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123 Proven Ways to Reduce Stress and Relax

On Healthgrinder, you can find 123 proven ways to reduce stress and relax, brought together in 12 categories. Editor Emma reached out to us to share her info.

Here you can find the tips from the categorie Attitude & Lifestyle

 

Here are some attitude and lifestyle checks that will help you identify whether or not what you’re doing is making life more stressful, and how you can better manage them.

 

1. Stop Being a Perfectionist

One of the things that school teaches us is to try to be perfect. When tests come up, everyone tries to ‘’ace” the exams and get that 100% score.

While this sounds great in theory, it doesn’t always translate well to life later on.

Trying to be perfect ends up stressing you out. Whether its in arranging your décor, designing something, or doing a work project.

To see how perfectionism affects our physiological stress markers, the University of Zurich’s Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy performed an experiment putting 50 middle aged men through the Trier Social Stress Test, which is a psychosocial stress test.

Measuring the participants’ stress markers, they found perfectionism was related to increased cortisol levels.

Perfectionism, especially in the workplace can also lead to burnout. This was observed by psychologists from the U.K.’s University of Kent.

The study also learned that the source of the stress and burnout for teachers came more from the negative reactions from parents and students due to their imperfections, as well as perceived pressure from these groups.

They felt less pressure from themselves or their fellow teachers. This indicated that understanding where you stress comes from is an important clue on how to cope with it.

2. Practice Time Management

One of the main causes of stress in day to day life is the multitude of things we need to do. Additionally, we often lack the time to get them all done.

Whether it’s chasing after project deadlines, or hurrying to get the kids to school, these things take their toll.

Here’s where time management comes in…

Building good time management skills allows you to organize and arrange schedules as well as make tasks more efficient.

Research done on students studying for exams offer evidence that effective time management skills play a big role in reducing the amount of academic stress and anxiety. This is especially true when preparing for a big test.

In the workplace setting, a study presented in The Nursing Journal of India cites that in nurses, whose major sources of stress came from the heavy workload and caring for patients, stress awareness techniques along with time management training dramatically decreased the level of severe stress from 60% to 20%.

3. Declutter and Get Organized

Whether it’s at home, school or work, things tend to pile up.

It could be your notes, project, research papers or the kids’ toys and clothes.

Picking up after things, cleaning floors and organizing may seem like a waste of time. Especially, when you’ve got more important things to do.

Unfortunately, just leaving things around in a mess isn’t healthy in terms of mental and physical stress. This isn’t the case for neat and clean areas.

In observing 32 homes in the Los Angeles area, UCLA researchers learned that clutter around the home increased the levels of stress hormones in mothers. This became more noticeable when it came time to deal with the mess.

The study also revealed the there were lots of extra things left lying around.

Seventy-five percent of the 32 middle class families who participated in the study had items packed into their garages and driveways, such that their cars couldn’t be parked there.

A messy disorganized surrounding, be it your closet or desk, also affects your brain.

At the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, scientists reported that having a number of items or stimuli in one’s field of vision at the same time makes them compete the brain’s attention.

This limits its processing capacity because it has to deal with all the visual stimuli at the same time instead of focusing on one. As a result, performance drops and stress levels are increased.

Bottom line, keeping your room, home and workplace clean helps reduce stress.

4. Stop Multitasking

For a while, multitasking became a buzz word.

It was a way where one could show their ability to perform multiple tasks at once. As a result, try to do more in less time.

Unfortunately, as much as the theory of multitasking seems appealing, it doesn’t work.

Studies offer evidence that engaging in multitasking actually results in doing things slower, often with less results, compared to focusing on one task at a time.

As a side effect, forcing our brain to switch back and forth between tasks increases its workload. This results in increased levels of stress.

The effects of multitasking on 20 health individuals was tested by the Stress Research Group in U.K.’s Northumbria University. What the experiment showed was that multitasking increased blood pressure and heart rate of the participants, indicating higher levels of stress when multiple tasks were needed to be done simultaneously.

Multitasking, isn’t all bad though.

Most of us will need to do it because we have a lot going on at once. But when you can avoid it, science backed evidence says you should say “no”.

5. Practice Gratitude

As simple as it may sound, being grateful, or giving thanks for what you have or what others have done for you, is a great way of reducing the level of stress as well as depression.

