rocket science. 

There are bunch of websites out there, summarising 50+ or 100+ stress relief methods that you can try and build into your daily relaxation practice.

However, we are not all the same.

While writing a journal might work better for an introvert person, maybe it won’t for you. If you are extrovert you might find sitting on your own writing in a book utterly boring.

Maybe instead you should talk with someone about your day and stress levels. I believe you will enjoy it more and it will help you to relieve stress better.

I don’t really like when sites are trying to generalise stress relief for everyone.

 

The best you can do is to get to know different methods of stress relief or stress management techniques and choose the ones, which you like the most, and fit your stressors! Here is a simple exercise to figure out what are your stressors.

Of course it will involve some experimentation. Don’t be lazy to do it, it can be a fun process. You can also do it together with some one else. Just do it, as the famous Nike tagline goes.

To make it easier for you, below you can find a collection of stress relief methods, which I think are great and other people praise as well. I did try most of them myself, but not every single one of them.

I will keep this list updated, so it will grow continuously.

Since there are a lot of stress relief techniques and methods in this post, I have categorised them in three groups of stress relief method.

In this way you can have a better overview and find that fits you.

I also tried making each of them very practical, with steps you can use to start with stress relief as of today. Right after reading this post.

Let’s get practical and see each of them, shall we? 🙂

 

Movement related stress relief methods

#1 Passive muscles relaxation exercise

Let’s start this group with an exception right at the start 🙂 You do not literally move around, but I think it fits in this group.

Stress often manifests in tight and tired muscles. Matter of fact, pain in neck and shoulders are one of the most common symptoms of stress. If you also experience these type of pain from tiredness and stress, it’s ‘normal’.

It’s a bit different for everyone, maybe the symptoms of stress appear in the lower back, shoulders or neck. Maybe it’s other body parts.

Not only you can relief your tired muscles in this way but I also love doing this exercise right before I start with other meditation exercises or breathing techniques. It’s really nice to ease into the other exercises and enhance the stress relieving experience.

The point of the exercise is to go through your body and let tension go.

Here is a video of me helping you do it. Also called ‘guided relaxation video’ 🙂 Under the video you can also read the instructions, if you decide to go at it on your own.

  1. Lay down on a comfy couch or bed. If laying down is not possible, sitting will also do the trick if you have back support.
  2. Start by concentrating on the top of your head. Feel the sensations and muscles. Now breathe in, breathe out and tell to yourself (not out loud): ‘I will let tension go’. While you do so, feel the tension leaving the area and relaxing.
  3. Next up is your forehead, same routine.
  4. After your forehead you can continue with: your ears, the two sides of your cheeks, your lips ending with your eyes. Of course, do each of these areas one by one. Your eyes are the most important, as these are used and strained the whole day, especially if you look at the computer screen the whole day.
  5. After you are done with your head, you can go in bigger steps and include more body groups together. Usually I relax the following groups one-by-one:
    • Shoulders and neck
    • Hands
    • Chest
    • Back
    • Stomach
    • Upper legs
    • Lower legs and feet
  6. Once you are done you can keep relaxing, do a breathing technique or meditate.

I think this is one of the best stress relief exercises you can do when you feeling tired. Simple, free and easy to do.

 

#2 Yoga

Yoga is super popular form of relaxation, stress relief and in general a well-being activity recently.

It’s actually rather insane how popular it got, you can find literally hundreds of website discussing how to do yoga, Youtube videos, courses, whatever you want.

According to the Harvard Health Publications, research is rather limited on the effects of yoga on stress relief, but there are some quite promising ones.

Also, just from people’s experience, you can hear lot of positive feedback. Many people who tried yoga find it great for relaxation

I think the reason for that comes simply from the nature of yoga.

You have to regulate your breathing, clear your mind and do different muscles movements. All these things are great for stress relief on their own. Combined they are even more effective.

Would you like to try it yourself? Here is a nice little video from Youtube with some yoga exercises especially focusing for stress relief:

If you would like to learn more about yoga and how can it help you in stress relief, this looks like a good website to look around. They even have a Yoga for Stress and Anxiety course!

Personally I haven’t used yoga for stress relief yet, but I might give it a try in the upcoming period, with the help of some youtube videos.

There are also courses on Udemy if you are willing to pay for it. You can find the highest reviewed yoga courses here.

 

#3 Sports

In general any sport can be a great way for you to relieve stress. Pretty much anything involving moving and reliving your tense muscles and clearing your mind is great for stress management. 🙂

Stress relief activities such as sports

One of the reasons why sports are a great method for stress relief is that your body produces endorphins during physical activities, which creates this ‘feel-good’ mood and relieves stress.

Also, by making an effort for your well being, you feel better about your self. It can also improve your self-confidence, which I believe can also help in reducing stress in many cases.

I also noticed on myself that after sporting and working out, I can sleep better. It gives you this ‘nice-tired’ feeling, if you know what I mean.

Goes without saying that if you can sleep better, you are more relaxed and less stressed in the morning.

What type of sport should you choose for stress relief?

Depending on your personality type you might want to choose a team sport or an individual sport.

