Some days are so packed to the brim with stress that when I finally get home and try to relax, it seems almost impossible. Between anxiety-inducing stories in the daily news cycle and the stress of a fully loaded to-do list, cultivating a sense of calm can prove to be a serious challenge. Personally, meditation has been life-changing in helping both my body and my mind chill out a little throughout the day. These little ways to reduce stress, like practicing mindfulness, are so important to find and create in your own daily routine, and lucky for you, I've rounded up some of the best suggestions that experts have to offer on the subject.
The thing is, if you feel like life in general has gotten more stressful in the last year or so, you're not wrong: The latest results of Gallup's Negative Experience Index, which tracks people's reported negative emotions across the globe every year, showed that, in 2017, stress levels were worse than they'd been in a decade. Nearly 40 percent of people surveyed said they experience "a lot of worry or stress," up two percentage points from the year before, according to the report. In other words, pretty much all of us could use some tips on how to dial down our stress levels.
While all of these suggestions are recommended by experts, keep in mind that they may not work immediately, or they may not work for you at all. Take some time to see what works best for your individual body and mind, and if need be, don't hesitate to explore other, more professional mental health resources.
"I would encourage [you to] try a stress relief activity three times before you give up on it," Dr. Helen Odessky, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of the book Stop Anxiety from Stopping You, tells Elite Daily in an email. "If you are in a constant state of stress, your body will often resist practicing relaxation," she explains. "Trying it a few times gives you a chance to truly test it out."
Figure Out Some Of Your Triggers
Before you start treating the stress in your everyday life, it's a good idea to identify what parts of your schedule might be making the stress worse. Lisa Diers, a registered dietitian/nutritionist and yoga therapist who specializes in eating disorder recovery, tells Elite Daily that taking a close look at your routine might help you handle things a little more easily.
"For example," Diers says, "if you notice that waking up late and rushing to work makes you feel stressed and affects your capacity to handle other stressful events that may happen throughout your day, you may benefit from waking up earlier and giving yourself more time in the morning." A simple switch like this really could make all the difference, she explains.
Focus Your Breathing
"Remembering to breathe is so valuable when we are feeling any strong emotion," Jennifer Rogers, Ph.D., an assistant professor and graduate program co-director at the Wake Forest University Department of Counseling, tells Elite Daily. "Slow down the 'out' breath if you can, like you were blowing out a candle."
Since breathing is something you literally do all day long, there's no need to make time for this tip. Just reach for it any time you're feeling particularly stressed, and be sure to pay attention to how the tension in your body melts away with each inhale and exhale.
Try A Tapping Technique
Andrea Travillian, founder of Aspirify and a life transition coach who specializes in emotional healing, suggests a stress-release strategy called the "emotional freedom technique," which is basically a series of gentle taps on targeted areas of the body.
"It calms the amygdala [a part of your brain that regulates your experiences with emotions], thus allowing you to calm down and see things from a different perspective," she tells Elite Daily. If you're interested in experimenting with the technique, be sure to follow along with the above video.
Keep Track Of Your Thoughts
"Remember that your internal mind chatter is not often logical, objective, or even true," personal development and wellness expert Bizzie Gold tells Elite Daily in an email. Instead of accepting each stressful thought as truth, she recommends writing down your thoughts, particularly when you notice they're especially illogical or negative. This way, Gold explains, you can let go of these toxic thoughts in a concrete way, and, if you care to, you can look back over them from a fresh perspective once the stress of the day has dissipated.
Get Your Heart Pumping
According to fitness instructor Cindy Brehse, getting your body moving can have a huge impact on your stress levels. "Exercise is nature's stress reliever," she tells Elite Daily. "It boosts endorphins, which instantly lighten our mood. The repetitive physical movements quiet our active minds and take our thoughts off our stressors."
Even if you're busy AF, opting for a quick workout might be just the thing you need to reset your state of mind and feel like yourself again.
Pay Attention To Your Body
I know for me it can be easy to think that stress only takes place in my mind, but as licensed clinical social worker Laura Federico tells Elite Daily in an email, "stress influences not only our thoughts, but our bodies in a major way."
So, in addition to caring for your mind during difficult times, remember to check in with your body regularly, too. Be intentional about relaxing each muscle in your body, especially your shoulders and your jaw; these stress-reducing stretches can help get the job done.
Tidy Up Your Apartment
I'm personally an avid stress-cleaner. There's just something so satisfying of having your personal space in order, even if it feels like your life is, otherwise, a total mess.
"The less stuff you've got, the easier it is to relax in your space — especially for women," Pip Waller, a medical herbalist, holistic healer, and author of the book Deeply Holistic, tells Elite Daily. As Psychology Today pointed out in a 2012 article, having a lot of clutter around can make you distracted, signal your brain to feel guilty about not cleaning, and can even prevent you from expressing your full range of creativity.
So, when you're feeling stressed, put a podcast on and get to work on that bathroom, girl.
Eat Some Almond Butter (Yes, Really)
"What you eat can contribute to hormonal rollercoasters that can affect stress," Lori Miranda, a certified health and wellness coach, nutrition coach, and founder of Wellbody, tells Elite Daily. Instead of reaching for refined carbs and sugary treats, which Miranda says can lead to blood sugar crashes, she recommends snacking on a combo of protein and fat (ahem, almond butter, y'all) to help keep your mood stable. Stress relief and plenty of nut butter at the same time? Now that's my kind of winning combo.