Changing one’s mindset and perception on how the world treats us also helps reduce our perceived level of stress.

Studies reveal that people who show more gratitude felt that they received more support from others. They also had less depression and stress.

The National Institutes of Health, in studying brain activity, likewise reported that individuals who were more grateful exhibited higher levels of activity in their hypothalamus.

The hypothalamus is the region of our brains whose major task is to keep our body functions in balance (homeostasis). It is also where first signals of our stress response starts.

6. Be an Optimist… or at Least Think Positive

During times of stress, like when  you’re either behind schedule or have way too many things left to do, it’s often easy to think on the negative side of things.

Unfortunately, this type of behavior isn’t conducive to reducing stress levels. It also doesn’t help you achieve your goals.

Optimism, and being a positive thinker, on the other hand, has been linked to reduced levels of distress as well as depression. Ultimately, being more positive results in better overall well-being.

Research backs this up. It shows that individuals with positive attitudes are more resilient to stressful situations. Plus, they are able to implement better coping strategies.

7. Let Out the Type B Personality in You

Type A and type B personalities is a concept created by Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman.

Both cardiologists, the theory was to use a patient’s personality type as a way to gauge their risk for heart disease.

Type A Personality

Type A personalities were described as those who are:

  • High achievers, very good at performing and multitasking.
  • Have a focus on achieving and attaining higher goals, and don’t rest on their achievements.
  • Don’t accept failure too well.
  • Are very driven.
  • Spend less time relaxing and more time competing, resulting in a more stressful life.

Type B Personality

Type B personalities had these common characteristics:

  • More tolerant, more satisfied with life.
  • Enjoy competition and games but don’t stress too much about always needing to win.
  • When they fall short, they’re better at accepting failure.
  • Can be too relaxed in some instances.
  • They work steady towards their goals and enjoy what they achieve.
  • Have less stressful lives compared to type A individuals.

Between the 2 groups, Friedman and Rosenman found that people with type A personalities were more likely to have high blood pressure and heart disease.

While type A personalities have been shown to be strong in performance and achievement, they are also more vulnerable to stress and its negative effects.

Research indicates that on average, individuals who have type A personalities are higher prone to stress, and subsequently health issues, like cardiovascular disease.

Type A individuals are also prone to have poorer self-control compared to those who have type B personalities. This makes them more vulnerable during stressful situations.

During stressful times, call upon your inner type B personality to help slow yourself down.

8. Embrace Change

We, as human beings, are creatures of habit.

We like sticking to routines we’ve developed over time or are accustomed to. These habits can come from our parents or someone who’s guided us along the way.

While the knowledge of having a routine to rely on makes us feel comfortable and very efficient in doing majority of our day to day tasks, there are some instances where we need to be open to changes, especially big ones that can affect our lives.

Since the world changes so much and so fast nowadays, being able to embrace change helps us cope with the stress that comes with it.

Your friends change, your work will probably change, your kids will grow up and change too.

While we may not like change, embracing it and seeing it as an opportunity to grow and be more creative, gives you the power to be proactive and in charge of how you want to handle the new situations.

According to studies, the more the change is related to you and what’s important to you, the higher the stress experienced. This is due to the uncertainty it brings, and its direct effects on you.

Research also shows that tinkering and antifragility, which is where systems adjust to variable conditions, makes them get better and thrive under new situations.

9. Get Proper Sleep

Not getting enough sleep, or having poor quality sleep not only inflicts physical stress but also does a number on the body’s chemical makeup.

Among the neurotransmitters affected by sleep are serotonin and melatonin. Both play a part in affecting our overall levels of stress.

  • Serotonin helps regulate our mood, among other things. High levels make up happier, low levels make us depressed. It also plays a role in our sleep cycle, as it is needed to produce melatonin.
  • Melatonin meanwhile, is known for regulating our sleeping patterns. It also helps reduce stress.

Interestingly, losing just one to two hours of sleep increases our levels of cortisol which compounds the problem.

Lack of Sleep and Stress

In a sleep laboratory experiment participated by 26 adults, those assigned to a night of sleep deprivation exhibited higher levels of stress response and increased cortisol levels.

A similar study also offers evidence that it takes a while for things to normalize depending on how long you’ve been sleep deprived.