You don’t have to choose the usual suspects, like running, training or cross-fit or whatever is popular lately

Choose something that you like.

Choosing individual sports

If you can better unwind alone, you can choose anything from swimming, to working out, to kayaking or just shooting hoops… the list is endless.

As an added benefit and to enhance the stress relieving properties of sporting, you can also practice mindfulness while exercising. It’s simple, just be present in the moment, observe your body, the response to the activity, your environment and your thoughts.

You can even have a journal, where you note down how you feel before and after the activity and what things have you noticed while sporting. The more you know about stress relief, the better you can combine the different activities for better results 🙂

Choosing team sports

Great team sports or competitive sports can be squash, tennis, football, ping-pong, just to mention a few.

If you choose a team sport, you have the added benefit of socialising. Bonding with others, laughing and making friends on it’s own is a great way to relax and let stress go.

Take your budget into account, you don’t need to make it super expensive.

  • Check different gym memberships or place where you can do sports.
  • Don’t commit yourself to a membership before you try the given activity out a few times.
  • Lot of things you can do yourself outside, you don’t have to necessarily pay for it. Like playing football, playing basketball etc.

If you prefer doing something inside, you can also just watch some Youtube videos and pick up working out for example.

There are different goals you can achieve with work out, so just choose one and search for it on Youtube:

  • fat burning work out
  • stamina increasing work out
  • muscle gaining work out
  • general conditioning work out.

If you would like to try going to the gym, here is a gym finder you can try.

Sporting is an absolutely natural method for stress relief. Even though I said that everybody should find their own methods for stress relief, I think sporting should be on the list for everyone.

No matter what person are you, you can find a sport that fits and it’s just super healthy to do it.

 

#4 Stretching for relieving stress

I love stretching in the morning, during the day and in the evenings as well.

Stretching for stress relief

Yes, you can use it pretty much any time of the day. It works great as part of your stress relieving morning ritual or evening ritual as well.

You don’t need to stretch for too long. A light 10-15 minutes is more than enough if you combine it with other stress relief exercises like deep breathing techniques.

Why is stretching so good for stress relief?

Stretching is great to relax your tensed muscles, relief some pain and induce relaxation for the muscles. A bit similar to some of benefits of yoga.

As any other exercise where you move your body, stretching can increase blood circulation, which helps revitalising your body.

I like combining stretching exercises with my body relax exercise a.ka. Feeling Body Technique, discussed earlier in this post, for a short little relaxation morning routine.

I think it’s also nice to do stretching before meditation, as it releases tension and you start meditating in a more relaxed state. I noticed on myself that this helps to focus better and be better in my meditation practice, similarly to the Feeling Body Technique.

What type of stretching exercise can you do?

It really depends on the area of your body, which feels most tensed.

For me it’s typically the shoulders and neck muscles, which get tired from stress during the day. So I learned some handy stretching exercises to relief stress.

Here below you can find some videos about the most commonly tensed areas.

This is a video you can use for a full body stretching exercise to relief stress

And this video can be used to relieve stress in the neck and shoulder area and you can also use it for work space stress relief

If you have a little room or space at work, where you can do stretching exercises, yo should definitely do it during the day as well. Great way to relax, refresh your mind and get new energy for work.

If you don’t have such a space at work, why not arrange one with your manager 😉 Here are some tips how do it in this workplace stress relief post.

 

#5 Self-massage for tension relief

Not really a movement related exercise, but I think it fits in this category the most.

Massage when done right is a great method for stress relief. I think massage works pretty much the same way as stretching exercises. It relaxes your muscles, increases your blood flow and it has the added benefit of the ‘power of touch’.

A study shown that being touched can increase serotonin production, a natural antidepressant. Another study discussed how Swedish massage for example might help in decreasing stress hormones.

If you would like to read more about the additional health benefits of massage, this article summarises it pretty nicely.

You can also go to a professional, it really worths the money to have your body massaged maybe once a month.

In order to spare some budget, maybe you partner can give you a massage. Alternatively you can also simply do a self-massage stress relief exercise.

When doing the massage session with your partner, I think it will be also a great bonding moment. You can also use the time to appreciate each other, talk about your feelings or simply about your day.

This alone can help in reducing stress.

Here is a nice back massage video that you can do together with your partner:

And here below is a nice video to relieve stress in your neck and shoulders with self-massage:

 

Meditation / Mind related stress release techniques

 

#6 Meditation (well, that was an obvious one…)

OK, so the first and most obvious stress release technique, in this group, you can use is meditation. Similarly to yoga, it’s very popular lately, although it’s a used since a long time.

Meditation is said to be great for your health.

In recent years there is also more and more research saying that meditation is beneficial for your brain activity in multiple ways:

  • it may lead to volume changes in certain areas of the brain responsible for emotional regulation (thus helping us better control emotions)
  • it helps the area of the brain which is the so called ‘me-center’ and responsible for the wondering of your mind. This is positive, as this random jumping of thoughts is associated with worry and dissatisfaction

You can find another study here, which found that on average 27 minutes of meditation a day for 8 weeks long you can improve activity in 5 different parts of your brain.

