Even though everyone experiences some level of stress on a regular basis, it is possible to effectively manage this emotion with scientifically proven techniques. These time-tested stress reduction methods can lessen the impact of stress and ultimately reduce the harmful side effects with which it is associated. Some remedies take a bit longer than others to produce positive results; however, if stress is an immediate problem, the tips outlined below can help:
- 1. Breathing from the Diaphragm
- 2. Stressed-Out Brain through Meditation
- 3. Mindfulness Meditation in High-Stress Jobs
- 4. How Yoga can reduce Stress
- 5. Guided Imagery for Stress Management
- 6. Manage Stress Through Self-Hypnosis
- 7. How Autogenic Training can help in Stress Management
- 8. Using Personal Biofeedback to Combat Stress
- 9. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- 10. End Stress With Emotional Freedom Technique
- 11. Using Aromatherapy to Significantly Reduce Cortisol Levels
- 12. Enjoyable Pastimes–A Simple Way to Lower Stress Levels
- 13. Combat Stress by Communing With Nature
1. Breathing from the Diaphragm
Properly breathing from an organ called the diaphragm is one of the easiest and most effective ways to achieve stress reduction. If individuals who are under stress pay close attention, they will notice that their breathing becomes rapid and shallow, and this may be accompanied by tightness in the chest. This is a temporary response to perceived danger that is hardwired into the limbic brain. Sometimes referred to as “fight or flight,” this reaction often appears during times of tension, anxiety, and stress.
Consciously breathing from the diaphragm, sometimes referred to as “belly breathing,” lowers levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and evokes a state of calm by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. This type of breathing is very easy to accomplish, as all one must do is slowly inhale and exhale from the stomach, rather than the chest. Actually watching the chest and abdomen to ensure that one’s respirations are coming from the appropriate area is the best way to make sure this technique is properly implemented.
2. Stressed-Out Brain through Meditation
Almost everyone knows that meditation is one of the most effective stress management techniques available to modern man. Not only does it make one less reactive to stress and more resilient to the pressures of everyday life, it also decreases the number of neurons in an area of the brain called the “amygdala,” which is responsible for negative feelings such as tension, anxiety, and fear.
Meditation also increases gamma-aminobutyric acid–GABA–levels. GABA is a neurotransmitter that allows individuals to relax by slowing down or even stopping certain types of brain activity.
Ultimately, meditation helps one address the root cause of stress, which is typically negative thought patterns. It helps individuals to “master the mind” so that the person is in control of his or her thoughts, rather than rampant thoughts taking control of the person. Meditation audio files are very helpful for those who are trying this technique for the first time.
3. Mindfulness Meditation in High-Stress Jobs
Another type of meditation that has been recognized as a great stress reliever is called mindfulness meditation. Among those who practice meditation, it is the technique of choice when stress levels are unusually high. Popular among US military personnel, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and Wall Street brokers, it actually helps the person to build a bigger, more efficient brain.
This is due to the fact that it increases the thickness of the cortex, the volume of the hippocampus and the amount of actual gray matter. At the same time, it decreases the amygdala’s size. As previously mentioned, this part of the brain is associated with negative emotions. Mindfulness meditation improves connectivity among the brain’s various regions as well.
4. How Yoga can reduce Stress
Holistic practitioners estimate that yoga is practiced regularly by more than 15 million Americans. Interestingly, stress has a lot to do with this peaked interest in yoga. Although it has been around for approximately five centuries, it has recently made its way into the limelight in a major way because so many people are searching for effective ways to handle stress. Most physical exercise reduces stress to a degree, but none as effectively as yoga. This is because of yoga increases heart rate variability, lowers blood pressure, and slows breathing all at the same time. These are all vitally important if one is to release stress.
5. Guided Imagery for Stress Management
Those who want to change their typical behavior, reach new goals and eliminate as much stress as possible should consider guided imagery. This powerful technique uses visualization to guide stressed-out individuals to a calmer place. To achieve peak performance, Olympic teams and legendary sports figures have turned to guided imagery.
The many health benefits of this technique have been proven in over 200 recent studies. Some insurance plans even cover guided imagery classes because of the significant documentation of its benefits. Fortunately, free guided imagery audio files can be downloaded from the Internet or purchased for a nominal fee on various websites.
6. Manage Stress Through Self-Hypnosis
Most people understand that the term hypnosis refers to a technique that places an individual in a trance-like state. This state is characterized by heightened imagination, increased suggestibility, and extreme relaxation. However, a person can intentionally put himself or herself into this state without the assistance of a hypnotherapist. This technique is referred to as self-hypnosis and it is a great stress reducer for those who use it on a regular basis.
It is a technique that is not as difficult as it may at first seem. For example, anyone who has ever found himself or herself entranced by ocean waves or a crackling fire has technically experienced self-hypnosis.
An impressive volume of research on this technique confirms that it is beneficial for anxiety disorders related to simple stress. It is easy to find self-hypnosis scripts, which can be performed from memory as the person follows along to his or her own voice. Pre-recorded self-hypnosis apps and MP3s can be found online with little or no difficulty as well.
A person can also choose to invest in audio files developed by professionals. Whichever option one selects, he or she can anticipate enhanced mental energy, better focus, increased mental clarity and of course, stress reduction.
