Stress is an unavoidable part of modern life. Work demands, financial pressures, health issues, relationship problems – they all add up to raised stress levels. While a little stress can help motivate and focus us, too much can significantly impact both our physical and mental health. When we experience prolonged or chronic stress, our body is constantly in fight-or-flight mode, leading to issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, infertility, and depression.
The good news is there are many techniques we can use to actively release stress so it doesn’t accumulate and overflow in unhealthy ways. It’s important not to let stress back up like a clogged drain – we need to regularly release it through conscious calming practices. Here are five powerful yet simple methods:
One of the fastest ways to prompt your body to relax is through taking slower, deeper breaths. This sends a signal that it’s time to calm down. Try box breathing – breathe in for a count of four, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold empty for four counts. Repeat this cycle at least five times, consciously focusing on and feeling your breath. Use this whenever you notice stress rising.
Shake it Out
Through simple shaking of your limbs, you can effectively shake off excess stress hormones and nervous energy. Stand with knees soft, feet shoulder-width. Start by shaking your hands vigorously at your sides for 15-30 seconds. Repeat with each leg, allowing your entire body to loosen up as you shake. Then do full-body shakes for 30 seconds or so, moving freely. You’ll be amazed how much lighter you feel!
Exercise is one of the most reliable and effective long-term stress management tools. When we move our bodies, our brain releases endorphins which counteract stress hormones. Nearly any form of exercise can work – walking, dancing, running, swimming, boxing, weightlifting – do what you enjoy. Aim for at least 30-60 minutes daily if possible. But even a quick 10-minute walk or dance break can make a big difference when you feel stressed.
Laugh Out Loud
Humor is a uniquely human emotional stress release valve. When we find something genuinely funny, we activate muscle groups that immediately relax our systems – even if laughing is the last thing we feel like doing in a stressful situation! But studies show laughing lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, and releases endorphins. So when stressed, tune into a funny show, listen to a standup comic, call the friend who always cracks you up, or watch cute animal videos online. Laughter is some of the best medicine when you need to destress.
A regular grounding practice helps train your nervous system to remain calm and centered even when stressful situations occur. It’s a way of keeping your body in the present so worries about the past or future can’t accumulate. There are many grounding techniques, like mindful walking, feeling your feet on the floor, or visualizing roots growing from your body deep into the earth. Use grounding when your mind is racing or body feels anxious. It “collects” your systems and reconnects you with steadiness and support.
Stress is an inevitable aspect of life. But you have more capacity than realize to cultivate calm even in the stormiest moments. Through regular practice of techniques like mindful breathing, shaking, exercise, laughter and grounding, you can release stored stress from your body, stay balanced, and weather life’s challenges with greater ease. Don’t allow tension to build up – make conscious stress relief a daily habit. Your mind and body will thank you.