Stress may be a fact of life, but you don’t have to let it build until it causes a serious health problem. Here are 10 ways you can reduce stress, whether it results from your job, from caregiving, or from anything that may be weighing you down:
Change your thinking. You may not be able to change your circumstances, but you can change your response to it. Find a positive, constructive thought and repeat it to yourself like a mantra every time you find yourself dwelling on your problems.
Get outdoors. Interacting with nature is proven to lessen the effects of stress on the nervous system and enhance spiritual well-being.
“Smell the roses.” If not literally, try smelling essential plan oils — now widely available in stores that stock natural products. Aromatherapy has been found to reduce chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and stress-related disorders. Orange and lavendar are particularly good for enhancing relaxation.
Have a “cuppa tea.” Research shows that drinking tea consistently for six weeks reduces the stress hormone cortisol and increases relaxation. It may also reduce inflammation.
Laugh it off. Humor relieves stress and anxiety and can prevent depression. It can boost the immune system, increase pain tolerance, enhance mood and creativity, and even lower blood pressure. Look for old comedy shows on TV, or whatever will make you belly-laugh.
Build a support system. Relationships are key to health and happiness, especially for women. Loneliness can actually contribute to stress and poor outcomes after illness. So find a friend, join a group — or start one, and be sure to nurture supportive friendships.
Listen to music. Singing and listening to music is a powerful stress-relief tool. Classical music is especially good, but any music you truly enjoy will lift your mood. Research has even shown that playing music during surgery can decrease a patient’s post-operative pain and reduce the need for painkillers.
Meditate. Deep breathing, relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and prayer are all proven ways to enhance quality of life and improve well-being, as the mind can actually affect what is going on in the body. Try focusing on a candle or an appealing picture, listen to a relaxation CD, or consider a class in a meditation technique that appeals to you.
Enjoy the warmth of human touch. Just as the mind can affect the body, the body can affect the mind. It’s been said that humans need 12 hugs a day for growth, so don’t be afraid to ask for a hug from a loved one. Consider massage therapy, which also has been shown to improve sleep and enhance mood.
Move your body. Exercise not only improves physical stamina and strength, it also can affect mood as well. Try a daily walk. Tai chi is especially good for the elderly, as the movements are typically slow and gentle and can help improve balance and posture.
No matter what stress-relief methods you choose, make one or more of them a habit — especially if you feel too stressed out to do it. As someone once said, the time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.