Engaging in activities that support self-care may help reduce stress and anxiety. These can include exercise and mindfulness practices.
Stress and anxiety are common experiences for many people. In fact, millions of adults across the world say they feel stress or anxiety daily.
It’s important to understand that stress isn’t the same as mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, which require treatment from medical professionals. Although the tips below may relieve many types of stress, they may not help people with these conditions.
Here are some evidence-based ways to relieve stress.
1. Get more physical activity
If you’re feeling stressed, moving your body on a consistent basis may help.
A 6-week study in 185 university students found that participating in aerobic exercise 2 days per week significantly reduced overall perceived stress and perceived stress due to uncertainty. Plus, the exercise routine significantly improved self-reported depression.
Many other studies have shown that engaging in physical activity helps reduce stress levels and improve mood, while sedentary behavior may lead to increased stress, poor mood, and sleep disturbances.
What’s more, regular exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
If you’re currently inactive, start with gentle activities such as walking or biking. Choosing an activity that you enjoy may help increase your chances of sticking to it in the long term.
Regular exercise may help reduce stress and improve symptoms related to common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
2. Follow a healthy diet
Your diet affects every aspect of your health, including your mental health.
Studies show that people who follow a diet high in ultra-processed foods and added sugar are more likely to experience higher perceived stress levels.
Being chronically stressed may lead you to overeat and reach for highly palatable foods, which may harm your overall health and mood.
Plus, not eating enough nutrient-dense whole foods may increase your risk of deficiencies in nutrients that are essential for regulating stress and mood, such as magnesium and B vitamins.
Minimizing your intake of highly processed foods and beverages and eating more whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, fish, nuts, and seeds can help ensure that your body is properly nourished. In turn, this may improve your resilience to stress.
Following a nutrient-dense diet and limiting ultra-processed foods may provide your body with the nutrients it needs for optimal health and decrease your risk of deficiencies in nutrients that help regulate stress.
3. Minimize phone use and screen time
Smartphones, computers, and tablets are an unavoidable part of everyday life for many people.
While these devices are often necessary, using them too often may increase stress levels.
A number of studies have linked excessive smartphone use and “iPhone addiction” with increased levels of stress and mental health disorders.
Spending too much time in front of screens in general is associated with lower psychological well-being and increased stress levels in both adults and kids.
Furthermore, screen time may negatively affect sleep, which may also lead to increased stress levels.
Minimizing screen time may help reduce stress and improve sleep in both children and adults.
4. Consider supplements
Several vitamins and minerals play an important role in your body’s stress response and mood regulation. As such, a deficiency in one or more nutrients may affect your mental health and ability to cope with stress.
Plus, some studies show that certain dietary supplements may help reduce stress and improve mood.
For example, when you’re chronically stressed, your magnesium levels may become depleted.
Since this mineral plays an important role in your body’s stress response, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough each day. Supplementing with magnesium has been shown to improve stress in chronically stressed people.
An 8-week study in 264 people with low magnesium found that taking 300 mg of this mineral daily helped reduce stress levels. Combining this dose of magnesium with vitamin B6 was even more effective.
Other supplements, including rhodiola, ashwagandha, B vitamins, and L-theanine, have been shown to help reduce stress as well.
However, dietary supplements may not be appropriate or safe for everyone. Consult a healthcare professional if you’re interested in using supplements to help relieve stress.
Certain supplements may reduce stress levels, including magnesium, L-theanine, rhodiola, and B vitamins.
5. Practice self-care
Setting aside time to practice self-care may help reduce your stress levels. Practical examples include:
- going for a walk outside
- taking a bath
- lighting candles
- reading a good book
- preparing a healthy meal
- stretching before bed
- getting a massage
- practicing a hobby
- using a diffuser with calming scents
- practicing yoga
Studies show that people who engage in self-care report lower levels of stress and improved quality of life, while a lack of self-care is associated with higher risk of stress and burnout.
Taking time for yourself is essential in order to live a healthy life. This is especially important for people who tend to be highly stressed, including nurses, doctors, teachers, and caretakers.
Self-care doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated. It simply means tending to your well-being and happiness.
Exposure to certain scents via candles or essential oils may be especially calming. Here are a few relaxing scents:
- Roman chamomile
- orange or orange blossom
Using scents to boost your mood is called aromatherapy. Several studies suggest that aromatherapy can decrease anxiety and improve sleep.
Self-care is an important part of managing stress. A few simple strategies you may want to try are yoga, lighting candles, taking baths, and reading a good book.
6. Reduce your caffeine intake
Caffeine is a chemical found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks that stimulates your central nervous system.
Consuming too much may worsen and increase feelings of anxiety.
Plus, overconsumption may harm your sleep. In turn, this may increase stress and anxiety symptoms.
People have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate. If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back by replacing coffee or energy drinks with decaffeinated herbal tea or water.
Although many studies show that coffee is healthy in moderation, it’s recommended to keep caffeine intake under 400 mg per day, which equals 4–5 cups (0.9–1.2 L) of coffee.
Still, people who are sensitive to caffeine may experience increased anxiety and stress after consuming much less caffeine than this, so it’s important to consider your individual tolerance.
Large amounts of caffeine may increase stress and anxiety, although people’s sensitivity to caffeine varies greatly.
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