7 Ways to Help You De-stress

By Laura Greenstein | Jan. 22, 2016

You should try meditating.” If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a dozen times. People often say that if you are stressed out, the best thing you can do is meditate. While there is plenty of scientific evidence showing that it can reduce anxiety and improve your mental health, for me, it doesn’t seem to help at all. Not doing anything allows all of my stressful and frantic thoughts to come pouring into my mind. Focusing on my breath is not enough to clear away these thoughts. I understand that I could devote more time to practicing meditation, but there are other some effective ways I’ve found to de-stress. Here are a few of the activities I’ve found effective, and a few others, that have been backed by research to help you handle stress.

1. Make a playlist that makes you feel good

Music can be cathartic and therapeutic to a stressed-out mind. Studies show that music not only reduces stress, it also boosts your body’s immune system function, which can help your body cope with stress in the future. Music has the ability to affect the speed of your brainwaves, which can help us achieve a therapeutic state.  

It can be hard to find the right songs when you’re already stressed, so plan ahead  by creating a playlist of songs that always make you feel calm. I always try to carry headphones with me everywhere I go, so that I can let myself decompress if need be.

2. Sing!

Singing not only takes your mind off of things, but it also allows an emotional release. This release is actually endorphins and oxytocin, which are hormones that alleviate anxiety and stress. Research shows that singers have lower levels of cortisol, which suggests lower amounts of stress. It feels good to let something out and your voice, whether you know how to sing our not, is something that you always have with you.

3. Read a book and pick out your favorite quote

When you’re stressed, it can be challenging to even thinking about cracking open a book. And it’s possible that you won’t pay much attention to the words. Occasionally, when I’m feeling frazzled, I notice my thoughts seem to muddle the sentences together.

However, if I’m actively looking for a passage or quote that I can connect with and relate too, then I’m forced to pay more attention to the book and less to my persistent, and intrusive, thoughts. And once you get to that point, reading is one of the best things you can do to reduce stress. Research shows that reading reduces stress by 68%, which is more than listening to music, drinking tea, or going for a walk. The reason, psychologists believe, is because reading takes you into another world where you are fully distracted from your troubles.

4. Color

If you want to let out a bit of creativity in a way that’s easy, grab your colored pencils—or whatever your favorite coloring utensil is—and color. “Coloring elicits a relaxing mindset, similar to what you would achieve through meditation. Like mediation, coloring allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus on the moment,” says neuropsychologist Dr. Stan Rodski. The great thing about coloring is that it provides the opportunity to be creative in a way that’s easier than painting or drawing for those who don’t possess artistic talent. In addition, you can put on your de-stress playlist in the background!

5. Do some exercise (that you actually like)

Rigorous exercise, such as running, can cause you to take your mind off of what’s stressing you out. For me, often the thoughts that replace my stressors when I run are along the lines of, “I can’t breathe,” so I have a hard time motivating myself to run. Although, exercise fuels the brains stress buffers, which are chemicals that play a direct role in stress response, making it a vital part of our daily lives for managing stress. There are so many other forms of exercise in order to stay active such as, zumba, Frisbee, tennis, going for walks, and yoga.  

6. “Retail therapy”

*Note: This suggestion comes with a few guidelines!* Buying something that you really want can override the stress that you are feeling. Buying something gives you a sense of instant satisfaction, which alleviates stress. However, buying things will only make you feel better temporarily. It’s a quick fix, not a long-term solution. The key to retail therapy is only buying one reasonably priced thing that you really want. If you spend a ton of money, chances are it will stress you out even further.

7. Call your funny friend

If you have a friend that makes you laugh, call them up or go see them. Laughter can be one of the best medicines for stress. Laughter relaxes your body, boosts your immune system, releases endorphins, and protects your hear. Also, good relationships are associated with mental wellbeing. Both connecting with other people and laughing will make you feel better almost instantaneously.

