Stress can make it feel like the world’s ending. Whatever problem brings it on is only made worse as we obsess and spiral into greater and greater anxiety. And sometimes it comes on out of nowhere, with nothing to attribute it to. In either situation, stress can seem insurmountable and inescapable. But the truth is that you can greatly reduce its effects, in a matter of minutes, by taking certain steps. Here are 12 actions you can do, right now, to reduce your stress levels.
1. Take A Deep Breath
This common advice exists for a reason. Deep breathing gets us out of panic mode, and lowers our levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It only takes a second, and you can do it anywhere. Breathing deeply and slowly can reset your nervous system and help you feel less stressed in seconds.
2. Smell Something Pleasant
Studies have found that smells have a major impact on our stress levels. If you can, take a whiff of something that smells calming, like lavender or sandalwood, and focus on the sensation. It’ll take your mind off the stress and make you feel more peaceful.
3. Do Some Push-Ups or Jumping Jacks
Exercise releases endorphins, which make you feel euphoric and combat stress. Push-ups and jumping jacks are both exercises you can do anywhere, that will increase your heart rate, release endorphins, and help you feel less anxious.
4. Hug Someone
If you have a huggable friend or loved one nearby, give them a squeeze. Hugs have been shown to reduce blood pressure and stress levels. The human contact will remind you you’re not alone and trigger your body’s nervous system to release calming neurotransmitters.
5. Write It Down
Writing your feelings down on paper is a great way of breaking out of the stress cycle in your head. You might be surprised to find that when you lay your problem out in black and white, it’s a lot less of a big deal than you were making it out to be internally.
6. Chew Some Gum
While it’s thought of as a bad habit in some cultures, chewing gum has a beneficial effect on the nervous system when you’re suffering from excess stress. It’s been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, so keeping a pack of gum around for when you get stressed isn’t a bad idea.
7. Drink Some Tea
A warm cup of tea is a great way to calm down and soothe your racing mind, and studies have actually shown that it lowers your levels of cortisol and makes you feel relaxed. The antioxidants in green tea are particularly effective at fighting stress.
While it may seem difficult to get into a meditative mind state when you’re dealing with the racing thoughts brought on by stress, that’s actually when it’s most beneficial. Apps like Headspace have meditation routines specifically intended to address stress.
While stressful situations are unavoidable, we have some control over how we respond to them. Try the tips above to calm down next time you feel overwhelmed by stress.