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Life is stressful. From daily stressors like bills, work, and relationships, to the bigger ones like losing a job, moving to a new house, or coping with an illness can all affect the way your body works. Stress often influences sleep which has a direct impact on how we live our lives.
Find your way to calm, whether for the next five minutes or the long haul. Luckily, there are nearly as many ways to manage stress as there are stressorsfrom five-minute fixes like stress balls, fidget spinners, and deep breathing exercises to longer-term lifestyle changes, including regular cardiovascular exerciseyoga, and meditation.
In other words, your stress-reduction go-to should definitely not stress you out. Here are the best techniques for finding fast stress relief — and for keeping your blood pressure in check and your spirits high in the process:. These quickie techniques can help you break the stress cycle in the moment so you can calm down, refocus, and go about your day.
Take a few deep breaths from the diaphragm. Try this quick diaphragmatic breathing technique from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio: 1. Sit comfortably in a chair with your knees bent and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed. Place one hand against your stomach and one on your chest. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible. Exhale, tightening your stomach muscles and letting them fall inward as you push the air out through pursed lips.
The hand on your upper chest should remain as still as possible.
Step outside and see the greenery. Studies have shown that being around nature reduces stress. One study published in in the journal Environment and Behavior found that people who simply looked at images of trees reported feeling less stressed out.
Do some stretches to relieve muscle tension. Make a list.
6 ways to reduce stress in 5 minutes or less
Cue up an app. Meditation apps such as Insight TimerHepaceand Calm offer five-minute and other timed meditations for beginners that can lower heart rate and short-circuit the stress response. Keep a stress ball on your desk and a fidget spinner in your drawer.
These simple toys may seem better suited to the middle school set, but picking up a stress ball and giving it a few hard squeezes can break a stressful train of thought, and the same thing goes for a fidget spinner. For stress reduction that's longer-lasting, regular self-care practices or life modifications can be key. Try a few of these tips:.
Make exercise a regular part of your week. A host of studies has shown that working up a sweat is not only good for your body and your brain — exercise also reduces stress. Aim for minutes of movement a week, and consider trying a group class at your local fitness center. A study published in November in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that people who participated in group fitness classes lowered their perceived stress and increased their physical, mental, and emotional quality of life compared with people who worked out solo. Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to ease your stress.
It may be tempting to cap a stressful day with a generous pour of cabernet or whatever your substance of choicebut experts agree that alcohol, drugs, and even junk food are not great ways to ease tension, especially on a long-term basis. The question to ask yourself is: Am I reaching for booze, drugs, or junk food automatically?
Do some Downward Dogs — or cognitive therapy.
Incorporating yoga into your fitness routine is a good way to add some mindfulness to your day. A study done by researchers at Stockholm University in Sweden found that both yoga practice and cognitive behavioral therapya form of psychotherapy in which you learn to change negative thoughts and behaviors to help you respond differently to situations, are effective ways of managing stress.
10 stress relief strategies when you have 5 minutes or less
Try some mindfulness. Learning to ground yourself in the present moment rather than worrying about the future or the past is an effective way of reducing stress, say experts.
A study published in January in Psychiatry Research found that people with an anxiety disorder who took a course in mindfulness meditation — a practice rooted in Eastern traditions in which you focus on a single point of reference such as breath, bodily sensations, or a word or a phrase — showed decreased levels of stress hormones and inflammatory markers in the body.
Spend time with both human and furry friends. Social support and less stress go hand in hand.
Pets help ease stress, too. A study published in Psychosomatic Medicine found that, compared with people without pets, pet owners had a lower resting heart rate and blood pressure, particularly when pets were actually in the room. Eat well and sleep more. But after the sugar rush comes the crash. Ideally, she recommends aiming for seven to nine hours a night.
References Diaphragmatic Breathing. Cleveland Clinic.
Environment and Behavior. September The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. November Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. February Psychiatry Research.
April Psychosomatic Medicine. September-October Health Topics. Health Tools.
Last Updated: September 6, Medically Reviewed. Try a few of these tips: 1. Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking.