As a Personal Development Coach, I have noticed the stress that people put themselves under more and more both at work and at home. In this article, I break the belief that stress reduction techniques require a lot of money. Here you find 20 free science-backed stress reduction techniques.
Maybe you have noticed that you are in a constant hurry and there is no time to do any of the things which would cheer you up or revitalize you. The result can be stress, exhaustion or even depression. Your home and family obligations require all of your time. At work, you need to show that you are a committed entrepreneur. Then at the end of the workday, you are exhausted, there's a different kind of job as a parent, a loved one, a housekeeper, a financial consultant, and everything else that home brings.
What can you do to reduce stress?
1. Take time to relax
The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.
Sydney J. Harris
Relaxation changes our physical and emotional response to stress. Relaxation also helps to lower blood pressure, improve blood circulation and lower your heart rate by giving you a more profound sense of well-being.
How to: Book a time slot every day for relaxing. 15 minutes of relaxing is better than nothing at all.
Did you know that laughter is a great medicine? Laughter stimulates your body so that you feel refreshed and full of energy. Laughter also increases oxygen uptake and releases endorphins (the hormone of happiness). You should also remember that laughter reduces stress. Read more about the benefits of laughing.
How to: Read a fun book or see a comedy. If these aren't helpful, you could invite your loved one, your child, or even a (very close) friend into a tickle "fight." It's a sure way to get you laughing.
3. Listen to music
Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.
Music relaxes and revitalizes the body. Music helps to reduce stress and even depression. Music raises your mood and helps you to work better in demanding conditions. Read more about the benefits of music.
How to: Find at least 10 songs that raise your mood or help you relax, listen to them every day according to what you need.
Hugging has really tremendous power. It affects our well-being, relaxes muscles, reduces stress and depression, and increases mood and self-esteem. Read more about the benefits of hugging.
How to: Even though hugging seems to be a somewhat alien concept for many people, you could try it out in the therapeutic sense. Find either a family member or a good friend with whom hugging does not cause excessive pressure or alienation and hug every day for a few minutes. NOTE! I suggest you ask for consent before starting hugging therapy.
5. Pet an animal
Whoever said you can't buy Happiness forgot little puppies.
Interacting with animals decreases the levels of cortisol, which is a stress-related hormone. Animals can also reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood. Read more about the benefits of animals.
How to: No, you don't have to buy an animal of your own. Ask around if your friends have a pet you could take care of or go for a walk with them. Also, animal shelters often accept volunteers for walking and playing.
Scientists have investigated exercise and found that exercise helps to reduce anxiety and depression and even increase mood. I'm not just talking about fitness training here, it's all kind of moving, whether it's tai chi, yoga, cycling or dancing. Read more about the benefits of moving your body.
How to: Moving does not necessarily mean going to the gym. If you have used public transportation or driven by car so far, you could try bicycling instead, or you could get off the bus or train a couple stops before your stop and walk that short distance home. You could use the stairs instead of the elevator, or park on the farthest edge of the parking lot. At work, you could do a break workout every 45-50 minutes.
7. Talk to your friends
Having and talking with friends has surprising health benefits. Talking with friends also reduces stress. Read more about the benefits of socializing.
How to: Call a friend and ask what kind of good things have happened in his/her life lately. This will give your friend a reason to look for positive things that will increase his mood. You may also notice how your spirit is rising when you hear your friends' great news.
8. Go to nature
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.
Walking in nature (park, forest, seaside, etc.) is one of perhaps the best stress-reducing activities. Being in nature significantly reduces cortisol levels (this hormone is directly related to stress). Researchers have found that even a scenic view from behind a window helps to reduce stress. When you walk in nature, it also reduces depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Nature also increases creativity and concentration. Read more about the benefits of being outdoors.
How to: Find a suitable park near your workplace or home and visit it every day. Maybe you can go there when you go to work or when you are returning home. Maybe when you are going for a lunch break or when you are going to a grocery store. Even a short time spent in nature reduces stress.
9. Do some napping
Napping improves performance and increases alertness. Napping often acts as a pleasant luxury, even as a mini-vacation. It gives you some relaxation and rejuvenation. Read more about the benefits of napping.
How to: The best naps are 20 to 40 minutes. Find a quiet and darker place where you can either lie down or have comfort position for napping. You can also use blindfolds and earplugs to shut the sound and light off. In case you like gadgets I suggest you check out some of the best options here or here.
10. Find yourself a hobby
Success is not the key to happiness.
Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
Engaging in a hobby forces you to relax, and it creates eustress (also known as positive stress). Hobbies help you to be present, thus creating a feeling of well-being. Hobbies also bring a sense of satisfaction when the project is completed, and you can see the results. Read more about the benefits of hobbies.
How to: Write down everything you are interested in. Many hobbies do not require money or are really inexpensive. If you like reading, you can borrow books from the library for free. You can craft by using old clothes, jewelry, timber or plastic bags as raw materials. You can draw. Mobile phones are capable of taking excellent pictures and videos. Finding geocaches or hiking is suitable for those who like nature (you can read the tip #8). Test these options and choose yours. Want to get some ideas? Check these five hobbies that can improve your health.
11. Savor your free time
Having constant control over your business may not always be beneficial to the entrepreneur. Unplugging from technology helps you to recharge and avoid burnout. It also helps you to sleep better. Read more about the benefits of unplugging.