Other benefits of meditation include increase in concentration, attention and it can help in slowing ageing. Ageing has been associated with the loss of grey matter in the brain, which meditation apparently can help in counter-acting.

Well, this is all great and beautiful, but what really interest us is:

What good meditation can do for stress relief?

Research shows that meditation may help in improving the relaxation response of the body. This is a set of biochemical activities influencing heart rate, metabolism and blood pressure. Zen practices were also found to have positive effects on blood pressure.

Technically, from a stress management standpoint, meditation is a great stress relief method because it helps to slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and calm your mind.

You also regulate your breathing, which typically gets shallow during stress events.

So after hearing all these positive things about meditation, there is only one question left.

How can we really use meditation for stress relief?

The easiest type of meditation you can do is what I call ‘Empty Mind Meditation’.

The Empty Mind Meditation Technique is very simple. This technique has its roots in Buddhist empty mind meditation and also Chinese Taoist meditation.

Here are the steps, how I do this exercise:

  1. Find a comfortable place, a chair with good back support or a couch/bed to lay down.
    • If you choose a chair, just sit straight; put both of your feet on the ground and your hand in a comfortable position on your lap.
    • If you feel very stressed, I suggest doing a simple stretching exercise as mentioned earlier in this post.
  2. Start taking deep breaths and focus on breathing.
    • You can take deep breaths by breathing in first at your stomach area and working up to the upper areas of your lungs. You can also do the Blue Breathing Technique if you got used to it.
  3. After around 10-15 deep breaths, once you are feeling more relaxed, try letting your mind go by simply not concentrating on anything specific. Imagine an empty white or black canvas, and just let it hang there. (This is a little cheating, because your mind is not technically empty, but hey, in the beginning it’s useful.)
  4. Some thoughts might pass by, let them be, don’t start consciously thinking about them. Direct your mind back to the white or black canvas or concentrate on nothing specific.

Personal tip: After lying down to meditate I like using a simple trick to relax my body and mind. I count down from 3 to 1. Simply take a deep breath and while you exhale say 3, 3, 3, 3… while exhale…inhale and say 2,2,2,2 while exhaling, inhale and say 1, 1, 1, 1 while exhaling. While doing this you can imagine how your mind and consciousness is going into a deeper level of relaxation. I usually do this by falling or sliding down on a slope. You can have your own imaginary.

Personal tip 2: It might help if you put some type of relaxing music on. I prefer these relaxing ‘spa music’ as I call them. You can find some examples in this post.

You can also try different types of meditation, for example:

Loving-kindness meditation. Here you can find a long description on how to do it. This meditation exercise can raise you happiness levels and provide a general mood lift.

There is also guided meditation. Guided meditation might be a good option if you are just starting with meditation. It might be easier to focus. I’ll create some audios soon, until that you can use this one from Youtube, it’s pretty good.

 

#7 Breathing techniques

Breathing techniques are among the simplest and cheapest methods of stress relief you can use.

They are rather effective as well. Literally within minutes they can help you to relieve stress and worry.

Breathing techniques work great because well, they help you regulate your breathing and oxygen intake. Typically, when you are stressed, your breathing gets shallow and your heartbeat speeds up.

By practicing deep breathing exercises for example, you can change from shallow breathing to slow, deep breathing and lower your blood pressure, slow down your heart rate and help your relaxation response to kick in.

It works great in my opinion. It is also one of the most common methods of stress relief that I use.

For me specifically works well because when stressed, I have a bad feeling in my stomach. By practicing deep breathing, I can relax the muscles around my stomach thus easing my symptoms of stress.

If you also suffer from upset stomach when stressed, this stress reliever is a good one to try.

What type of breathing exercises can you use for stress relief?

1, One of my favourite breathing techniques is the Blue Breathing Technique, for which you can find the summary under that link. This is also the one which I use most often. It is a mix of a deep breathing and a visualisation exercise, which helps me to improve my focus.

2, The 1-minute breathing exercise. If you are short on time or if you have a stressful event, this can help you unwind quite fast. It said to improve your health in general if you commit to use it on regular bases.

PLEASE watch the whole video below because there are some important points in the end about how to use it concerning your health. Here is the video by Santa himself (just kidding, but the resemblance is uncanny 🙂

3, Under this video you can find 3 yoga breathing exercise to relieve stress. Check out the whole video, maybe some of them will work for you as well

 

I would suggest trying to use one of breathing techniques, like the Blue Breathing Technique as a warm up for other meditation or relaxation exercise. It can ease you in the ‘meditation’ mood very nicely 🙂

You can also include a breathing exercise in your morning or evening rituals. Another use for it is right before sleep to relax you and help in falling asleep.

I don’t have problems with sleeping, but I use breathing exercises for stress relief almost every evening right before going to bed, usually with some slow relaxing music in the background.

 

#8 Mindfulness practice

I am cheating a bit here, because mindfulness is not really a stress relief technique. It’s more like a way in which you live your life in my opinion.

