High levels of stress are known to wreak havoc on your health, increasing your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more. On top of all that, it’s no fun!
The good news? While you can’t avoid stress entirely, there are lots of things you can do to minimize its effect on your body and mind. Here are ten actions proven to do just that. For a quick, graphic version of these tips, see our infographic below.
- Talk It Out. Talking through stress with a trusted listener can help you prioritize and provide insight to problems.
- Laugh. Jump on YouTube and watch a funny video. Laughter releases hormones like cortisol, dopac, and epinephrine, which ease stress. It activates and relieves your body’s stress response, improves mood, boosts your immune system, and more. Even anticipating a laugh reduces stress hormones!
- Schedule Breaks. Breaking up the work day gives your brain time to relax and rejuvenate. Blocking out the time on your calendar helps ensure you won’t skip them.
- Hang Out with a Dog or Cat. Animals live in the moment, they’re playful, and give unconditional love – all things that can help your stress melt away. Don’t have a pet of your own? Borrow a friend’s or volunteer at an animal shelter.
- Eat Nutritious Foods. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon, broccoli, and walnuts) can boost mood and energy. Skip sugary treats, which can lead to sluggish behavior.
- Cuddle and Kiss. Touching, kissing, and hugging (or any other affectionate activities) stimulate the brain’s release of the hormone oxytocin, which eases stress.
- Get Moving. Physical activity gets your blood flowing, which increases energy, sharpens focus, and lifts your moods. Try to fit in 30 minutes—all at once or broken up throughout the day.
- Make Sleep a Priority. Sleep provides the time the body needs to rest while the brain recovers to maximize productivity, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Adults should aim for eight hours a night.
- Go Forest Bathing. Popularized in Japan, Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), has been shown to have positive effects on both physical and mental health. So find a forest (or park) and enjoy the natural sights, scents, sounds, and tactile sensations it has to offer.
- Keep It Balanced. Having a life outside of work can give you greater support and pleasure, which keeps stress at bay. Make time for hobbies and activities you truly love.
Mayo Clinic article: Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior
Mayo Clinic article: Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke
NCBI study: Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function
NCBI study: Companion animals and human health
Live Science article: Oxytocin: Facts About the ‘Cuddle Hormone’
Study: Trends in research related to “Shinrin-yoku” (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing) in Japan