So August is drawing to a close and we’re getting back into the swing of things here (let’s be honest, we’ve been working the whole summer but things are really getting kicked up a notch now). There’s so much to get caught up on and stress levels are climbing. So what can you do when you’re overcome by the Sunday scaries, waking up in cold sweats and your fidget spinner has been spun out of commission? The answer: so much. There are so many great ways to relieve stress and they don’t require a lot of effort or expensive tools. Here are 7 proven stress relievers to implement in everyday life.
- Being in nature. Oh nature, you glorious creation that we miss while we’re staring at our smartphones and rushing around from one thing to the next. Not only is nature beautiful, it’s scientifically proven to relax us and help us fight the effects of stress. In Japan, many studies have been conducted about the psychological benefits of spending time in forests – giving rise to a popular trend known as “forest bathing.” Luckily for us, there are many forests to visit in Stockholm. You can read about them here and here. And if you don’t have a forest nearby when you need one (read: your desk at 4pm on a Thursday), many of the same effects can be simulated by diffusing essential oils of trees, as explained in this study.
- Essential oils. Speaking of essential oils – which are powerful concentrations of plant compounds – they can be incredibly helpful (and portable) stress fighters. In this study done in a dentist’s office (honestly, who isn’t stressed out at the dentist’s?) diffusing lavender and orange oils was found to decrease anxiety in patients waiting for their appointments. Don’t like those scents? Other helpful options can be Lemon, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang, Clary Sage and Jasmine, as referenced in this article in Psychology Today. Most research is done on aromatherapy applications – a.k.a. inhaling the oil or diffusing it into the air – or massage. Make sure to buy your oils from a reputable, quality company as the quality makes a huge difference here!
- Spend time with animals – even fish! Pet therapy is real! Owning a pet is maybe the cutest and most fun form of stress relief mentioned here. Studies show that interacting with animals can help to reduce anxiety and even increase feel-good chemicals in the brain. But while it’s obvious that cuddly pets like dogs and cats would produce these benefits, does the same thing happen with fish? In fact, yes! A study from 2015 showed that visiting an aquarium helped reduce heart rate and increased mood in visitors. By the way, if you’re looking to get the stress-relieving benefits of having a pet but without the maintenance, have you checked out the EcoGarden? Pets without the poop bags, sign us up!
- Square/box breathing. Square breathing is a simple, 4-step breathing technique that you can do almost anywhere, at any time. All you have to do is breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and then hold for 4 seconds. Square breathing helps to deepen your breathing when you’re feeling stressed, and returns the body to a more relaxed state. Here’s a video that demos the simple technique of square breathing:
- Working out. I’m guessing you knew this one already, because exercise is one of the most well-known natural techniques for reducing stress. But please, choose a type of exercise that you actually enjoy and not just something you think you should do. Many different types of exercise have stress-reducing properties, and life is too short to spend time doing something you hate! For double the stress relief, try yoga, which combines exercise and meditation (bonus stress buster). Getting the stress-relieving benefits of exercise can be as easy as following an online video, or checking out your local gym.
- Gardening. If you want a hobby that’s productive and also effective at decreasing stress, why not try gardening? Studies have shown that it can lead to a decrease in stress chemicals in the body, as well as contributing to a positive mood. And before you say that not everyone has access to space where they can cultivate a beautiful garden… we’ve made it possible for everyone to be a home gardener with the EcoGarden. Let’s face it, it’s just impossible to be stressed when you’re enjoying pesto from your own freshly harvested basil plants (and waving at the fish while you’re at it). No matter how much space you have, you can always create a garden in some shape or form.
- 7. Meditation. Just a few years ago, meditation was “woo woo” and the medical system brushed it aside as a trend. Now, psychologists and doctors everywhere are recommending it as a tool to not only reduce stress but also help with many different health conditions. There are now many studies pointing to the effectiveness of meditation, and the evidence seems to suggest that the longer it is practiced, the better the benefits are. Meditation is another technique that can be practiced almost anywhere and anytime, and doesn’t take any special skills or tools. To get started, we recommend the Headspace and Insight Timer apps. And who knows, maybe it’ll turn into a lifetime habit?
So there you have it, 7 quick and easy tips to reduce stress in everyday life. From physical activity to focused breathing and relaxing hobbies, there should be something that appeals to everyone. So get out there and start showing that stress who’s boss… one square breath at a time!