Stress relief seems hard to come by these days. Stress is an inescapable reality, fortunately or unfortunately. But it’s how you handle it that matters. In those moments that you let your stress get the best of you, it can become a negative long-term response that ruins friendships, relationships, jobs, and more. More than half of all Americans report that their fights are rooted in stress; over 70 percent of which suffer physical and emotional symptoms from it.
21 Unexpected Ways You’ll Find Stress Relief
When it comes to relieving stress, we all know the basics – spend more time with loved ones, exercise regularly, and engage in more relaxing activities or hobbies on a weekly basis.
However, there are many smaller opportunities for natural stress relief that we often miss day-to-day, or never think to do. Dive into the list below and see what surprising stress-relievers you can apply to your own life!
1. Wash dishes (mindfully)
What could soiled dishes and cutlery possibly have to do with stress relief? Research suggest washing dishes mindfully effectively lowers nervousness and heightens inspiration. Next time you wash dishes, focus on their feel and smell and the water’s warmth.
Cleaning in general is a great natural stress aide! If you’ve got speakers and a diffuser, put on your favorite artist and breathe in the calming, grounding rhododendron to make cleaning feel like less of a chore.
2. Find Nemo, Dory, and peace
Blue water and beautiful fish are calming, but we don’t need to escape to a beach to get the benefits. Spend time at an aquarium and watch them move gracefully through water, completely unbothered by the world’s chaos. One study found that being around and watching sea creatures noticeably lowered people’s blood pressure and heart rate.
3. Reflect more often
Reflection can be intimidating. It requires you to be vulnerable and can take the form of prayer, meditation, or journaling. Making this a daily habit for as little as five minutes gives you a small, powerful block of time that allows you to acknowledge and work out your stress.
Baths are a great place to reflect and unwind at the same time. Simply add 2 drops of lemongrass essential oil into your diffuser; this will help sharpen mental clarity, and elevate your mood.
4. Stop slouching
Studies have confirmed that slouching lowers your mood and self-esteem. Sitting upright can make you more resilient to stress, improve memory, boost self-confidence, and improve your mood. You can benefit from these things, too! Give this simple exercise a try!
5. Create a quiet, soothing space
Colors affect us differently. Bright reds and oranges excite people while softer blues and greys relax others. Try carving out a relaxing space for yourself at home using soft accents in the decor (i.e. throw, pillows, rug). Enhance the soothing atmosphere further with a few drops of relaxing and grounding lavender oil in a diffuser.
6. Plan your next vacation
There’s something therapeutic about planning vacations. It’s hard to get excited when life seems governed by deadlines. But setting a plan in motion gives you something to look forward to, talk or think about, and work toward.
7. The healing power of human touch
Holding hands, hugging, kissing, and cuddling…These subtle, small actions provide huge stress relief for anyone feeling bogged down by life. In fact, intimate interactions increase endorphins and reduce stress hormones. The more you fill your life with loved ones, the more your body will counter depression and stress.
What’s more, our thoughts and actions can contribute to sore joints, tight muscles, and mental fatigue. This is your body telling you that you need to stop stressing and a massage is often the perfect antidote. If you can’t visit a masseuse, ask your partner to give you a massage; simply blend a few drops of lavender essential oil to your massage oil and rub it where you feel most tense. Or, use 1-2 drops under your tongue or in your water to sip throughout the day.
8. Visualize your thoughts
Psychologist Erin Olivo uses visual mindfulness meditation. Next time you’re stressed, try this: Pinpoint your stressors, visualize them as clouds and allow them to pass right over you. “When you begin to observe your thoughts as mental objects that simply come and go,” Olivo says, “they become less unpleasant…threatening…emotionally powerful.”
9. Give yourself a foot rub
It’s not easy to simply accept life’s stress as reality. That’s why you may want to turn to a grounding essential oil such as Jatamansi. Mixed in with a carrier oil, rub it into your feet before bed to relax and feel rejuvenated. Your feet actually have sixty pressure points, each able to provide unique relief. Use this guide yourself.
