I don't need to tell you that stress is a killer, but I do need to share with you that like happiness, stress is a choice. How we respond to any situation in life is dictated by our habits and our beliefs.
Here are 50 ways to leave your stress, and while none involve getting on a bus Gus or making a new plan Stan, they will help you to get yourself free.
1. Close your eyes and inhale through your nose to a count of 8, hold your breath for a second or two and exhale through your mouth. Exhaling through your mouth consciously activates the vagus nerve which in turn, activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Muscles relax, oxygen supplies increase and the body starts to produce endorphins–your feel good hormones.
2. Go for a walk outside in nature. Tune into what you see, hear, and feel. When we tune into our senses, we're brought into the present moment where peace resides.
3. Pet a beloved pet. Studies have shown that loving a pet reduces blood pressure, normalizes breath and facilitates feelings of overall well-being.
4. Watch or listen to something funny on You Tube or a comedy station.
5. Call a friend and talk. Talking helps if you choose a friend that will listen open heartedly.
6. Hug someone you're close to. Hugging increases oxytocin, another feel good hormone.
7. Exercise. Raising your heart rate increases endorphins. (there's that word again)
8. Eat a salad or drink a green smoothie. Greens contain high amounts of minerals and minerals are natural muscle relaxants.
9. Have some dark chocolate. Chocolate has been shown to increase levels of oxytocin.
10. Listen to music. Music is an instant mood changer.
11. Get lost in a book. Give your mind something else to focus on for a while.
12. Smell essential oils. Essential oils cross the blood brain barrier of the brain and affect the limbic system, the seat of our emotions.
13. Yawn. Yawning releases tension.
14. Journal. Writing allows your psyche to dump itself out. Having an outlet for a wide range of emotions allows them to calm.
15. Sing or OM. Both facilitate feel good endorphins releasing.
16. Do Yoga.
17. Meditate for as little as 3 minutes. Any amount of meditation has been proven to be helpful during stressful situations.
18. Lay on the earth. Earthing has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and bring our nervous system back into balance. Take a hint from our animal friends, the first thing an animal will do when it’s sick or wounded is seek solace in a quiet place and lay on the earth.
19. Cook or bake. Getting lost in the kitchen with a variety of textures, tastes and smells activates the Left Pre Frontal Cortex of the brain which in turn takes our attention out of the limbic (reptilian reactive) area of the brain.
20. Create art. For the same reasons as cooking, doing art is a wonderful distraction.
21. Knit or crochet. Each repetitive stitch becomes a moving meditation.
22. Organize a closet or drawer. Taking your mind off your problems while focusing on a task, plus experiencing the feel good side effects of an instant accomplishment are wonderful stress relievers.
23. Make a gratitude list. Taking note of what you're grateful for, trains the brain to look for more to be grateful for- Gratitude, like stress, is a habit.
24. Go for a drive with your windows down (and heat on high if it's cold out). Fresh air has a way of clearing the slate on crazy stressful thinking.
26. Spin. The sufis as well as children understand the power of spinning. Try it like a child: arms out wide, legs hip width apart and go for it.
27. Smile. Actually faking it until you make it with a smile, activates areas of your brain that trick you into feeling good.
28. Whistle. I'm not sure why, but this works.
29. Scream in a private place away from children or pets. Your car is an excellent place to practice.
30. Run. Yes I've mentioned exercise already, but whether you run on a regular basis or haven't in years, running seems to move stress faster than just about anything.
31. Kiss someone you love. (think hormones, endorphins and all sorts of other muscle relaxing benefits)
32. See a movie. Slipping into la la land for a 90 minute movie takes your mind off your problems long enough to remove you from the stress loop crazy thinking creates.
33. Volunteer. Taking your mind off yourself and your own problems does wonders for feelings of stress.
35. Ask yourself: Self, what else is possible here? When we look at our situation with new eyes, and consider an alternative reason, solution, or scenario, clarity comes.
36. Read poetry.
37. Clear the energy of yourself and your space by burning some sage or sweetgrass.
38. Deep belly breath. When we shallow breath, we activate the meridians near the collar bones that pump up the fight or flight response. It's a primal reaction so we can RUN and react when we need to. Unfortunately, when we're stressed we tend to shallow breath and create a catch 22 stress response pattern.
39. Breath to begin with! When we are stressed, we tend to hold our breath. No bueno.
40. Tone. Literally make noise. Moan, sigh, or even talk gibberish. Making sound moves energy. Seem crazy? Try it and see.
41. Sit by a river, creek or stream. The sound and sight of moving water is relaxing.
42. Do something other than clinching your fists with your hands. Massage your feet, your other hand, your jaw, and your own neck.
43. Scan your body for tension. Close your eyes, start at your feet and slowly relax each part until you reach your head.
44. Working from your feet up to your head, tighten a part of your body, hold to a count of 5, then release. Move on to the next part until you've covered everything. Fresh blood will rush in and muscles will relax.
45. Cry. Repressing frustration, fear and stress only makes things worse. Sometimes a good cry is a huge release. Can't get yourself to cry? Watch a sad movie. We all have a movie or two that we know guarantees tears (for me, The Notebook- works every time).
46. Beat pillows away from children and pets or punch and kick a bag. Physically moving energy works wonders.
47. Imagine the worst case scenario. It may sounds counter intuitive to positive thinking, but imagining a worst case scenario all the way to the end, allows us to relax into knowing we could and would handle the situation. This in turn, lets some semblance of control arrive. Much of stress is feeling out of control.
48. Ask yourself what good could come out of this? We all have memories of situations that at one time seemed hopeless, but in retrospect make sense.
49. Take a shower or a bath. Both are relaxing and known to clear energy. Foggy thinking seems to disappear and we emerge feeling differently.
50. Get outside and look up at the sky. The vastness of what's above reminds us of a higher power, greater mystery and vast possibility. Whether starry, sunny, or cloudy, the sky seems to put everything into perspective.
If you liked this, you might also like 11 Ways to Emotionally Thrive