Mindfulness to reduce stress

Don’t get me wrong, it can be used for stress relief, as the ‘mindfulness-based stress reduction’ method also teaches. That’s why it’s included in the list here.

Mindfulness should be embedded in your everyday activities.

If you do so, it can tremendously decrease your feeling of being overwhelmed, stressed, self-doubt and in general that busy feeling in your head. I know it, because it helped me as well.

I used to worry about the silliest things. Locking the door, the car, turning electrical plugs out, the oven before leaving from home etc.

It’s not like I ever forgot to do any of these. I never did, actually.

However I was always so busy in my head with other thoughts, that I just did activities automatically and few minutes later when I was on my way already, I started thinking like…did I really lock the door?

Mindfulness was a great help.

Instead of thinking always two-three steps ahead and being busy in my head, I took the time to concentrate on the present moment.

When locking the door for example, I concentrate on closing the door, noticing it’s closed, grabbing the keys, feeling them in my hand. Paying attention to putting them in the lock and turning the keys.

It sounds silly, but for someone who continuously thinking on something, this was a big thing for me.

And simply said, that’s pretty much what mindfulness is about.

Being present, concentrate on this moment and appreciate and notice what is happening around you. Be here, be in the now.

Being mindful of the activity you are doing, you can let go of worry and spare the stress.

By doing this with multiple activities during the day, these small mindful moments really add up and reduce your overall stress levels tremendously.

I think one of the reasons it’s so helpful because when you are mindful and concentrate on the present task at hand, you cannot concentrate and think about others things, such as the thing that is stressing you.

If you would like to read a bit more in detail what is mindfulness you can do so on this mindfulness page here and on this mindfulness website here.

Personal tip: Pay attention to your senses when being mindful. Touch, smell, taste, hearing, etc. The world can completely open up when you focus with your sense. Because these sense take quite some brain power it will help you avoid stressing about other things.

When and how to use mindfulness in your daily life?

Think about where can you apply mindfulness in your daily life. Some examples:

  • Cooking
  • Making your tea
  • Gardening
  • Driving in the car
  • Locking the doors
  • Packing things before travel
  • Doing the groceries

Some typical places where I consciously apply mindfulness are locking doors, turning lights off, eating, drinking tea and taking a shower. You can continuously expand the list of your activities.

You can practice mindfulness in the simplest of ways, building it in your everyday schedule. One of the typical activities, which offer a moment to slow down and practice mindfulness is brushing your teeth. Don’t laugh ;

I think it’s a great activity to use for mindfulness, because it involves different senses like tasting, smelling and feeling. It typically also a time, which is kind of wasted because you cannot do much during it. Unless you are running around in your home in a rush packing stuff in your bag or dressing up while brushing your teeth 🙂 I used to do that 🙁

I came up with this simple mindfulness technique called Mindful Brushing Technique. Check it out and see if you want to use it.

Mindfulness meditation – another way to stress relief

In order to practice mindfulness, you can also do a mindfulness meditation technique. It works pretty much the same way as other meditation techniques, but you do not really have a special something to focus on:

  1. Find a comfortable sitting position. This can be on the floor on a cushion in the traditional cross-legged position with straight back or on a chair. I think you can also lay down.
  2. Start breathing deeply and be aware of your breathing. No special counting needs to be followed, just breathe naturally and notice the whole process of breathing and the sensations it involves.
  3. Feelings might arise, in this case you can switch to notice the feeling and be with it, or you can stay with breathing.

The goal of mindfulness meditation is just to be in the present, without doing something special, or concentrating on something special.

Just be aware of what is happening. If you want you can be aware of the breathing or if some feelings or thoughts arise, than notice those and be aware of them.

Don’t try to judge them, don’t try to understand them or further think about them. Just notice them.

Also things might happen around you, some noises arise, a smell hits your nose or a sensation in your body. You can just notice them as a ‘smell’, ‘sensation’ or anything else and let them pass.

It might feel boring or useless just not doing anything but that’s actually pretty much the point of it in my opinion.

Just slow down and notice what happening around you and be in the present moment instead of concentrating on your stressors.

You can notice wonderful small things in life if you are actually in the present and aware of what you are doing and what is happening. So give it a try 😉

 

#9 Concentrate on your achievements and lift your mood

I noticed that if I am experiencing workplace stress or something challenging happening in the upcoming period I feel anxious and stressed. If you have the same issue, this tip might be helpful as it helped me as well.

You have probably experienced hardships in your life before, or achieved things, which you are proud of.

Achievements to life your mood and relax your mind

Some examples could be:

  • a tough job you had before
  • dealt with difficult people
  • won some type of championship
  • finished school
  • started a business (doesn’t matter if failed or not)
  • raised a child
  • or whatever else you are proud of or could be proud of because it was not easy

When thinking about your success be somewhat proud and looks at them from a third person perspective. People tend to downplay their successes when they are actually quite amazing!

To collect your achievements, you can even create a ‘my successes’ book (with a simple notebook), where you list all the things you have achieved in life. You can even stick some of the certificates, first business card, pictures or other things in the notebook that remind you of a given success.

