Stress Awareness Month has been celebrated since 1992. There have been years since then when humankind, as a whole, has experienced events that have made stress spike. The recent COVID-19 pandemic, and all that it brought, has caused a significant rise in stress levels. The American Institute of Stress reports that 67 percent of adults have experienced an increase in stress since the start of the pandemic. Nearly half of respondents to one survey said that the stress has impacted their behavior, stating that they’re quicker to get angry and experience more mood swings.
While the desire to battle stress is there, the time and resources to do so aren’t always available. However, battling stress is about more than just feeling happy – the National Library of Medicine reports that nearly every system in our body is negatively impacted by stress. So stress is a health issue. For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of easy, attainable ways to battle stress every day.
Meditate for 10 to 12 Minutes
It’s common to think that meditation has to be a large time commitment. But Good Therapy reports that even just 10 to 12 minutes of meditation per day has been shown to increase one’s feelings of well-being and overall life satisfaction. The great thing is that today, there are so many wonderful apps to help you meditate wherever you are. You can filter through different focuses, musical or non-musical, different practices and more. If you arrive early to an appointment, take the extra time to meditate.
Give yourself a hand massage
There are many benefits of massage therapy in general, but not everyone has the time or financial resources to get regular, full-body massages from a professional. What you can do, no matter where you are, is give yourself a hand massage. Research from the National Library of Medicine has shown that a hand massage can reduce anxiety and improve one’s mood. It’s even been shown to improve sleep, which can help reduce stress, too.
Pet an animal
While adopting a pet is certainly selfless in a lot of ways, it can also offer you plenty of benefits. And if you can’t have your own animal, consider borrowing a friend’s. John Hopkins Medicine reports that petting a dog not only reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol but also increases the feel-good hormone oxytocin. One study found that 84 percent of patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder experienced a significant drop in symptoms after getting an animal.
The saying “laughter is the best medicine,” is no myth. Mayo Clinic reports that laughter helps release endorphins, cools down the body’s natural stress response, does great things to the heart rate that induce a sense of relaxation and induces muscle relaxation. All in all, laughter is almost better than something you get over the counter. So next time you feel tension building, turn to a beloved funny video or social media account for a giggle. Or check out these hilarious Black sitcoms.
Break large goals down into small steps
Having lofty goals can create a sense of constantly falling behind. Breaking down one large goal into small steps that can be achieved on a daily basis will make large goals feel more manageable. This process also creates the opportunity to feel successful every day. If you create a list of small tasks you can easily do each day, then every time you do them, you will feel like you’ve accomplished something, easing a bit of stress.
Choose music wisely
The University of Nevada reports that upbeat music has been shown to help people feel more optimistic about life. Meanwhile, music with a slower tempo can relax the muscles and soothe stress. So depending on what sorts of negative feelings you’re trying to combat, the right song could provide quick relief. Create a couple of playlists with songs that reliably make you feel good and put these on when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Your parents’ demands that you clean your room as a kid weren’t arbitrary – they were setting you up for a happy life. Research from UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families shows that, for women, there is a direct correlation between cortisol levels and clutter. The same study found that women associate a tidy home with feelings of success. All evidence points to this: clean up that mess! Get rid of unwanted items. Take just a few minutes a day to tend to one messy corner of your home and before you know it, you will feel calmer in that space.
Even if you only have 10 minutes, go outside. Enjoy some natural sunlight. Research published in the journal Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience shows that our skin interacts with the sun in a way that helps our brain release the soothing chemical serotonin. Furthermore, research from Cornell University found that students who spent just 10 minutes outside felt less physical and emotional stress. So even if it’s just on your balcony or patio, catch some rays when you’re feeling stressed.