Stress is an inevitable part of the human experience. And while it may be unavoidable, it can certainly be alleviated. Most healthcare professionals will agree that there are many ways to help reduce stress and achieve emotional equilibrium. And interestingly, many include some of life's greatest joys. Here are five to consider:

1. Get Up and Move

Do you enjoy taking long walks with someone you love? If the answer is yes, do it as often as possible because exercise is one of the most commonly recommended stress busters. Whatever level of activity you many engage in, increasing it is likely to bring emotional relief to persistent worries and negative perseverations. In essence, both body and soul benefit from physical exertion. Whether it entails taking the family pet out for walks, jogging along the beach, or lifting weights in a gym, exercise is continually credited with cleansing the mind and bringing perspective and peace to nagging concerns.

2. Learn How to Breathe

You know what would happen if you stopped breathing. But what about if you started to breathe–correctly? The answer is that you would disengage the body's fright or flight reaction, thus calming your mind and your body.

Most people breathe in the same way–they contract the belly on an inhale and extend the belly on an exhale. While it might be what most people do, it isn't the way we are meant to breathe! The proper breathing method is called diaphragmatic breathing, a deep breathing technique that can be adopted as your everyday breathing method to help calm physical and emotional symptoms associated with stress. It requires that you to breathe in while extending the belly and to breathe out while contracting the belly. A good way to remember this technique is "breathe in, belly out and breathe out, belly in." (You might also want to read this article about sighing.)

3. Engage in a Hobby You Love

In addition to increasing your physical activity and learning to breath properly, try becoming involved in a hobby. The choices are endless; gardening, writing, reading, knitting, and playing mind games such as chess, scrabble, and Sudoku are just some examples. Regardless of the hobby you choose, the focus required by these activities can help you to divert attention away from stressful thoughts.

4. Talk With a Friend

When you are feeling stressed out or anxious, call or visit with a kind, supportive friend, meet up with your family, join a support group, or go to a club meeting; all provide an opportunity to share, commiserate, and learn from others. And talking with friends has been proven to help improve mental health.

5. Carve Out Time to Relax

Finally, create time in your daily routine to relax. Take a bath, play with a dog, roughhouse with the kids, listen to music, or snuggle up with a page-turning novel. These are just a few examples of relaxing activities that can make a difference to your mental health. Rather than feeling guilty for taking time out for yourself, think of these relaxing activities as a medicine that happens to taste great!

These five techniques can be helpful in reducing stress. However, if stress begins to disrupt your life, seek professional. There are many options available.

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Michele Rosenthal
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Date of original publication:

Updated: January 12, 2017