Better yet, make the first half of the book about success and the second half of dreams. What things do you still want to achieve? Which places around the glove do you want to visit? Are there gadgets and stuff you still want to buy?

The first half of the book can boost your self-confidence while the second half can help motivating you.

This book can also serve as a little chicken soup for the soul when you feel blue and stressed.

It can lift your spirit and help you relax by reminding you that you have been in tough situations before.

I am not sure what scientific research out there to support this, but it works for me.

Sometimes all that you need is a little motivation to lift you up and get rid of your stressors caused by challenges.

You need to switch the voices in your head telling that ‘I can’t do it’ to ‘I can try and I might even succeed!’.

I have a movie scene which helps me when I am feeling unmotivated or stressed. Maybe it will help you as well.

 

#10 Don’t keep focusing on one issue at a time (when it comes to stress)

I’ll tell you up straight, this tip does not directly help you relieve stress, but it’s important for the process.

Usually I like concentrating on one issue when it comes to my to-dos. Multitasking is not good, as it distracts your attention and slow you down.

With stress management however, I really think concentrating on more things and improving different parts of your at the same time is better.

I mean, you are not going to ONLY do a 10-minute meditation exercise everyday and hope your life will magically get stress free.

Neither will you only do a single work stress relief exercise like self-massage or drinking hot tea in breaks.

You can and should, do multiple things because else it will take ages until you notice difference in your stress levels. You get demotivated in the process and give up, thinking that it isn’t working.

If there is specific stressors that causes you worry, you should definitely work on that area in your life. However it doesn’t mean that you cannot at the same time improve other parts of your life as well.

Let me give you an example.

If you have a difficult workload and at home you cannot get work out of your mind, you should definitely try strategies to reduce your workload (see this article about workplace stress here). However at the meantime you should practice letting go at home, by picking up sporting or meditation as a habit.

Keep focusing on different things, also helps you take your mind off from stress, It gives you a happy feeling that you are doing something positive to get rid of your stressors.

I hope this makes sense for you as well.

So shortly said, do different stress relief methods and relaxation exercises from the start. I don’t believe that doing only a 10-minute meditation exercise a day will change your world.

Though if you are not doing anything it’s better than nothing 😛

 

#11 Mind your mental language and the power of being positive

The way you talk to yourself in your mind (your self-talk) has an enormous influence on your life.

Reduce stress naturally with positive thinking

There are lots of books about this topic on Amazon, one of the classics and my personal favourite is: Napoleon Hill – Think and Grow Rich a book absolutely recommended. ‘Rich’ here doesn’t mean financially but rich as a person. It’s a 100-year-old book, still relevant today.

Note: Watch out for the fake books, I saw a lot which were not written by Napoleon Hill. Buy the original book.

There is also research supporting the idea, for example this one is interesting discussing the difference when you say ‘I’ in your mental talk or you say your own name. This other page gives a good overview of different research papers, also the ones that say that self-talk might not work for everyone.

It’s interesting and important to see both side of the story. 

In my personal experience, having a positive mental language, improves your state of mind and life in multiple ways, while helping you relieve stress.

First by having a more positive tone in your mind, you help keeping opportunities open to yourself.

What I mean by this is that, if you say things like, ‘oh that’s not possible’ or ‘that’ll never work’ you immediately shut your brain down from even trying to learn something new or work on solving a challenge.

Adopting a more positive tone, like ‘that might be possible’ or ‘let’s see how could that work’ let’s you understand new prospective and expands your view on things. You will put your mind power in action and who knows, maybe you’ll learn a thing or two.

It will also make self-development easier, because you won’t be that judgmental; you take a more humble stance, which is important for long-term self-development in my opinion. It helps you in learning from you mistakes as well.

For stress relief positive language is important, because in stressful situations it can help you in focusing on solving an issue instead of dwelling on it.

For example if you have a new tough deadline at work instead of saying things like: ‘my boss is mad for settings this deadline, we’ll never make it’, you can try to understand the bigger picture. Why has this happened and say things like: ‘Alright, this is not the most desirable way, but this is how it is. Let’s see what things do we need to shift to make this work’.

If you do this, you will notice an immediate shift in your thinking. You set your mind in motion to let the worry and anxiety go and focus on solving the task at hand. Just by this you will already decrease stress, as you get busy with something positive in your head.

How to use positive thinking as a stress relief activity?

I know this tip is a bit ‘fluffier’ than the previous ones. To make it practical, just focus on the following:

  1. Whenever you catch yourself using negative language in your mind, stop for a second.
  2. Look at the situation, see what stresses you, what are you angry about.
  3. Take a ‘bird’s-eye’ view, like a third person at your situation, see what could the bigger picture be, why a person does something and why these things could be happening to you?
  4. Accept the fact that this is what happened. It might be undesirable, but this is how it is.
  5. Start thinking about how to make the best of the situation, without blaming others and dwelling on how bad this is for you.

I think this works great as a first step when dealing with a stressful situation.

Also, you should pay attention to your mental language during the day. Whenever you see yourself chanting negative ideas to yourself about stress,  you should change those to more positive ones or do a stress relief exercise.

