Stress is an American epidemic. Nearly 70% of Americans report experiencing physical symptoms of stress, with 80% reporting their stress has increased or stayed the same over the past year. All this stress adds up to a host of ills. Stress can destroy your heart, wreck your ability to think clearly, and even make its way into your most intimate relationships. While therapy, lifestyle changes, and even medication can make a big dent in the anxious, stress-fueled fog, these strategies take time to work. If you're craving rapid relief now, here are five options to try.
You've heard it a million times: close your eyes and count to ten. But it really does work. The key is to ensure your stomach, not your chest, expands when you breathe in. Then slowly breathe out, endeavoring to make your exhalations as long as your inhalations. The sudden rush of oxygen can help break you out of a bad mood and quell panicky thoughts.
2. Meditate (For just one minute!)
You don't have to take meditation class or spend an hour each day meditating. Instead, find a quiet place, take a few deep breaths, and straighten your spine. Then focus your attention on a single thought—ideally one that motivates you. For example, you might reflect on the idea that we're all connected or that there's good in each of us. Just one minute of this quiet, reflective meditation
3. Tense up
You might not even realize how much you're tensing your body until you take a few seconds to notice. To reverse the cycle, slowly tense and then release each of your muscles. This gentle exercise only takes a minute or two, and can help you learn not to tense up in response to stress—thereby alleviating stress-related muscle tension.
4. Help Someone Else
You don't have to sign up for a massive volunteer project or give a small fortune to someone else. Just find some way to do a small favor. Pay for the drive behind you in line at the drive-through. Offer your spouse a back rub. Call that friend you've been avoiding. Apologize to someone you've hurt. Doing something kind for someone else, no matter how small the effort, can help you bring things back into perspective, reducing your stress.
5. Get moving
Dozens of studies have demonstrated that exercise can steadily reduce depression, ease anxiety, and even boost intelligence. But you don't have to wait weeks to get good results. A brief ten to 20-minute workout session is all you need to get your endorphins pumping. If you're frustrated or angry, exercise can offer additional relief by tiring you out, offering you some relief from unpleasant emotions.