25 Natural Ways to Reduce Stress and Boost Your Mood
Over time, stress takes a serious toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health. When it starts to manifest in your body, it’s often as aches and pains—especially headaches or neck aches—and it can mess with your digestive system, suppress your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness, raise your blood pressure, sap your energy, disrupt your sleep, and more. Chronic unmanaged stress even shortens your life expectancy.
Uncontrolled stress diminishes your mental function and health, too. For just a few examples, it can disrupt your ability to concentrate, impair judgment and decision-making, reduce performance at work or school, increase anxiety, make you irritable, and leave you feeling overwhelmed or depressed.
Emotionally, when you’re stressed out, you’re likely to be less in control of your emotions, prone to mood swings, more negative, less focused on self-care, less flexible and resilient, less supportive of others, more distant from friends and family, more down on yourself, and so on.
There’s no avoiding stress in life, not completely. But luckily, there are plenty of natural ways to reduce stress and help yourself recover from its effects. Many cost nothing, or are inexpensive. Different people have different levels of success with different strategies, so be willing to try things out until you find what works best for you.
All it really takes is a firm decision to embrace positive steps and explore the many natural ways to reduce stress. You’ll be glad you did!
How to De-Stress and Feel Better
- Get some exercise every day—even if it’s just a 15-minute walk. But if you can get in some real cardio or strength-building workouts at least a few times a week, that’s great!
- Spend a little time outdoors on a daily basis, especially in a natural setting or in the sunshine.
- Step away from your phone and all other electronic devices for a while every day; your time outside is the perfect opportunity to do this.
- Practice yoga, tai chi, or a similar relaxing, movement-based activity; there are lots of physical and mental benefits beyond de-stressing!
- Eat a healthy diet, which is so important to your resilience. Avoid sugar, refined grains, and processed foods as much as possible, and base as much of your diet as you can on whole foods (like lean proteins, fruit, veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, etc.).
- Get at least seven hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble falling asleep, get away from electronic screens at least an hour before bed. Also, use some of the relaxation methods further down on this list right before bedtime.
- Spend a little time by yourself.
- Spend a little time with friends or family—and put your phones away and interact directly with each other.
- Have regular date nights with your spouse or partner.
- Find time in your week to enjoy a hobby. Yes, it’s hard when we’re all so busy; try actually scheduling it in so it’s built into your week.
- Drink herbal or green tea at night to unwind. Chamomile is known for being particularly relaxing.
- Add live plants to your work and home environment. It’s good for the air quality, but it also boosts your mood and mental resiliency.
- Sit back and enjoy some calming music, and feel the stress and anxiety melting away.
- Buy essential oils or scented candles for aromatherapy. Some notably soothing scents include jasmine, lavender, vanilla, cinnamon, pine, and sandalwood.
- Chill out in a hot bath. And for extra stress-busting benefits, combine it with soothing music and/or aromatherapy.
- Use breathing exercises to unwind. WebMD has a good introduction to some basic deep breathing techniques.
- Try meditation. It takes some practice for most people, but the payoff is well worth it if you stick with it. For some helpful guidance on getting started, check out this piece from the New York Times.
- Employ other relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation or visualization. Take a look at this Mayo Clinic post on relaxation techniques to find more information.
- Treat yourself to a day at the spa every once in a while.
- Treat yourself to a massage as a more manageable alternative to a full spa experience.
- Get yourself laughing. Tune in to funny TV shows or movies, read humor books, grab a coffee with a funny friend, or go out and catch a comedy act (a fantastic date night activity!).
- Unwind with a change of scene by taking a day trip, going on a weekend getaway, or taking a full vacation when you can.
- Eliminate the rush in your day, as this is a major source of stress that’s often overlooked. Figure out how to give yourself a little time cushioning where needed. Also, drive slower and calmer; driving fast and aggressively significantly increases stress levels.
- Avoid negative people.
- Think positively.
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