Chronic stress and anxiety poses a threat to your health. Chronic stress has been linked to many serious conditions and has been shown to impair immune function — and none of us need to.
We’ve put together a list of 13 things you can do to get fit. None of these things cost money, and you can do all of them at home (or at least in your neighborhood).
13 ways to manage your stress and calm yourself down
Next time you feel bogged down in useless thoughts, try one of these techniques.
1. Take a little deep breath
If you’re like most people, you likely respond to feelings of emotional distress by taking shorter, shorter, and faster breaths. This means your body is getting less oxygen, which in turn affects your ability to think clearly and function — and this can exacerbate these tangled feelings.
Taking a few deep breaths re-oxygenates the body and, as a bonus, gives you a few moments to pause, which can also help you calm down.
When you feel tense, stop and breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, then exhale through pursed lips. Do this a few times until you feel like you’re calming down.
There are many variations of this exercise, so try to play until you find something that works best for you.
2. Try the grounding technique
If stress and anxiety threaten to overwhelm you, try one of these basic techniques. They work by pulling you away from your anxious thoughts, most of which dwell on the past or contemplate the future, and bring you back to the present.
An easy way to remember is the “five senses” technique. Here’s how to do it: Pause for a moment and think about what all five of your senses are experiencing. What do you hear? What do you smell? How do you feel on your skin? what do you see? What are you tasting?
3. Limit your time online
Several researchers have found a strong association between heavy screen time and a greater likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.
This is not an argument for total abstinence from social media, smartphones and the Internet, by the way. These things can bring great value to our lives.
However, even good things can be bad for us if we don’t set limits on our consumption, so if you find that being online is causing you a lot of stress, put some criteria in place.
One option is to give yourself an hour to check in in the morning and evening. Another option is to force the phone not to be used for hours after a certain time. The third option is to turn off alerts and notifications with your phone.
None of these work for you? Here Seven more ideas.
4. Spend time in nature
Sometimes the cure for what ails you is right outside your door.
Researchers have found that spending time in nature can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. It appears to reduce cortisol, which is released in response to stress, and is linked to less activity in the prefrontal cortex – aka the area of the brain that activates when you engage in repetitive negative thinking.
City dwellers, we still have good news for you: Researchers have found that listening to the quiet sounds of the outdoors or looking at trees and other green spaces can have the same effect as spending time in nature.
So, play a playlist of ambient ocean sounds, look at some pictures of forests and slowly feel your tension.
5. Write down your feelings
Journal writing is one of the most popular strategies for dealing with mental health challenges, and for good reason. Researchers say writing down your feelings can help you better understand them. Instead of rushing into a bewildering whirlpool of stimuli, feelings become understandable, clearer and easier to control.
Want to try it out but not sure where to start? Here Seven good prompts to try.
Meditation has gotten a lot of press in recent years as a one-size-fits-all solution to everything from defocusing to worrying to increasing your productivity.
What makes meditation so powerful is that it helps you develop awareness of your thoughts, which is the first step to being able to manage them more effectively. If you can drift away from your anxious thoughts, you will be better able to redirect them in more productive ways.
Want to try meditation but not sure where to start? Try one of these Seven cheap or free meditation apps. Make an effort to meditate at least once a day for a few days.
7. Drink some water
Are you worried? Stop what you’re doing, pour yourself a glass of water and drink it.
Researchers have found that drinking water can reduce a person’s stress and anxiety levels. Our bodies are mainly made up of water, and when we feel dehydrated, we do not function properly.
8. Learn a new skill
Learning a new skill can occupy your mind so completely that it doesn’t leave much room for thought, which can lead to anxiety and stress.
Researchers have found that learning a new skill can be a great buffer against stress in the workplace, and this also applies to our daily lives.
So by committing yourself to learning how to play a new musical instrument, carpentry or knitting, you will boost your mental health as well. This is a sure win!
9. Connect with friends and family
Tight social relationships – and the cooperation and sharing of resources that come with them – is how we’ve survived all this time as a species.
The health risks of loneliness are well known at this point: loneliness can suppress your immunity, lead to greater inflammation in your internal organs and leave you vulnerable if you experience a crisis and need help.
Thanks to technology, we have plenty of ways to stay connected. Set up a group chat with a group of friends and share funny memes. Schedule video chats with friends and family members.
Or you can just pick up the phone.
10. Working out
Exercise supplies your body with endorphins, the hormones that make you feel good.
You don’t have to go to the gym to exercise. All you need is a little bit of space, and you can do a full-body workout. You can do yoga, or even go for a walk, which is probably the most underrated form of exercise.
Find something you like, and do it at least three or four times a week. What you do in the end doesn’t matter as much as how consistent you are.
11. Disassemble your home
It doesn’t matter whether you clean KonMari-ing or Swedish death scrub – the mental health benefits of de-cluttering are well-documented. It’s hard to feel comfortable and comfortable in a house full of clutter.
Start taking some time each day to deal with the chaos. This could mean creating a new organizational system or pushing a bunch of trash into a bin in the garage until you feel like handling it.
With clutter out of sight, your home will become more peaceful and comfortable.
12. Create a table
Creating a daily routine will help you prioritize the things you need to take care of yourself, while eliminating the need to make decisions from the start. (Decision fatigue is real.)
Take some time to create a schedule for yourself and your family, and then do your best to stick to it.
13. Get enough sleep
Sleep and stress are closely related. If you are stressed, you cannot sleep. If you can’t sleep, you are more likely to be stressed because your ability to adapt has been exhausted. It’s a bad cycle that is hard to break.
If you struggle to sleep at night, try these tricks:
- No screen time for an hour before bed.
- Cut back on caffeine earlier in the day.
- Don’t drink alcohol before going to bed.
- Exercise during the day.
- Write what bothers you.
Are you still lying awake in the dark? Try one of these Free or cheap apps to help you sleep.
Caitlin Constantine is a former editor of The Penny Hoarder.