Your stress journal can help you catch these negative thoughts and help you evaluate them in the end of the week. In this way you can make more conscious steps against your self-talk.

 

#12 Take jokes and criticism well, loosen up and don’t be too serious

It’s rather hard to offend me now. Wasn’t always like this though.

Positive attitude against stress

I used to take things personally, it used to bother me a lot and it used to eat me a bit inside when someone said something offending. They didn’t even have to say something offending on purpose, but if it sounded offending, it was already enough…

The problem with this mentality, is that you don’t achieve much by beating yourself up on someone criticising you or making fun of you.

It does however results in unnecessary anger, takes your focus away and ultimately results in unnecessary stress and anger. It also puts you in a defensive stance against other people.

Now, I am not saying to take cr*p from people and just laugh about it all the time.

No, that would be silly and people might take advantage of you.

I am saying to have a healthy amount of self-confidence, don’t take jokes too seriously, don’t let things bother you and cause you unnecessary stress.

I am not sure anymore in which book I read this, maybe in Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to win friends and influence people’ (classic, totally recommended, the title is a bit misleading, but it’s really a great book), but 33% of the people who you meet in life, will like you no matter what.

Maybe because of your looks, how you talk, what you do, or just because they are nice people.

33% will dislike you for probably the very same reasons, or just because they are silly people.

33% won’t really care who you are or what you do, they are kind of neutral.

So instead of focusing on the people who don’t like you, just focus on the ones who do and maybe a bit on the neutral people, so you can make some new friends.

How to get less offended in real life to reduce stress?

I think you can use the following tips to help you implement this in practice:

  1. When someone offends or criticises you, see for a second if there is any truth in what they are saying, if there is something you can improve on. Have an open mind about criticism.
    • If you think there is no truth to it, let it go. Better yet, make fun of it yourself, have a good laugh on it.
    • This will discourage the person from further criticising you. Most people stop and get discourage once they see that they cannot irritate you.
  2. If the person is being an irritating idiot more than one time, you can fire back with some funny remarks about him or her. Think about this in advance.
  3. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Everybody has some strengths and some weaknesses.
    • If you are more aware what yours are, you will have more self-confidence and won’t be bothered by comments, because you know they are not true.
    • If they are true than you know that you are working on improving them. You can thank the person for remind you of it.
  4. Pity the silly people who criticise you. Especially if they do it more often. Often people who criticise others are very insecure and feel bad about themselves.
    • They make themselves feel good about themselves by making others look bad. You should feel sorry for them, because they are sad.
  5. Even though you keep an open mind, only care about the opinion of a few people in your life. In my life there 4-5 people who’s opinion I care about, because hey know me the best. The rest can say what they want to say, it doesn’t offend me.

It shouldn’t you either.

 

Activity related stress relief methods

 

Some of the below activities are better methods for stress relief than others, because they help in releasing certain chemicals in your body responsible for inducing relaxation or they relax certain areas of your brain.

That’s what research says at least.

I believe that pretty much any activity that makes you happy and takes your mind off from your stressors is good for relaxation and stress relief.

Some might be better than others, true, but the ultimate goal in my opinion is to relieve stress and have fun meanwhile.

I do everything ranging from going on a walk with my girlfriend, to playing basketball, spend time on video games or read a good self-development book. Some mornings I do stretching, the other time I might do more breathing exercises or work-out some.

So just because knitting is good for stress relief, it doesn’t mean you need to start making the Xmas sweater for your family members as of today.

I hope this list below gives you some good ideas for activity based stress relief methods.

Who knows, which stress relief method you might like? Try out different stress relievers and see which one works for you the best.

I think it’s a fun process to experiment with new activities. you might learn a thing or two and might meet people who are also working on relieving stress.

 

#13 Knitting

Knitting can help to reduce stress

Lately there is some research showing that activities like knitting can have positive cognitive effects and a clinical psychologist at the Northern Arizona University pointed out how textile handcraft activities had great mood lifting effects and when exposed to stressors, people in the research group who engaged in textile handcraft activities had less of an inflammatory response. Well that was a long sentence.

Anywho, based on research and from the stories of people it seems that knitting can have beneficial effects on your health and can help in reducing stress.

Well, it’s hard to be practical here, it’s not like I can write a knitting guide for you, but I think this site can help you if you want to pick up knitting as a hobby.

There are also some nice videos, with the basics of knitting on youtube, like this one.

If you are more the book lover type, this seems like a good book to start with your journey in the world of knitting.

Well, what else there is to say? Get busy for Xmas with that sweater 😉

 

#14 Using a journal

Writing a journal is another peaceful method for stress relief, which can help you in calming your mind and get rid of your stressors.

I think this is a pretty straightforward one.

Writing a journal for relieving stress

Writing a journal provides a great opportunity for letting your steam out, be completely yourself, be honest and tell your feelings to yourself and to your journal.

I think being honest with yourself and just writing down your feelings, expressing them in a manner is already a great way to release the tension in you.

It also provides a great way to reflect on your day, on your actions and your reaction to events.