10. Say ‘NO’ more
Anyone who says ‘yes’ to everything knows the feeling of being stretched too thin. Once stress kicks in, you can only do ten things half-well versus five things extremely well. Can you see how this pattern can spiral out of control? One word – no – holds lots of power.
11. Knit or crochet
The art of needlework – the techniques, different patterns, and repetition involved – induces a state of relaxation like yoga or meditation. You may have trouble at first but once you find a groove, your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels can decrease significantly. Know how to knit or crochet and you can know stress relief.
12. Clench, then release your muscles
The idea, which has been around popularly since the 1930s, is that when you create muscle tension followed by relaxation, you feel immediate physical relief.
Try it yourself: Get into loose clothing and find a comfy position. Move down, starting from your forehead, and tense each muscle group for five seconds. If the tightness remains, tense them for five more seconds a few more times.
To boost the release of tension, add a few drops of calming, sweet-scented clary sage to a diffuser induce feelings of full-body comfort.
13. Spend time with kids
Remember when life was easy and the idea of ‘stress relief’ didn’t exist? Us too. Spend more time with your own kids, give your friend a break and watch their kid for an evening, or volunteer somewhere. Your life will be blessed, less stressed, and so will theirs.
14. Get nurtured by nature
More and more research points toward the psychological benefits of getting outside in sunshine and nature. Wilderness and green spaces are great stress relievers and can help lower blood pressure and alleviate depression or anxiety.
Vitamin D deficiencies also contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. This is why getting at least 1 hour of sunshine every day is ideal. But when the sun refuses to shine, bring the sun inside with an lemon-based aroma that elevates mood and refreshes fatigued minds. (It works best when diffused!)
15. Wake up a little bit earlier
No one likes to deprive themselves of sleep, especially when schedules are so jam-packed. But giving yourself 15-20 extra minutes before work starts can take a load off. First, you aren’t leaving home stressed in a race against time. Second, you can get where you’re going with extra time to finish that chapter or mentally prep yourself for what’s ahead.
16. Give more, take less
Studies found that, in comparison to people who spent money on themselves, those who spent extra money on others had lower blood pressure. Even when they factored in marital status, exercise and income, the studies’ findings held up!
If you can’t spend extra, simply hold the door for someone or shoot them a smile. It helps.
17. Lose yourself in a good book
You can argue that reading is escapist, but little compares to getting lost in someone else’s creation (whenever you want). Books are possibly the greatest pre-technology stress relievers. Talking about your journeys with your favorite characters is also a great idea if you’re more extroverted. Look into starting a book club or follow a reading plan with a friend.
18. Write yourself notes
Curate a little library of motivational or comforting phrases that you can tell yourself. You can write them on cue cards or store them in your phone, just make sure they’re easily accessible. The next time you notice that anxious, tense feeling of stress start to ball up in your gut, pull out one of these notes to help anchor your being and remind you that life’s going to be okay.
A pleasant personal touch is to apply one drop of angelica root to each card for added comfort. Now you get a message and a calming scent!
19. Channel your inner artist
Most people will brush this one off claiming they aren’t ‘artsy’. It’s not about what you paint, but that you paint. It’s the process: setting up a canvas, preparing your paint, getting your water, sitting down, and starting. Chances are you’ll stress even more if you try to copy Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” perfectly the first time.
20. Spend less time on technology
Some of you probably already feel the separation anxiety kicking in at the thought of having no phone. Trust us, it will be there when you come back (along with your sanity). Put your phone away, close your laptop, and truly connect with who you care about.
21. Get frisky
Sex helps melt the stress of your day away. It nurtures your connection with one another, releases endorphins, and pleasantly exhausts. For anyone looking to add an even deeper level of intimacy, a sweet and sensual massage oil or sensually intoxicating essential oil such as rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, or clary sage may be exactly what you need.
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