You could meditate for an hour every day, escape to a mountaintop retreat with nothing but the clothes on your back, or pitch a tent on a secluded beach, and you’ll still have stress.
Regardless of what society tries to tell you, there’s no such thing as insignificant stress. Your current stressor might not be a big deal to someone else, but if it’s causing you stress, then you deserve the chance to unwind.
From simple yoga poses to mindful living, you can start taking steps today to lower your stress and live a healthier life.
#1 The Best Restorative Yoga Poses to Relieve Stress
Stress has some profound effects on your physical body. It doesn’t just affect your mind; individual organs and systems are impacted, too.
Your body is designed to protect you from anxiety which is why your body does some pretty crazy things when you’re under a lot of stress.
However, the stress response is self-limiting, meaning once the immediate threat has passed (a car almost hits you on your drive to work, for example), everything returns to normal.
But when your stressor is always there, your body doesn’t get the luxury of moving past the threat. When you have long-term tension, you can develop:
- Digestive issues
- Chronic health problems like heart disease and high-blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Sleep problems
Restorative yoga is an easy way to regulate your stress.
When you cocoon yourself in deep breathing, poses that are designed to shift your nervous system from the stress response and into a state of relaxation allow you to detach and unwind rapidly.
#2 10 Amazing Breathing Exercises For Relaxation
Oxygen is the most vital nutrient to our bodies. If we’re deprived of oxygen, it kills brain cells, so that’s a pretty significant effect! Oxygen supports normal functioning of the brain and other vital organs.
There’s a reason why patients who experience trauma are immediately given oxygen when they’re put into the ambulance.
Pranayama (breath control) is integral to your yoga practice for a variety of reasons. According to the principles of yoga, a brain that isn’t getting enough oxygen becomes anxious, depressed, and sluggish.
Next time you’re presented with a stressful situation, examine your body. What is it doing? Is it upright and taking deep breaths?
Probably not. Most likely you lean forward, bend your head down, and cross your arms. This is a naturally limiting position to your lungs and significantly reduces lung capacity even if it is comforting.
When you sit and purposefully focus on your breathing, you have to sit up straight, relax the muscles responsible for inhalation and exhalation, and forget about what’s distressing you.
The following pranayama techniques can be used to divert your attention from stressful situations, give you a burst of energy, or relax you before bed.
#3 A 10-Minute Workout That Will Make You Feel Totally Rejuvenated
You don’t need to take an hour out of your day to move your body and lower your stress.
Most yoga classes are 60 to 90-minutes in length, so it’s natural to assume you need to devote an hour and a half to yoga before you reap the benefits.
Just 10 minutes of yoga has the ability to reduce inflammation, wash stress hormones from your brain, and boost your energy when stress makes you sluggish. (2)
This quick session can be done in the morning, on your lunch break, or before a particularly stressful point in your day. Pigeon pose is especially beneficial and can be done alone or with other poses.
Pigeon pose opens your hips, and if you’ve ever held a deep hip opener for an extended period of time, you may have felt emotions (anger, sadness, happiness) bubble up inside of you.
Consider your hips your garage; it’s where you throw all of the stuff you don’t want to get rid of but don’t want to see.
We tend to dump our negative emotions into our hips, so when we open them up, it’s like opening the garage door: they all come tumbling out.
#4 20 Ways To Take Care of Yourself
Self-care isn’t just about moving your body, eating well, and getting enough sleep. There are so many ways to take care of yourself mentally and emotionally, and good self-care can improve your quality of life by leaps and bounds.
You don’t need to make this complicated, either! Did you know research has shown getting out in nature is enough to plummet stress levels and increase happier thoughts/feelings. (3)
Friendship is another simple way to improve stress levels. The University of California-Los Angeles did a study in 2000 that concluded having a circle of trusted, close friends was a natural antidote to the fight or flight stress response. (4)
Women who spend time with other women and children naturally have more oxytocin (the “mother hormone”) to feel calmer.
#5 Science of Relaxation and Stress (Infographic)
You know that feeling you get after an incredible laugh session? There’s a reason why laughing makes you feel so good afterwards!
The physical act of laughing stimulates your vital organs because it increases your oxygen intake and those feel-good endorphins in your brain.
It also stimulates circulation and helps with muscle relaxation, the physical act of which can reduce the negative effects of stress like tight muscles and high blood pressure.
There are long term effects to laughter, too! It improves your immune system by stimulating the release of neuropeptides that combat stress and chronic illnesses.
It can also relieve minor pain, so if you’ve got a slight headache or some super-stiff muscles from being on edge so much, you might feel significantly less tense after you crack up.
Mentally, it improves your mood by flooding your brain with happy endorphins and shutting down cortisol, the hormone that’s released under stress. (5)
Day-to-day stress isn’t avoidable, but it is manageable. Whether you’ve got a tight deadline at work, a sick family member, or the holidays are approaching, it’s impossible to live a stress-free life.
However, with the right tools and a promise to take care of yourself, there are lots of ways you can fight back against the big S word and feel more relaxed.