Stress is a normal part of life that helps us to respond to the things happening around us. It’s not always a bad thing, but has to be managed properly in order to keep us in a good state of mental health. Our guide on how to relieve stress has loads of tips on improving the balance in your life so you feel less stressed overall and know how to relax after a stressful time.
Discover why we become stressed below or skip to our tips on how to relieve stress.
Why Do We Get Stressed?
Stress developed as a survival instinct, helping us react to serious situations by releasing adrenaline to increase strength and endurance. It helps us to run away faster or are more equipped to fight what we’re facing in an emergency situation. At one point in our evolutionary history, it was essential to our survival.
Now, however, our stress response is triggered by other stimuli such as a busy period at work, traffic, or even the wifi going down! Our modern lives are so fast-paced that our stress response is activated all the time and we have a constant influx of stress hormones.
However, there’s no release. Unlike an athlete who experiences stress while getting in position at a starting line, there’s no immediate physical reaction to relieve the stress. There’s also no time to recover and give our bodies and minds space to rest after the stress response is triggered.
It means that many people have high-levels of stress hormones in their bodies all the time, causing bad moods and tempers, easily-triggered aggression, or just feeling constantly emotionally and physically drained.
Stress isn’t always bad if we manage it well. In the same way that putting our bodies under stress during exercise increases our strength and durability, putting our minds under stress helps us to learn, grow and develop. However, it is bad when we are in a state of stress for a long period of time and it becomes overwhelming.
There are ways that we can manage and relieve stress to improve our mental and physical well-being. These help us to relax and reduce the stress hormones in our bodies.
Ways to Relieve Stress
We’ve put together a list of the best ways to relieve stress and labelled them according to whether they’re a quick fix or if they have benefits that help you to react better to stress in the long-run.
Having a hot bath can be an excellent way to unwind after a stressful day. The heat of the water helps to relax your muscles, which can trigger your mind to relax too. It also forces you to slow down and take a break.
Listen to music
Listening to music can also help to relieve stress. Music doesn’t just work in the conscious parts of our brain, but also affects the subconscious. Even when you’re doing another activity at the same time, listening to music soothes your mind and impacts your mood.
It’s good to pick peaceful music if you’re looking to relieve stress -- there are loads of pre-made playlists on Spotify (or other music apps) which you could explore. But any kind of music that you enjoy will have a positive impact on your stress levels. Music that inspires you to dance is often great too as it feeds into our next point…
Quick Fix and Long Term
Exercise is one of the most beneficial ways to relieve stress. Firstly, it releases endorphins which are chemicals that improve your mood. Secondly, it lowers the levels of stress hormones — such as cortisol — in the long run to help you better cope with stress every day.
The most beneficial forms of exercise for stress relief are those that repetitively move large muscle groups, such as walking or running, but you should find a form of exercise that you enjoy as this is what will release the most endorphins!
CBD Oil & Other Supplements
Supplements promote a healthy balance of chemicals, hormones, proteins and nutrients in your body, keeping your systems working at their best. This has a big impact upon your mental health.
Not only does having all the vitamins and nutrients you need ensure that your brain is equipped to release the right hormones to process stress. For example, a study found that medical students who took omega-3 supplements experienced a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms.
CBD oil is one of the best health supplements to relieve stress. It works in a huge variety of different ways to impact stress levels. It functions within the endocannabinoid system in your body to control the levels of neurotransmitters. These impact the way we process stress, as well as stress-relieving chemicals like endorphins and serotonin.
It also has secondary benefits. Taking CBD oil supplements improves your sleeping pattern, for example, helping you to feel well-rested. Sleep is our brain’s time to heal and process, so ensuring you sleep well helps to relieve stress. Getting a good night’s sleep also impacts your mind’s ability to cope with stress during the day.
If you want to learn more about CBD oil, read our ultimate guide! It’s packed full of information about this health supplement from detail on how it works in the body through to where it comes from (read about the Hemp plant here!).
Decrease Caffeine Intake
Caffeine can be healthy in moderation, but it’s been found that high doses can increase anxiety. If you drink more than five cups of coffee a day, you should cut down. Everyone’s bodies react differently to caffeine, with different people able to process different levels; even if you drink less than five cups, you might notice benefits from reducing your intake.
Develop a Hobby
Quick Fix and Long Term
Having a hobby helps to relieve stress for a number of reasons. It distracts you from work, illness or whatever is causing you stress, helping you to feel relaxed long enough for your brain to get stress hormones back under control.
Hobbies also promote a good work-life balance, keeping you from being completely absorbed by one area of your life. When we’re too focused on one area, when that area becomes busy or goes a little wrong, it can feel like everything in life is going wrong. Having a balance helps to keep you from becoming overwhelmed during stressful times.
Hobbies you enjoy also release endorphins which combat the effects of stress.
Quick fix and long term
Aromatherapy is the process of using fragrance and scent to relieve stress and improve mental well-being.
