Health and Fitness

15 Effective Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

While a little bit of stress can motivate us into action, prolonged exposure to stress can take a toll on our mental and physical well-being.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the stress in your life at the moment here are 15 tips and techniques that you can use immediately to reduce stress and increase feelings of wellness.

1.Tackle the Root Cause

What is causing you stress and anxiety?

Write everything down that is causing you to feel this way then think of at least one solution for each stressor.

Then review your solutions on a weekly basis and keep what is working and change what isn’t working. 

2. Challenge Negative Thoughts

Reframing unhelpful thoughts allows us to see things from a balanced perspective.

When we are immensely stressed and anxious about a situation our thoughts are more likely to be negative.

But when our thoughts are pessimistic,  it affects the way we feel.

So by changing negative thoughts to positive ones, we are more likely to feel better about our life. 

To do this, start by recognizing these self-limiting thoughts, then aim to analyze them.

Is there any evidence?

Then challenge and replace these thoughts for more positive ones. If you can’t do this all the time it doesn’t matter.

The goal is to learn to think more flexibly so that you feel a greater sense of control in your life.

3. Break Big Tasks into Smaller Tasks

Sometimes just the thought of trying to complete a task can leave us feeling exhausted.

So, instead of looking at a task like a mountain, simply break it down into smaller manageable tasks that resemble hills.

4. Positive Thinking

scientific research shows that there is a correlation between positive thinking and better health. 

You can reduce the intensity of your stress and anxiety by shifting your focus to what is positive in your life.

To do this set aside ten minutes each day and list three positive things about your day in a designated journal.

Give each positive event a title and write about it in detail.

Once you have done this, reflect on what you think caused the positive event and then consider how you could create more of these positive moments in your life.

Aim to list three positive events for at least three consecutive weeks as this will enable you to form habitual positive thinking.

Then whenever the negative thoughts come find your ‘positivity journal’ and look at all of the positive experiences you have had and really try to feel the positive emotions associated with these experiences.

5. Be More Active

Exercise is a great way to manage stress and anxiety because it reduces the body’s stress hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol.

Frequent aerobic exercise has the capacity to calm down your nervous system, while also elevating your mood at the same time.

If you don’t usually exercise, you could start off by jogging on the spot or skipping for five minutes and then gradually increase the duration of time spent exercising.

If you find this challenging at first, try not to be discouraged because you will get used to it and eventually start to enjoy it.

6. Plan Ahead

How often have you left everything until just before the deadline?

A lot of people do this.

Perhaps it’s because you have the tendency to procrastinate, or maybe you feel a bit anxious about making a start on some tasks.

Whatever the reason is, if you plan ahead, you can reduce some of your stress.

You could make a list of all the tasks you want to get done and tick them off one-by-one as you do them.

What’s more, seeing your tasks written down will enable you to take more focused action when it comes to getting stuff done.

7. Breathing Exercises

When we feel immense stress, our breathing usually changes and becomes shallow and rapid.

This way of breathing can also make it difficult to relax.

So, by following a simple breathing exercise you can start to change and manage the way you breathe so that you can relax.

Here’s a Simple Breathing Technique you can do to induce relaxation:

  • Start by sitting comfortably, then take a long, slow breath.
  • Push your stomach out while doing this so you can make full use of your diaphragm.
  • Hold your breath for a few moments.
  • Then breathe out slowly while repeating the word ‘relax’ in your mind.
  • Repeat this breathing technique for another four times.

Now you should be feeling calmer.

Aim to do this breathing sequence five times in a row, four times a day, including those days when you are feeling okay.

Your mind and body will thank you for it.

8. Connect with People

Connecting with others does wonders for your mental health and being able to talk through a problem with a friend can really shed light on what you are experiencing.

Friends and family can act as a great support system when you are feeling overwhelmed.

So, be sure to reach out to your nearest and dearest when you need some support.

If on the other hand, you are someone who prefers to keep your problems to yourself, that’s okay, you will still benefit from being in good company. 

9. Have Time to Yourself

Taking time for yourself is just as important as looking after everyone else.

When you are feeling re-energized you feel better able to cope with what life throws at you.

So don’t feel guilty for having a few much-needed hours to yourself here and there.

10. Set Goals

Setting goals gives you the opportunity to challenge yourself and become more emotionally resilient.

It could be learning a language or some other new skill.

This will also distract you from your worries and give you a feeling of greater control over your life.

11. Chew Gum

Research suggests that chewing gum reduces stress.

In one study, the group was asked to chew gum twice a day for two weeks.

The participants then rated their anxiety and the results showed that they felt a lot less anxious than before they participated in the experiment.

In addition, chewing gum has been shown to improve focus and memory, which is also ideal because chronic stress can affect concentration. 

12. Meditate

Meditation is an excellent way to increase mindfulness and reduce stress in your life.

Aim to meditate for at least 10 minutes each day.

But if you’re looking for maximum stress-relief aim for 20 minutes.

If you’re not sure how to meditate, start by sitting comfortably with your arms by your side.

Then focus on nothing but your own breathing.

If, however, your mind does wander, be kind to yourself, and simply refocus on your breathing again.

Keep doing this until you have meditated for as long as you intended.

13. Help Others

“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” – Chinese Proverb

Research shows that this Chinese proverb speaks the truth when it comes to helping others.

People often report greater life satisfaction, competence, sense of meaning, and reduced stress.

If you’re interested, you could help others by volunteering to help at a soup kitchen for the homeless, for instance, or you could do some other work in the community to increase the wellbeing of others.

Helping those less fortunate than yourself will put your own problems into perspective and also make you more resilient.

14. Eat Healthily

Eating a healthy balanced diet can lessen the negative effects of stress on the body.

For the best results be sure to include these nutrients:

  • Complex Carbohydrates – Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for steady blood pressure and increased serotonin production.
  • Vitamin C – Oranges, strawberries, broccoli, and red and green peppers are good for boosting your immunity and lowering cortisol.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Almonds, flaxseed, walnuts, pistachios, salmon, and tuna are known to reduce stress hormones.
  • Magnesium – Dark chocolate, avocados, spinach, nuts, and legumes are ideal for better sleep and preventing both fatigue and headaches. 

15. Avoid Unhealthy Habits

While frequently reaching for a packet of cigarettes or your favorite alcohol beverage might seem appealing during times of angst, it’s best not to fall into the habit of relying on these as a means of coping.

Instead, try to be practical and tackle the source of your stress.

If you find that you are still feeling immense stress after trying these tips and techniques, do seek further support.