7. How Autogenic Training can help in Stress Management
Autogenic training is an unsung hero in the arena of stress management. It is not as well-known as some other stress reduction techniques, yet it is just as effective as self-hypnosis and other, better-known stress management exercises. This is because it teaches one to regulate blood pressure, breathing, heart rate and other essential functions that are typically controlled by the subconscious mind.
In simple terms, it can be used to combat the overreaction to stress that often occurs in those facing tense job situations or challenging issues with interpersonal relationships. More than 60 studies have found that autogenic training is advantageous to virtually anyone suffering from high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety or any other stress-related disorders. This is likely because it places the human brain in a relaxed state, similar to that seen with meditation.
8. Using Personal Biofeedback to Combat Stress
Biofeedback is a time-tested and powerful stress reduction technique that trains individuals to manage their blood flow, heart rate, breathing, and essentially stop stress cold. In other words, it enables a person to monitor and control what his or her physical body is doing from one moment to the next in real time. For example, an individual who has mastered personal biofeedback can measure functions such as muscle tension, skin temperature, brainwave activity, blood pressure and heart rate.
In addition to relieving stress, personal biofeedback is also used as a treatment for various brain-related disorders, such as depression, memory loss, ADHD, panic attacks and generalized anxiety.
Conventional biofeedback is both time-consuming and costly; however, there are now effective personal biofeedback devices that can help an individual relax anywhere, anytime.
9. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Muscles typically tighten during times of stress, regardless of the source of the tension. Many people feel such tension in the shoulders, neck, and back. However, what numerous individuals do not realize is that tight or cramped muscles are not merely a symptom of stress, they are also a contributing factor.
Progressive muscle relaxation breaks the vicious cycle of muscle tension and stress. It is a relatively simple technique that involves systematic tensing and relaxing of particular muscle groups. Anyone suffering from stress, muscle spasms or chronically tight muscles should consider downloading a progressive muscle relaxation session.
10. End Stress With Emotional Freedom Technique
Emotional Freedom Technique–EFT–is a type of acupressure that involves using the fingertips to stimulate something called “meridian points.” The latter are specific areas of the body where stress is thought to be stored. Also referred to simply as “tapping,” this stress reduction method is used for instant stress relief and a host of other emotional and physical ailments. Studies show that one tapping session can decrease cortisol levels by almost half. Because cortisol is known as the stress hormone, the benefit of this is quite obvious.
11. Using Aromatherapy to Significantly Reduce Cortisol Levels
Aromatherapy has been used as a holistic therapy for centuries. It focuses on relaxation and healing through the use of essential oil aromas. The United States National Library of Medicine reports that the potential benefits of essential oil aromatherapy have been evaluated in over 15,000 scientific studies.
There is a broad range of essential oils available on today’s market, many of which are designed to deliver stress relief. However, the overwhelming favorite for stress reduction is lavender. Perhaps the most versatile of all aromatherapy oils, lavender is the most studied essential oil in existence. Research has shown that it not only has mood stabilizing, antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties, it also promotes mental relaxation when one is overloaded with stress. Other top essential oils designed to relieve stress include chamomile and bergamot. The latter is the primary herb used to make Earl Grey tea.
A person can participate in aromatherapy in a variety of ways, all of which are simple. One can place a bit of oil on his or her wrists, or diffuse it into the air through a special oil burner.
12. Enjoyable Pastimes–A Simple Way to Lower Stress Levels
Even though many people may not be aware of this fact, virtually everyone has their own stress reduction strategies. However, these strategies are typically implemented at the subconscious level. They can be as simple as sticking to a particular routine after work that brings relief to an exhausted mind, body or listening to one’s favorite music. Some modern psychologists refer to these routines as “getting in the zone,” and claim that essentially all individuals follow patterns of this type in their daily lives.
With this in mind, one can expand on such routines to make them into bona fide stress management techniques. Getting involved in a hobby, creating something artistic, allowing oneself to become absorbed in a favorite musical score are all great stress busters that do not cost a dime. Hobbies as diverse as gardening, woodworking, knitting or even using a coloring book can lower a person’s heart rate, blood pressure and interrupt thought patterns when the mind is overstimulated.
Additionally, engaging in such activities prior to bedtime can help one fall asleep quicker and enjoy more restful slumber. However, it is important to avoid using tablets, laptops, and smartphones just prior to bedtime, as these have been proven to emit sleep-disruptive blue light.
13. Combat Stress by Communing With Nature
In today’s modern world, spending time in nature is often overlooked. However, those who take time to walk, hike or simply relax outdoors have lower blood pressure and lower levels of cortisol. Nature walks have also been proven to increase heart rate variability, relax blood vessels and put one in a more positive frame of mind.
Those who must adhere to a busy schedule will be pleased to discover that a major outing is not necessary to enjoy the benefits of this particular stress buster. For example, one can benefit greatly from even a few minutes at a local park on his or her lunch hour or a short walk on a nature trail as time allows.
However, leaving iPads, laptops, and smartphones behind when spending a few minutes communing with nature is the best way to enjoy maximum benefits from this technique. Overall, spending time outdoors in peaceful surroundings can elevate one’s mood and reduce feelings of fear, anger, and stress. In between actual outdoor jaunts, a person can even benefit from taking a few minutes to look at beautiful photos of nature.
Fortunately, all the methods listed above require little or no investment and can be completed anywhere, anytime. These stress management techniques are highly effective and can bring relief to virtually anyone suffering from excessive stress.