It makes sense: our sense of smell is intricately connected to the limbic system in the brain which controls memory, behaviour, emotion and our mood. It is often thought of as the oldest part of the brain because these same structures were present within the brains of the very first mammals. It suggests that our sense of smell can be an extremely powerful tool in accessing the subconscious parts of our brain and impacting our mood, including stress levels.
Use essential oils in aromatherapy, you could add them to a candle or simply put some drops onto a handkerchief. Some scents are especially soothing. Try:
Because aromatherapy can improve sleep, it also has long-term impacts on the way we process stress.
Go on Holiday
Planning and going on holidays is a fantastic way to relieve stress. It separates you from the everyday stress triggers you experience at work, giving your mind and body time to rest and recover.
Having a holiday to look forward to also helps to relieve stress as, when you know rest is coming, you can continue to work effectively without becoming overwhelmed.
Take a break
Quick fix and Long Term
Breaks are incredibly important for your mental health; they keep you balanced and relieve stress. This can come in a huge number of forms and it’ll depend on the stress you're experiencing at to what you should do. Maybe try them all!
Make sure you always take your lunch break -- even if it’s just fifteen minutes. It can be so tempting to eat at your desk, but stepping away for a quick break helps you to concentrate better afterwards, re-orientate your priorities and rest. You should also try going outside for a break when the weather’s nice.
Other forms of breaks include hiring a babysitter for an evening, switching your phone off on a Saturday, logging out of your work email while you’re at home, banning phones or tablets from your bedroom… the list goes on! The trick is to create times (and spaces) that allow you to step away from normal stress triggers, whether it’s for ten minutes or a few hours.
Building breaks into your daily routines, or creating spaces where you can relax and escape, is also really beneficial to prevent and relieve stress in the long run.
Prayer and/or Meditation
Quick Fix and Long Term
You might not consider yourself to be a ‘spiritual person’ but prayer, meditation or mindfulness can be powerful ways to relieve stress, no matter how spiritual you consider yourself to be.
Scientifically speaking, focusing your mind, whether it’s outside yourself or inside yourself according to the form of meditation you’re doing, reduces the stress hormones in your body and helps you to feel more relaxed, in control and less stressed. If you’re religious, praying helps you to process things that are happening and causing you stress, as well as re-orientating your priorities and life focus.
Read a book or watch TV
Escapism won’t fix every form of stress, but distraction is a powerful tool when used wisely! Reading a book or watching a TV show helps you to become absorbed in something else for a short period, giving you some distance from stress triggers.
However, distractions aren’t the most powerful form of stress relief, as you’ll see in our next idea…
Quick Fix and Long Term
The say that laughter is the best medicine, but it turns out it actually might be! Laughter relieves your stress response and physically reduces tension in your body by relaxing your muscles. Amazingly, laughter also improves your immune system and elevates your mood long-term.
A study performed on cancer patients divided people into two groups. One was a laughter intervention group while the other used distraction as a form of therapy. It showed that those in the laughter intervention group experienced more stress relief than those who were simply distracted.
Watch funny videos on YouTube, do something silly, or spend time with people that make you laugh! (The latter might be the best choice, as you can read below…)
Spend Time With People
Quick Fix and Long Term
If you’re an extrovert, spending time with people is essential, but even as an introvert it can massively relieve stress. One study found that women who spent time with friends and children had a spike in oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. Men experience the same thing with increases in oxytocin following interaction with people.
This is a special response known as ‘tend and befriend’. It’s the direct opposite to our fight-or-flight response that helps to combat the tiring effects of stress, helps us to recover and to feel good.
Physical interaction with people also reduces stress. Cuddling, kissing, hugging and sex can all help to relieve stress. Positive physical contact releases oxytocin and lowers cortisol (one of the key stress hormones), which can lower blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are physical symptoms of stress.
Quick Fix and Long Term
Writing things down is in itself a positive way to handle and process stress. Writing by hand forces the brain to slow down in order to process thought and feelings.
It’s not a bad idea to write down the things that are stressing you out and why that might be, but the most effective thing to do is to jot down what you’re grateful for. This can be a thirty second thought exercise if you’re short on time, or ten minutes with your notebook, but either way, being thankful helps you to relieve stress and anxiety both immediately and long-term. It helps you become more optimistic and think positively day-to-day, even when you’re stressed, which reduces the negative impact stress has on your mind.
Work out what’s causing you to feel stressed and get on top of it. It might be a looming phone conversation you’ve got to make, for example, so the best thing to do is just to get on with it. Getting stress triggers out of the way will help you to feel better.
Taking control can sometimes be cutting back on the number of demands or activities in your life. Saying no to certain things can help you rebalance, even if you can take them up again at a later point when you’re less stressed. This might mean cutting down on your working hours or being strict about keeping a morning free to spend with your partner.
Try out some of our top techniques to relieve stress and rebalance your life. The Natural Hemp Company are experts in CBD oil, an organic health supplement that helps to relieve stress, improve mental well-being and increase physical health.