You can use it to recognise when you become stressed, what are your causes of stress and in this way you can better prepare and maybe even avoid them next time. In this way you can eliminate your symptoms of stress before they occur.

Some research found that journaling can help in lowering depression symptoms after writing for a significant amount of time, in this particular research it was after a 6-month period.

How to write a journal to reduce stress?

There is really no right or wrong way to write a journal. If you don’t have one yet, then get a nice journal you like, grab a pen and go all out.

I think you can use your journal in multiple ways.

First you can use it as a stress journal to identify your causes of stress.On how to do this, check this post, which I wrote about using a stress journal.

You can also use your journal to write about how your day went and tell your journal how you feel. So, using journal in the way as people usually mean it.

Some ideas to keep in mind when writing:

  • Be honest with yourself, don’t be afraid to let out how you feel
  • If you are afraid someone will see it just keep it locked away
  • Don’t judge yourself, you don’t have to
  • You don’t have to write long sentences, you can keep short bullet points type of storytelling as well
  • If you choose to do it, try doing it every day

To be honest with you, I tried writing a journal; it’s not really my thing, I think it works better for more introvert personalities.

I like to let the steam out in words and rather discuss it with someone (probably the extrovert personality in me).

If you are more like me, you could try the next method of stress relief, namely…

 

#15 Talk with someone about your feelings

talking with a friend to reduce anxiety

I like discussing things with someone from time to time. Instead of going to a psychologist, I just talk with my girlfriend or my parents about my issues.

There is really not much to explain about this tip, the idea behind it is pretty much the same as journaling, see above.

If you are more extrovert type, I highly recommend you to share your feelings and talk about stress with someone who you trust. It can really help you let the tension out this way.

Next to being a nice method for stress relief it will also build your relationship with other people.

Maybe they will share their feelings and stressors with you and you can learn from each other regarding how to deal with them.

You might even find your new knitting buddy 🙂

How to start with sharing your stressors and feelings with others?

Discussing stress and things that bother you with another person can be a tricky thing at the beginning, because you need to open up.

Do it only with people you are comfortable with or with people who you think will understand you.

If you can do it with your significant other, it’s great. I think it will make your relationship stronger.

If you are single at the moment, try it with your parents or with your BFF (best-friend-forever).

You can approach this whole topic by letting the other person know that you feel stressed lately and wouldn’t mind sharing it with him or her. You can tell the other person that you would be happy to listen to the things that bother her or him as well.

In this way you won’t come over as someone who just talking about negative things, but you make it as the purpose of the conversation.

I would suggest gradually sharing your feelings, don’t go all out the first time. If the other person is receptive and it seems to you the she or he is willing to help you, you can share more next time.

 

#16 Be organised and have a good overview of your to-dos

This stress relief tip doesn’t have to do much with research, but more with common sense. I think this one is pretty self-explanatory, but still very important for good stress management.

You might get simply stressed because of the overwhelming feeling of all the to-dos you have. If you forget some of them it’s even worse.

If to-dos also cause you stress, you are in luck, because it isn’t that difficult to handle this issue.

For me it helps a lot already, just to simply write down all the tasks I have. In this way I don’t have to think about them anymore, don’t need to keep them in my mind.

I have a to-dos list for work and a to-dos list for home. I write everything down as soon as they come up, put them in the right priority on the list and then I forget about them.

In this way I don’t have to stress about keeping too many things in my head and I know I will eventually get to them.

Be flexible in managing your to-dos. Sometimes ad-hoc things come up, which need immediate attention, so don’t stress about not being able to keep your to-dos.

Prioritise your list in a simple manner. Look through the to-dos and put them in an order of importance taking into account their deadlines.

Don’t keep a list longer than what you can handle in a week. Put everything for next week in a separate list and take a look at it before next week.

On this week’s list just go by the order of the tasks and finish them one by one. Finish as many tasks as you realistically can, without over doing it.

One thing that is very important to remember for stress relief: You cannot finish everything in one day.

Do your best, but don’t overdo it every day.

You need time for relaxation and to spend with your loved ones.An occasional late-nighter is fine, but not if it’s an everyday routine.

If you have so many tasks that everyday you are trying to squeeze more and more in, you just need to eliminate some of the things from your to-dos and accept you don’t have time for everything. Focus.

Be contempt with whatever tasks you can do. If you have the feeling you didn’t do enough, just try better tomorrow.

Like I mentioned in the workplace stress management guide, it is important to have a prioritised list but you shouldn’t stress about it. Keep doing your tasks the best you can, and be contempt with what you have achieved.

 

#17 Turning to faith

I respect everyone’s choice of faith. At the core, most religions are about being kind and loving to each other, and I think that is what important.

turning to faith to ease your mind

I also think that religion can bring a peace of mind to people and relieve stress.

Believing in a higher power lifts most of the weight from your own shoulders and communicating in your prayers gives you a way to express your emotions, worries and let go.

If you are religious person, you can try turning to your religion to help you find inner peace.

If you are not a religious person, you might be interested in looking into different religions or belief systems and see if you can find one that resonates with you.

