7 Ways to Relieve Stress & Decrease Anxiety
In today’s day and age, it seems there are many people dealing with increased stress and anxiety. According to statistics, 44% of Americans feel more stressed today than they did 5 years ago. In regards to anxiety, it is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans experience anxiety related symptoms.
Point blank: We’re a stressed out and anxious nation (though this isn’t only limited to America)
While a certain amount of stress and anxiety can actually be healthy, and give us the motivation to put in some effort with our goals, stress and anxiety not only decreases out overall satisfaction with life, but also has actual effects on our physical body, health, and sexual health (for all the love birds out there).
Stress and anxiety related stress increases:
- The risk of heart disease by 40%
- The risk of a heart attack by 25%
- The risk of stroke by 50%
- Overeating by 40% which causes increase in body weight
- Decreases sleep by 44%
Clearly, we want to decrease the amount of stress and anxiety in our lives. The question is: How?
Of course, having a lot of stress and being able to rid ourselves of it are two entirely separate things.
For those who currently have a stressful job, most can’t just quit or find a new job with the snap of a finger. Also, there can be stress and anxiety from our relationships, children, financial reasons, and much more, and more often than not, actually changing the situation may take some time. That being said, it doesn’t mean we have to suffer through the stress that comes from our daily lives.
While we can’t always instantly change our lives circumstances that are causing stress and anxiety, there are a variety of ways we can deal with our stress and anxiety in a healthy manner, and also decrease the amount of stress and anxiety we experience.
There was a point in my own life when I was just starting a new business, was financially strained, and for one of the first times in my life, was fairly stressed, anxious, and found myself feeling like every day was more stressful than the day before. I began eating unhealthier foods to deal with it, gained weight as a result, and even though I was working out, it didn’t help much.
I was determined to stay with my new business, and new the payout would be worth it, so quitting was not an option. However, I managed to develop a daily routine that not only greatly decreased the amount of stress and anxiety I experienced, but actually felt even more energized toward my business and other areas of life once I developed a steady routine.
Today, we’ll cover the top 7 ways to decrease stress and anxiety.
7 Ways to Relieve Stress and Decrease Anxiety
1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Method (PMR)
The progressive muscle relaxation method is a simple 2 step method that helps to relax your body and muscles. As we go throughout the day, we develop a certain amount of stress that effects our bodies. If we don’t deal with this stress that accumulates in our bodies, our bodies will continue to become more and more stressed and tense.
By practicing the Progressive Muscle Relaxation method daily, it will help decrease the overall tension in your body and stress.
How to do the Progressive Muscle Relaxation Method
Find a comfortable place to lie or sit. I prefer my bed and do this every morning when I wake up, and before I go to sleep.
(1) Target a specific muscle in your body. It’s easiest to start with your feet, and work your way up. Take a slow deep breath and tense your feet for 5-7 seconds. Feel the tension in them.
(2) Exhale as you slowly release the tension, and feel the tension leave your feet. You should feel your feet feel somewhat limp and loose.
Proceed to do this for each muscle in your body moving upward:
Feet: Tense feet
Calves Tighten calf muscles
Thighs: Tighten thigh muscles
Buttocks: (Tighten by pulling buttocks together)
Stomach (Do this 2 ways: suck stomach in and release, tense stomach and release)
Hands: Clench fists
Arms: One at a time, flex arms
Neck and shoulders: raise shoulders up to touch your ears
Chest: Do this 2 ways: tense by flexing and also take a very deep breath until chest tenses)
Mouth: Open mouth very wide and feel it tense
Eyes: Clench eye lids tightly shut
Forehead: Raise eyebrows as high as they go
The more you practice, the more you should begin to feel the positive effects. Also, from daily practice, when you feel extra stress coming on during the day, you’ll become more aware of it as it develops in your body, and will be able to instantly release it by practice PMR.
Meditation is no longer viewed as something only monks do in solitude. Countless studies have shown the various long term benefits of meditation. You can read more about the benefits of meditation here, but to name a few:
- Reduces stress in the body
- Reduces anxiety
- Reduces aging
- Increases concentration
- Increases immunity and helps fight disease
- Helps have a good night sleep
- Increases overall happiness
There’s no right or wrong way to practice meditation. You can sit and focus on a specific word (known as transcendental meditation) or sit and focus on your breathing, In regards to when and how often to meditate, it’s recommended 10-20 minutes daily. (Most people notice the positive effects within 2-4 weeks.)
For me personally, along with the Progressive Muscle Relaxation method, I practice 20 minutes of meditation every morning when I wake up and prior to bed, and repeat 1-3 words which are areas of my life I want to develop.
For example, if I’m feeling particular stressed, I’ll meditate on the words “Relax, calm, focused” as I breathe in, and repeat them as I exhale.
It’s no secret cardio and exercising helps decrease stress and anxiety. Whether it’s riding a bike, running, swimming, cardio machines, or doing sprints, cardio will help decrease stress and anxiety, and also increase your overall physique. Aim for at least 10-20 minutes of cardio 3-5 times a week. (If you have time for more, do more up to an hour)
4. Drink Plenty of Water
Most of us are very dehydrated and don’t realize it. About 60% of the human body is made of water, 73% of our heart and brain are composed of water, and 83% of our lungs are water.
Water is clearly an important part of our health and day to day functioning.
How much water should you drink?
As I mentioned in how to lose weight, it’s best to drink 8-15 glasses a day (ideally 12-15). For those who claim “they can’t.”, trust me, you can. Bring a large bottle of water to work, and make an effort to drink one glass of water per hour.
Once you begin drinking more water, you’ll begin to wonder how you even functioned before. You’ll feel more clear headed, more energetic, and less stressed.
5. Focus on your Breathing
When we feel stressed or anxious, our bodies tense up, and our breath becomes more shallow and rapid. Through daily meditation, you’ll naturally become more aware of your breath, and how it effects your body. Ideally, you want to breath in through your nose for about 2-3 seconds, exhale 3-4 seconds and pause for 2-3 seconds after.
When you notice yourself feeling somewhat stressed or anxious, take a moment to stop and take 3 deep breathes. By keeping your breath deep and steady, your body and mind will naturally feel more calm.
6. Slow Down Your Thoughts
Along with a more rapid breath, more often than not, when we feel stressed or anxious, our brains go into what I refer to as “monkey mind.” Our thoughts begin to quicken and go in rapid fire, thinking of all the things that may go wrong and all other types of worrisome thoughts.
Become aware of this, and force your thoughts to slow down. When you do, you’ll naturally feel more calm about whatever may be causing stress or anxiety.
7. Slow Down Your Movements
Another result of anxiety and stress is our bodies tend to quicken and move much more rapidly. While you don’t have to move in slow motion, become aware of the pace at which you move.
Similar to taking deep breathes and slowing down our thoughts, when we slow down our movements, it sends a message to the brain that you feel calm, and will cause a natural decrease in anxiety and stress.
*And if you feel so wound up you can’t move slow, then it’s definitely time for some cardio. *
7 Ways to Relieve Stress and Decrease Anxiety Recap
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation Method
- Drink plenty of water
- Focus on your breathing
- Slow down your thoughts
- Slow down your movements