FROM MINOR PROBLEMS TO MAJOR CHALLENGES, stress is a natural reaction to many situations in life such as finance, relationships, health, work, family, and more. Stress is not bad. In fact, a moderate amount can help perform us better, but too much or chronic stress can lead to mental, physical, and emotional problems.
There are some amazing and wonderful techniques to beat stress like meditation, yoga, exercise, and nature walk. They all work wonders, but when the stress boils over then in that heat of the moment, and in a high-pressure situation, you just can’t excuse and sit in meditation, take a nap or go for a walk in the woods. In such stressful situations, you need something simple, easy, and immediate.
If you are high on stress and need some super quick ways to reduce stress, the good news is that you are lucky because I’m covering some effective and proven techniques that can help you get your cortisol levels down immediately. With these instant stress-relieving activities, you can shut down your stress right now.
The best thing about these short-term strategies is that they can be performed anywhere, offers quick relief, need no prior experience, and are absolutely free.
If you are looking for some quick ways to kill stress, read this till the very end. So, let’s get started.
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- Get a Quick Massage.
In a scientific research paper published in “Scientific Reports” psychologists from the lab of Neuropsychology at the University of Konstanz led by Maria Meier studied the effect of 10 minutes massage or simple rest on stress. The volunteers were divided into three groups.
The first group was given a 10-minute head-and-neck massage by applying moderate pressure on the vagal nerve to actively stimulate the PNS. The second group was given a soft stroking neck-and -shoulder massage to see the impact of light touch on relaxation. The final group of participants was made to sit quietly at the table to test the effect of simple rest without tactile stimulation.
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Both Physiological and Psychological relaxation was analyzed and measured. Physiological relaxation was measured by monitoring the heart rate variability and heartbeat of the participants. Understand the higher the heart rate variability, the more the body is relaxed. Psychological relaxation was measured by asking the volunteers to describe their feelings of relaxation.
What the researchers observed was that just 10 minutes of massage or rest resulted in both higher levels of psychological and physiological relaxation and thus reduction in stress. The participants not only felt more relaxed and less stressed but also showed a significant increase in heart rate variability. This meant that the PNS got activated. The physiological effect was more in degree when the participants received massage as compared to simple rest.
The key to massage was the tactile contact, making the quality of pressure-soft or moderate irrelevant. Ask your colleague, friend, or family member to give you a touch massage but if you don’t have anyone then practice self-massage and give yourself a foot, face, or calf massage.
According to Maria Meier, “You don’t need professional treatment in order to relax. Having somebody gently stroke your shoulders, or even just resting your head on the table for 10 minutes, is an effective way to boost your body’s physiological engine of relaxation.”
This was the first scientific proof that easy to apply short-term techniques such as massage or rest can effectively reduce stress by activating your body’s relaxation system (PNS or the rest and digest response) by offsetting your stress system (SNS or the fight or flight response) thus offering a new perspective and paving the way for future research on understanding and treating stress-related disease.
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- Breathe it Out.
One of the easiest to do, highly effective, and evergreen ways to reduce stress is simply to focus on your breathing. Well, don’t we all breathe all the time? Yes! But do you know there is actually a right and wrong way to breathe? When stressed, your heart rate increases causing you to breathe faster and shallow, which then reduces the amount of oxygen reaching your brain and increases the amount of carbon dioxide in your lungs. It becomes a vicious cycle affecting your mind, body, and soul.
But when you breathe slowly and deeply it reduces the oxygen demands for the heart which then leads to lower blood pressure and a drop in the heart rate. Also, it has been scientifically proven that deep breathing turns on the Vagus nerve which as mentioned in the above point applies a brake on stress.
As far as the East is concerned, this is no surprise as slow and deep breathing has been the foundation of yoga and meditation. For ages, Our Yogis and meditators have well understood the importance of slow and deep breathing.
So, the next time whenever you find yourself in any stressful situation anytime and anywhere and just don’t know what to do- the best way is to slow down you’re breathing just for one to two minutes. Breathing exercises are excellent free stress relievers making them one of the most instant and easily recommended stress relievers.
A Must Read:- How Hot Water Bath Cures Depression.
- Laugh it Out.
When it comes to relieving stress, more chuckles, giggles, glees, and guffaws are just the perfect tool. We all have heard that laughter is the best medicine, but do you know it is also natural medicine. Extensive scientific research proves that laughter is a great form of stress buster, and that’s not a joke.
Many studies have proven that laughing provides physiological and psychological health benefits. A good laugh has both short-term and long-term benefits.
Below are scientifically proven health benefits that laughter can offer you:
It stimulates many organs: when you laugh, more oxygen-rich air enters your body, thereby increasing more oxygen in your blood. This improves your vascular function and also stimulates the lungs, heart, and muscles.
Laughter not only reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline but also releases endorphins the “feel-good” and health-enhancing chemicals that offset the negative effects of stress, boost happiness levels and lowers your blood pressure and heart rate. It can increase your good cholesterol (HDL) and can even reduce inflammation.