 

#18 Listen to relaxing music

I will not go into detail but listening to music is one of the best ways to relief stress and one of my personal favourite methods for stress relief. Another very natural stress reliever I would say.

There is nothing quite like when it’s dark outside, late, the car noises cannot be heard anymore, it’s quiet.

You put on some dim lights, maybe some Philips Hue lights (they looks stunning), and you lay on the couch and turn on your favourite tunes, not too loud, just subtle enough so you can let your mind wonder. Sublime.

Well, at least relaxing music works great for me.

Regarding the science behind relaxing music and stress relief you can check out this post I wrote.

It also includes some nice tips and detailed steps how do I approach a relaxing music session to maximise the benefits for stress relief.

Once you are used to listening music for relaxation, you will be able to use it on the road as well or during the day to enjoy a relaxed space on the way.

 

#19 Swimming

Yes, indeed, swimming is great way of stress relief. Why you might ask?

swimming for tension relief

Well, for several reasons, as this article and research points out on Psychcentral. As an intensive exercise, it helps in initiating the right biochemical reactions in your body, moves your muscles and also regulates your breathing, all of which are good for stress relief as we discussed in this post earlier.

I think it also has to do with concentration. When you are swimming, you have to watch out for your breathing, your muscles movement, where the pool begins and ends and the people around you.

You are so occupied with the whole activity of swimming that you really don’t have any time to stress.

It helps you get into a good ‘flow’ where you swim and do nothing else, which is a nice way to relief stress as I mentioned in this work stress management post.

There have also been interesting studies showing the experiences of people regarding how their mood changed after a hearty swimming session, like in this research about swimming and stress relief.

I think the type of swimming you do, doesn’t really matter. Any kind of swimming activity combines those stress relief benefits mentioned above.

To be honest with you, for me, being just in water and floating around already helps. But I am water-person, so that might has to do with that. 🙂

Not sure where you can start swimming? You can use this website if you are in the US to locate the nearest swimming pool to your place.

If you haven’t learned how to swim, maybe it’s a good time to learn it now by signing up for a good swimming lesson. Maybe this website can help with finding a lesson.

I think swimming in general is a nice activity to do, however it isn’t the cheapest stress relief method out there.

 

#20 Take a nap

Believe it or not, sleeping is also among the best ways to relief stress. It’s not the first method that people turn to however when it comes to stress management.

I guess it is because people often feel like they are wasting their time when sleeping and they rather do actual activities for relief stress.

take a nap for relaxation

It’s kind of silly… I mean the whole point of stress relief is to relax and let go.

I would say sleeping is a pretty good way to let go and relax. It’s not even optional. You have to sleep, because your body needs the rest to regenerate.

Not enough sleep can cause you to be get irritated to easily, which according to Helpguide can lead to stress. Many people, not surprisingly report that not having enough sleep causes them to feel more stressed and they are more likely to report the different signs of stress.

Best way to counter this is to, well you guessed it right, take a nice naps and have enough sleep.

Napping is great. 🙂 My favorite spot is the couch.

I also love combining it with a simple visualization exercise, to help me relax and fall asleep.

My favorite visualization exercise for this is the Favourite Relaxation Spot techniques. You can read more about it under the workplace stress management tips. It’s tip number 7.

Personal tip: You will have to experiment a bit with the best napping times you need. The thing is, when you are exhausted and you take a nap, it will be very hard to get up afterwards. Which is OK, if you are just beginning with this habit.

Once your body gets more relaxed it will be easier to get up, but you still need to find the right amount of time that works you the best. For me it’s between 20-25 minutes if I combine it with the above mentioned visualisation exercise. On days when I am really exhausted, it’s more in the 65-75 minutes range.

Use a subtle alarm clock to help you waking up. I usually put it on the lowest possible sounds and right under my palm, so i can easily swipe it and disable to alarm on my smartphone. This let’s me to get up in a more relaxed way instead of a loud alarm noise.

 

What other methods for stress relief are there?

Like I mentioned in the beginning of this section, there are endless amount of activities you can do to relief stress.

I think pretty much anything that brings you joy and fun is good for this purpose, because the whole point is to relax mentally and physically. Here are some other things you might want to try.

As I have more time I will write in more detailed about these points why are they actually good for you and include my personal tips for them.

  • Take a walk
  • Play some games (card, videos games, board games)
  • Play with your kids
  • Watch some funny series
  • Pick up pretty much any sports
  • Go to a theater
  • Visit a museum

There are amazingly lot methods for stress relief you can use in your quest for relaxation and stress management. Above are some that might be useful in this quest.

I will also try to keep this list updated with new stress relief methods all the time, so keep looking back.
You can also sign up for the newsletter, with this form below. In this way you will always know if new tips are available.


As I always say, don’t hesitate with practicing stress relief.

Pick two or three stress relief methods from the above list which you think can best fit your situation and try them out.

As for the usual question for the end of the post.

Which of the above methods for stress relief will you try? Have you maybe tried some of them already, how did they work for you?

Share your views, maybe they will help other readers as well 😉

Relax and be well,

Istvan

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