Stress was once considered an anomaly, a transient disruption, a blitzkrieg, a ripple episode, or even a healthy mechanism. That time has, unfortunately, passed. Today, stress embodies an omnipresent component of human existence. It has become an integral part of our response apparatus, a perpetual fight-or-flight mode. Great times.
Now, why is that? Why did stress evolve to be an inseparable part of the collective psyche? We can point fingers and blame everything on technology, vanity, the corporate system, politics, climate change, or COVID. The list of potential culprits is simply infinite. We can also embrace the premise of identity expansion through time; we are excellent at everything we do.
Work, family, social life, me-time, hobbies, errands, philosophical thoughts, empathy, assertiveness, mindfulness. Stay healthy. Be kind. Work hard. Smile. Connect. Are we giving too much? Are we giving too little? Here are 7 natural ways to relieve stress.
1. Audio therapy
Yes, it’s just another fancy term for music. Turning the speakers on when our life’s trajectory decides to spice it up a bit and throw erratic stress-inducing patterns at us can, indeed, help. Playing soothing music has a calming effect on our nervous system and our entire body. Music can help with muscle tension, lower blood pressure, and prevent the raging volumes of cortisol from causing a short circuit. Most importantly, it masterfully balances our emotions. Different genres for different personalities, not all stress-alleviating music has to be relaxing. Sometimes we just need a good scream, so anything goes. From “chirping crickets at dusk,” nature sounds to Rammstein. Find your outlet.
2. Running shoes
Get those blood cells stretching. It’s time to hit the tracks. (literally or metaphorically, you choose) We love the word “exercise” for its versatile nature. Status: open for interpretation. People who regularly exercise enjoy a steady flow of endorphins, or the “happy” hormones, as we like to call them. Any form of physical activity will suffice. Brisk, angry walks, rope skipping, yoga, street basketball, bowling, rock climbing, figure skating, choose your weapon (avoid playing darts and other passive forms). Don’t let the busy schedule discourage you from trying. Don’t have a full hour? Fifteen minutes will do. Remember, staying physically active is key to strong mental health.
3. Free hands
Lose the phone. Our memory slot will be full when we get home from work. Since this morning, we have successfully spent several hours on our phones and multiple hours on our laptops – and now, to unwind, we put on Netflix and scroll the evening away on Instagram and TikTok. Let’s try a different approach and see where it takes our accumulated stress. We don’t consume the media. The media consumes us. War, random childhood friend’s wedding photos, recommended for you: “How to peel onions without crying over your unrequited love.” Information overflow. Subliminal messages are taunting our already burdened shoulders. Put your dam up. Put the phone away and let your mind detox. Enjoy the quiet.
4. Sleep galore
Speaking of natural ways to relieve stress, good sleep hygiene is everything. Healthy sleep patterns help reduce disease risk, keep our emotions in check, support our brain function, and naturally maintain our physical health. Need we say more? Easier said than done, agreed. For those struggling with chronic stress, sleep doesn’t come easy. R.E.M. The self-imposed curse of Tantalus. No matter how warm the bed, soft the sheets, and right the pillow height, it eludes us. Mental notes and rumination, our loyal companions in the a.m. Out of despair, many drink themselves to sleep. The happy hour grows into “happy” nights, week in, week out. And it becomes a chronic problem. If your loved one is binge drinking, approach this subject with compassion and love. But do the talk before it’s too late.
5. Face it
Ignoring heaps of stress clutter will do us no favors. In reality, it can only backfire. Facing away, suppressing, or using the good old “rug” technique will only give room to its expansion. Think of your unaddressed stress as a micro-universe model. We know space to be (hypothetically) infinite, ever-expanding without tangible proof. We know it’s out there. It’s pretty much everywhere. Closing our eyes and refusing to acknowledge its vast, lightspeed-expanding existence won’t change its mind. It doesn’t need our approval. And it certainly doesn’t struggle with performance anxiety. But, by facing it, by merely acknowledging it, we might witness unparallel beauty. So. Time to address the stress. Laugh it off. Laugh in the face of your impending doom. It is one of the natural ways to relieve stress and heal all wounds.
6. Petting zoo
When dealing with uncertainty, find comfort in a furry friend. Animals are natural healers. Their unconditional love and support do wonders for our mental health. People struggling with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and chronic stress, benefit significantly from this natural symbiosis. Therefore, will it be horses, donkeys, dogs, kittens, parrots, hamsters, flying squirrels, or weasels? The choice is yours to make. The universal truth is: they make us less lonely and panicky and more energetic and optimistic. The secret recipe? To love and be loved. Cuddling up with your pup guarantees a good night’s sleep. And there are plenty of hypoallergenic dog and cat breeds to choose from if you’re worried about allergies or shedding!
7. Take 5 (daily)
Stop. Me-time. The key to relieving stress buildup is taking time for ourselves. No people. No phone. Just you, breathing, existing, and doing something you love. Deep breathing exercises and meditation proved to be the most efficient anti-stress techniques. Not a fan? Hit the trail. Don’t feel like walking? Unplug. Sit on your deck, sip on some chamomile (it’s best for soothing the nerves) and enjoy the sunset. Take notice of your surroundings. Absorb the sounds, smells, And look at the night sky. Talk to the waxing crescent Moon, and tell it all about your day. Engage your five senses. And breathe.
Our last tip on natural ways to relieve stress: help others. Focusing on others’ needs will make you feel great about yourself. Volunteering, helping a friend in need, or simply complimenting a passerby on your way to the bodega will feed your mental wires with happy hormones.