Most importantly and the need of the hour laughter helps boost the immune system.
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Understand this: when you are stressed, negative thoughts creep in which manifests into chemical reactions happening in the body. This brings in more stress thus decreasing your immunity. But, when you laugh, you manifest positive thoughts that release neuropeptides and antibodies that enhance the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system and helps fight stress better.
It’s a great handy tool that offers your brain a much-needed break from the worrying thoughts causing stress because you cannot laugh and think about the stressful situation at the same time.
Here are some simple ideas to invite laughter into your life:
Feeling stressed, need a quick laugh? Keep some funny movies or comedy videos on your mobile or head straight to YouTube for a fast and easy dose. On your way to work listen to humorous podcasts. Have some images, cartoons, or comic strips ready whenever you need them. Get a joke of the day app on your mobile. Spend time with people who have a good sense of humor by joining a laughter yoga club and most importantly try to look for funny situations around you and you’ll be surprised how they will start to appear from nowhere.
Go ahead and just give it a try. Next time whenever you feel stressed immediately engage yourself in any of the above activities and laugh to beat the blues. It doesn’t take much time and can be in an instant.
Even if you’re not feeling laughable or nothing strikes you as funny, just force yourself to smile. I’m sure you have heard, “Fake it till you make it” and it works equally well here. Fake laughter usually will lead to real laughter and studies also show that fake laughter provides the same above benefits as your body cannot differentiate between fake or real. Just try this and see what happens.
Having fun is an instant stress reliever.
- Drink Water- the Elixir of Life.
If you’re looking for a short, simple, and easy way to unwind from your stress-filled moment, just try this: drink a glass of water. Sounds too easy and cheesy? The link between water and stress is researched and documented. Our body is 70% water, so all our organs, including the brains need water to function properly.
When under stress, you’re likely to become dehydrated, because your breathing is heavy, your heart rate is up, your adrenal glands produce extra cortisol resulting in lower electrolyte levels, so you’re losing fluid from the body. And the worst part is that during times of stress, you’re more likely to forget to sip water, and this will, in turn, build up more stress. In fact, studies have shown that just half a liter short of water can increase your stress hormone cortisol.
In her book, ‘The Life-Saver’s Guide to Water – The Elixir of Life’ Lesley Una Pierce, Director of The Nutritional Healing Foundation writes, “In a nutshell, STRESS is the most dehydrating thing of all. Our cells will be stressed because they are not getting enough water. It is said that we can create more toxicity from our thoughts and bottled-up emotions than we ever could from our food.”
So, stress cause dehydration, and dehydration can cause stress- a vicious self-perpetuating cycle. A way to break this chain is to consume more water during stress. Understand this: for your body, stress is stress, and results in the same response regardless of the stress trigger. Agreed remaining hydrated is not going to solve all the problems that give you stress, but if you’re already stressed drinking enough water can reduce the magnitude of the physiological response.
In a 2014 scientific study, researchers explored the impact of water intake on mood. What they observed was that people who usually drank lots of water felt tensed and anxious when their water intake was reduced.
In another study in 2015, researchers worked with 120 healthy women tracking their total water intake and the corresponding impact on their moods. They observed that lower water intake resulted in greater stress, tension, and confusion.
So, keeping yourself hydrated is one of the very simple and easy ways to reduce stress and anxiety in your life. Always carry a water bottle with you as you move around and when stress strikes, just open the bottle and sip consistently. Build this hydration habit and if you also suffer from mood swings and volatility drinking enough water will definitely help.
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- Reach out to Friends and Talk it out.
When stress boils over, just think about the relief you feel when you can vent out to a colleague or a friend. Reaching out to your friends or buddies, connecting, sharing your feelings, gaining validation, and getting a different perspective is what experts call “social support.” It is an easy and effective way to reduce and relieve stress.
In an interesting study conducted by John Hopkins University in 2011, researchers closely observed a group of children participants and found that those who were with their best friends during stressful situations or unpleasant times showed lower cortisol levels than the rest who did not.
Another study showed that spending time with children, friends, and pets helps release Oxytocin, the natural stress-relieving chemical.
Also, during stress, our thinking gets foggy and unclear so bringing someone else in the situation and seeking an outsider’s perspective can help you see things as they are not as you see them.
Social support also makes you more resilient in the face of tough times.
So, the next time you are in the middle of a stressful situation and don’t know what to do, just reach out and talk to your co-worker, colleague, friend, buddy, or family member. Make them a sounding board as you reach out via text, phone call, or personal meet.
But if you lack emotional friendship or support, make an effort to get it by expanding your current network. Also, connect with a support group or join an organization.
So, next time when you find yourself in a stressful situation, whether you are heading for a job interview, stuck in a traffic jam, the flight is delayed, going on for your first date, or walking down the aisle, these five easy go-to techniques can help you during any stressful situation.
Start with the technique that feels best to you, or use a customized combination to find the sense of calm that feels right for you.
Please connect with me by sharing your go-to technique to beat stress if any in the comments box below!