Comments
Alice
I loved this article! ...and just before reading it I engaged in the retail therapy (without the knowledge that I would feel better afterwards) and bought me a much desired camera! I love going out when I'm down/anxious and taking pictures. I had been using mey cell phone with great results (mentally and artistically) and thought I could capitalize on the wonderful experience with a camera!
2/2/2016 12:35:52 PM

Kathleen
I dislike #6. That's gotten me into a lot of trouble over the years. Just my opinion. #2 and #7 are way better.
2/1/2016 2:19:09 PM

Kaye
Many great ideas! Thanks! I may add rocking in a rocking chair is soothing to me. But, when I read self help aids and find many typos or punctuation errors, I get stressed again.....more idio ?
1/31/2016 4:47:00 PM

Jean
I am a musician and sometimes playing favorites brings relief; sometimes I'm so stressed it is hopeless trying to play because my concentration is shot.
1/29/2016 12:16:18 AM

Jessica
Great things you mention. I use a lot of these things to help relieved stress. I even learned how to crochet. I made a few things to just my looking at YouTube.
1/28/2016 8:58:11 PM

Kathi C.
Meditation is not for everybody. "Relaxation-induced anxiety" and other unhelpful side effects of meditation are reviewed on this webpage:
http://minet.org/www.trancenet.net/research/abs.shtml
1/28/2016 1:38:04 PM

Valerie
This article is excellent and so true! I have tried and benefited from all of these suggestions. (Though I do emphasize the caution about retail therapy, especially if you are not the most responsible with your money. Lesson learned from personal experience.) My favorite relaxation music is low-key instrumental electronic, so I have progressively been adding songs to a "Chill" playlist I created on Spotify. Whenever I feel stressed, especially while I am trying to read or write or study, I play that playlist and it truly does calm me down and help me focus. As for books, I enjoy reading and studying my Bible. There are so many inspirational, relatable quotes in the Bible and it provides me with a lot of hope, comfort, and motivation to keep improving. A friend of mine gave me an adult anti-stress coloring book a few months ago when I was newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I cannot tell you how many times I fell asleep with that thing in my lap! It is so relaxing. And the therapeutic benefit of laughter is a no-brainer! Gut laughs are the best! Surround yourself with people who lift your spirits. Some additional suggestions I'd like to add are:
- taking a hot bath in Epsom salts (preferably with scented candles and soothing music)
- creative expression via arts and crafts and writing
- eat healthfully and drink plenty of water
- keep your surroundings clean and organized
- make time for a "Me Day" each week :)
1/28/2016 11:44:04 AM

Mary Kathryn Castor
The 7 De-stressor list is a good one to add to my mental health toolbox. I have found it helpful to do volunteer work that I am passionate about because it helps my mind focus on those activities and allows me to be around like-minded people who I admire and support me.
1/28/2016 9:33:34 AM

Heather
I was hypnotized to deal w stress and it works wonders. Make sure the hypnotist is re*****ble and you get a tape of the session so you can listen whenever you feel the need.
1/28/2016 8:31:41 AM

Harvey
Good post, thanks, I'm copying & pasting it to have for future reference.

I related to the comments about difficulties meditating, but by combining attention to my breaths with saying or thinking one word at a time of a short statement or prayer, I find my stress gently dissipates - try it!
1/28/2016 12:38:37 AM

Elizabeth Lopez
Pets are a good stress reliever also. When my cat is curled up in my lap purring as I pet her, my worries just melt away. I think she can tell when I'm stressed out. She seeks me out and won't quit till I pet her.
1/25/2016 6:41:09 PM

Mitzi Bockmann
Great ideas all of these....I do puzzles. Not only does it take me out of my head but I create order out of chaos. Very effective! :)
1/25/2016 5:35:50 PM

Peg Johnson
I couldn't agree more, especially with suggestion #4. There are a plethora of adult coloring books available, and tons of gorgeous tools with which to color. I come home from work, feed the dog, put on supper, and color until it is ready. By that time, I've left the most persistent stressors behind and can enjoy my supper. Just looking at bouquets of fine-tipped Sharpies (to paraphrase You've Got Mail) has become relaxing. Try it. It's amazing.
1/25/2016 11:59:37 AM

Lisa
Try knitting. Research is showing multiple benefits! I love it.
1/24/2016 6:13:57 PM

Laurie Musolino
This will help many people that struggle every day with this disorder!
1/24/2016 3:33:46 PM

kim k
I've been coloring for the past 15 years before it became popular. It really relieves my stress. My family knows when co!oring that I'm stressed out and to leave me alone. I'm creative and artsy so my pictures come out real good which makes me happy.
1/24/2016 3:14:57 PM

Annie
Thank you for this post. I really like the part about getting activities in that I like, singing, and the fact that meditation is not for everyone. I find walking to be very helpful. Thanks again.
1/22/2016 6:12:40 PM

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