How to: Set aside time when you unplug from your business emails, social media accounts, and various business projects. Use this time for taking care of your own well-being, having a romantic moment with your partner or spending time with your kids.
12. Make (and follow) a Bucket List
Did you know that a Bucket List gives your life more precise direction? It helps you choose the activities that interest you and are important to you. You don't have to spend any more time on what you're not interested in or what doesn't match your values. The Bucket List also gives you control over your future, as you now know exactly where you are going.
How to: Start creating your own Bucket List. If you can't think of any activities, I suggest you check this page with more than 1000 examples of Bucket List activities. There are enough ideas to choose from (and although some of them are related to tourism, there are a lot of things you can do without paying a nickel).
13. Do something new
Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.
Experimenting with new things is good for your health. If you do something new, it breaks you out of your comfort zone helping to increase both courage and self-confidence. Experimenting with new things reduces boredom and monotony. Creating a practice of trying new things will force you to make useful changes in life. It also reduces fear and anxiety and increases satisfaction. Read more about the benefits of doing new things.
How to: After making your Bucket List according to the previous tip, start doing these new activities. Actually, these new things don't even have to be significant. Need some examples? Go to work (or home) using another route or even another vehicle. Listen to music you don't usually listen to. See a movie (or movie genre) you haven't seen before. Start learning a new language.
Doodling helps you to stay awake and attentive. It helps you to solve problems and come up with creative ideas. Above all doodling helps you to calm down. Read more about the benefits of doodling here and here.
How to: Doodling is one of the most straightforward techniques. Merely take some paper and pen and unleash your unconscious mind. You can doodle when listening to somebody (i.e., lecture, speech, presentation) or you can also doodle as a separate activity. You can doodle dots or circles or flowers or some curves. Just disconnect your mind and let your hand do all the "work."
15. Use all your senses
When you are overwhelmed, cannot concentrate and your mind is running like a crazy horse using your five senses can help you calm down. Studies have shown that mindfulness helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Read more about the benefits of mindfulness.
How to: Stop yourself from whatever you are doing when you feel stress or anxiety rising. Now use each of your senses, one at a time. Start with hearing -- what sounds do you hear? Then close your eyes and focus on the smell. Next, you should open your eyes and look at what colors and shapes and patterns you see. After that concentrate on taste even if you have nothing in your mouth. And finally, focus on touch -- the clothes against your skin, the ground below your feet, whatever you might be touching something with your hand(s).
16. Deep breathing
The greatest weapon against stress is relaxed breathing.
Deep breathing reduces blood pressure, it slows your heart rate. Deep breathing can reduce the effects of stress and even improve physical and mental health. Read more about the benefits of deep breathing.
How to: Breathe deeply and focus on expanding the abdominal area. To see if your stomach moves during breathing, you can place your hand on the abdomen, above your diaphragm (just above your belly button). In this way, you can feel how it pushes out during inhalation. The simplest breathing pattern is to count to four when you breathe in and count to four when you breathe out.
17. Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a deep relaxation technique that has been effectively used to control stress and anxiety and relieve insomnia. In progressive muscle relaxation, you initially tense a group of muscles and then you relax them. Read more about the benefits of progressive muscle relaxation.
How to: Lie down in a quiet place. While breathing in, contract one muscle group (you can start from the feet) for about five seconds, then breathe out and release the tension in that muscle group all at once. Relax about ten seconds and then move to the next muscle group thus working up from toe to head.
18. Massage yourself
Never put off your massage until tomorrow if you can get it today.
Massage is hugely beneficial. Massage relieves stress and reduces anxiety. Massage helps you to sleep better. Massage even eases the symptoms of depression. Read more about the benefits of massage. Having a massage doesn't always mean that you have to go to a massage therapist. There are ways that you can massage yourself if you don't have a significant other available to do it for you.
How to: You can use a small rubber ball to help you with this. You can run this ball up and down your sore muscles. You can use this ball for massaging the soles of your feet by placing the ball under your foot and then rolling your foot in both directions. To get more tips on how to massage yourself click this link.
19. Keep a diary that contains only good memories
Writing or journaling in a diary creates a state where you are present at the moment. When you are present, you no longer feel past problems, stress, and anxiety so powerfully. Writing a diary of good memories helps you to focus on the positive. And best of all, this will help you heal both emotionally and psychologically. Read more about the benefits of journaling.
How to: Create a diary or scrapbook for yourself and write your good memories in it. It can be writing, pasting or drawing pictures, there can be other memorabilia that you can attach to your diary/scrapbook. For example, your favorite artist's concert ticket, a flower given to you by a person who is special to you, an article about the festival you attended, etc. Make it a habit of writing there every day. And when you go back and read your diary/scrapbook later, you will see how many fun things have happened in your life.
20. Be grateful for what you have
Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.
It has been studied that gratitude facilitates stress, reduces depression, increases well-being, improves mood and significantly increases satisfaction. Read more about the benefits of gratitude.
How to: You can use a diary or scrapbook as I recommended in my previous tip, or you can start a gratitude journal separately. Write at least three things every day that you were grateful for that day. Better if you write five things, even better if you write ten items every day.
As you can see, reducing stress can be really inexpensive. No need to wait for a lottery win, use your emergency savings or rob a bank. These stress reduction techniques are available to everyone.