Divided participants into 3 groups, individuals who were able to sleep the full 8 hours saw no changes in their cortisol levels the night after.

However, those in the partial sleep deprivation (4 hrs. sleep) and total sleep deprivation groups, still had increased cortisol levels (37% and 45%, respectively) by the next night.

In rats, scientists give us an idea of how prolonged loss of sleep affects our brains.

Done at the Netherlands’ University of Groningen, research suggests that while not getting good sleep for a couple of days is okay, as little as 8 days of sleep restriction is enough to affect our brain’s serotonin (5-HT)1A receptors. This results in the disruption of transmission of serotonin. It also took at least 7 days to get back to normal.

The problem with stress and sleep deprivation is that they’re a vicious cycle. One causes the other.

In following over 5,700 employed individuals in Stockholm, Sweden, evidence shows that stress, along with one’s social situation at work, are associated with sleep disturbance, unwanted awakening during the night and difficulty waking up the next morning.

10. But Don’t Sleep Too Much

Too much sleep on the other hand, isn’t good either.

Some of us tend to use this tactic during bad moments in our lives, preferring to just hole up in our rooms and stay in bed all day.

While lying around or sleeping all day may sound calming or relaxing, it actually has the opposite effect.

The more you sleep, the more you’ll find it difficult to get up, go through your normal routine and concentrate on important things.

After a while, even if you get 8 or more hours of sleep, you’ll still feel sluggish or unable to focus the next day.

In a study presented in the Journal of Sleep Research, patients who suffered from hypersomnia, or excessive sleeping, lacked alertness during the daytime. They also had difficulty getting up in the morning and needed to be waken. Additionally, these individuals had difficulty maintaining attention and memory deficits.

Research also reveals that other effects of excessive sleep include depression and mood disorders.

11. Choose the Right Background Color for Home & Workplace

Choosing the right color for your home, place you work or where you relax also helps put you in the right mood.

Psychologists seem to agree that green is a good choice when it comes to calming us down and reducing stress. The color reminds us of the natural environment and green surroundings of trees and grass.

Having a green colored surrounding, or view, has also been reported to help kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as well as speed up patients’ recovery time during their hospital stay.

Here are some colors to choose or avoid when it comes to stress management:

Colors for stress management

Choose cool, soothing colors which help calm and relax us. Some examples include:

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Purple
  • Pink

Meanwhile, for cheering up and lifting your mood, choose:

  • Yellow

Avoid these colors if you want to destress

Colors that are considered warm and stimulating, which are associated with energy, movement and activity. Avoid these:

  • Red
  • Orange

If you’re looking for more color options to help you de-stress, the Huffington Post has a slideshow of options you can choose from to paint your room.

12. Add Some Indoor Plants

Need to lower the stress level in your workplace?

Try adding plants.

Studies have shown that the presence of indoor plants reduce workplace stress.

Performed by the University of North Florida, the study sought to verify past claims that plants added to one’s décor helps destress the environment.

In it, the researchers used data gathered from office workers. Then they, tallied up the information associating how the presence of plants in the office area affected stress levels and overall health.

What they found was the more contact with nature the workers had, the lower the levels of perceived stress was.

A similar association was observed with the presence of plants and reduced the number of health complaints.

If you aren’t a fan of real plants indoors, artificial ones will do just as well. The Pacific University’s School of Physical Assistant Studies observed that real and artificial plants helped result in lower levels of stress, anxiety and pain for patients in a hospital setting.

13. Express Yourself by Writing

One of the best ways to express your emotions is by writing them down.

Putting down our experiences and emotions into paper helps us cope with pain, heartache, fears and even illness.

In a study focusing on the effects of expressive writing on mental health of caregivers, researchers learned that just writing anything wasn’t as helpful as focusing on the positive.

As a whole, the expressive writing group didn’t see much benefit from the exercise, be it physical, mental or lessening of the burden.

However, upon further examination of what the participants wrote, they found that those who wrote in an optimistic, positive and future focused language benefited from their writing.

Also, writing down your worries can give you “control” over your fears, stress or anxieties. This was shown by a study performed on students who were about to take a test. Writing about their worries and thoughts on the upcoming test resulted in significantly better scores.

See all the 123 ways to reduce stress on Healthgrinder.

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