It seems the world is literally made to make happy people unhappy, and stressed people even more stressed. Unless you’re making millions and you’re uncommonly healthy—the world can be a stressful and anxious place to navigate.
Even amongst all of its beauty and adventures, splendor, and majesty—we still need a few simple tips and tricks to help us get back to “grounded” when we’re swept up in the chaos.
Welcome to today. It’s 2021 and you’re stressed.
Between social injustices, the reality that privatized insurance might actually be a scam, and the top 5% burning up over 80% of our resources (most of which are non-renewable), it’s completely understandable why your tension headaches keep chipping away at your brain like a pickaxe.
While we can’t fix the world’s problems tomorrow, we can hopefully help you find a few new stress relief practices to calm, relax, and freshen up your mind.
A quick reset may help you look at your current workload in a different mindset, keep you grounded so you don’t lash out, or give you the clarity and focus to be the soft-spoken sage at your next business meeting (everyone will respect you, and no one will question it).
Here are some accessible stress relief activities and tools.
It’s the most tried and true grounding method around, and about the most natural stress relief you can find.
From stage-frightened actors to de-escalation specialists, to frustrated parents—it’s more than just an emotional check-in, it’s a literal nervous system hack.
Many studies have proven just why grounded, consistent breathing is so calming.
When you breathe in, your heart rate speeds up just a little bit. When you breathe out, your heart rate slows. The speedup is caused by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS, responsible for micro-adjustments in the body–like tension, sweating, and temperature), and the slowdown is caused by your parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS responsible for digestion, melatonin, circadian rhythms, etc.).
Studies released by Gerritsen & Band in 2018 and the International Journal of Psychophysiology in 2019 showed a direct correlation between longer exhales, and higher activity in the PSNS.
Long exhales are calming as a result of literal nervous system hacks that tell our brain we’re okay, and remind our body that we’re grounded. This one is probably best when you can’t dedicate time to anything else, if you need some quick stress relief in the office, or are somewhere public where you can’t immediately access other tools.
- Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds.
- Hold for 2 seconds.
- Breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds.
Note: Try and create some resistance against your lungs so that the air is pressurized and flows out evenly and consistently for all 8 seconds. Tighten your lips, and relax your cheeks so they can expand when you breathe out.
Our natural breathing rhythm when we sleep tends to be, ”In for x amount of second, out for double that amount of second. The lungs usually hold that capacity for half the time it took to breathe in.”
The goal is to replicate that. In for 4 – Hold for 2 – Out for 8.
Sometimes our brain is what’s busy, and not necessarily our bodies and breathing. To ground ourselves back into solemnity, we might need a task that takes us out of the spiral and puts us back in the present.
Meditation is our body's method of physically letting go of the past, and not panicking over the future.
Meditation isn’t always Om & Chi Reiki (an elevated form of yoga for stress relief), although it certainly can be, and is, for many. Meditation can be coloring, music, a workout, eating, or even dissociation.
The goal of meditation is re-learning our body’s back into the present. Anything that helps your body forget, and your mind wander and be free is meditation.
Take some time first to really align yourself in a thing you love, where you love it (yes, setting matters)! Surround yourself in an environment that helps you breathe free, get away from your problems, and focus entirely on the task at hand.
Some psychologists suggest if “traditional meditation” comes off as difficult or overwhelming (perfectly normal and expected), start with something simple.
Peel An Orange.
- Focus only on peeling the orange.
- Surround yourself with the sensations.
- Don’t punish intrusive thoughts, but also don’t give them more space to grow.
- Focus on the senses and take dedicated time to:
- Feel the orange. Distinguish the different textures, temperatures, and sensations. Can you feel each seed or individual little sack inside?
- Smell the orange. Does the skin smell different from juice? Does the inside of the rind smell different than the outside? When is the classic citrus smell the strongest?
- See it. Pay more attention to it than you ever have before. Where does each segment start and stop? How is the whole thing connected? Does the clumping of the pulp inside give you trypophobia (it’s totally okay if it does)?
- Hear it. Is it a crisp, cold fruit? Does it break and snap? Or is it a little gushy and mushy?
- Taste It. Of course, you want to eat it. Is it a good orange? Perfectly ripe? A little sour? A little tart? A little bitter? How would you describe that flavor profile to a friend?
3. Find The Sun
Seasonal depression is a reality for a reason. The sun is responsible for so many reactions and regulations in our bodies.
As a matter of fact, researchers at BYU recently released a study proving why sun bums seem like so much fun!
Sunshine improves our mental well-being while darker months are typically linked to emotional distress. From the release of nitric oxide (responsible for lower blood pressure and linked to heart health) to the absorption of Vitamin D, the sun can not only boost our mood, it can also improve our overall health!
Note: Like all things, everything should be used in moderation. Always wear sunscreen to protect yourself from the negative effects of the sun, and always stay hydrated to avoid heat exhaustion.
4. Listen to Music
This falls in line with meditation, but music may be a little more accessible than some other options—plus it’s more studied.
Researchers at the American Psychological Association (APA) found that music can actually increase antibody production while lowering the production of cortisol (the stress hormone).
Stress relief music is typically notorious for its predictable, repetitive, slow tempo nature. It helps our brain to fall into a routine by cycling through the information it’s receiving, rather than the information it wants to escape to.
That same previous study by the APA also found that stress also decreased when patients were exposed to specific vibrations for extended periods of time (that study is still ongoing).
Among other research, those vibrations are more commonly referred to as White Noise (equal frequencies audible to the human ear “Radio Static”), Pink Noise (lowered high frequencies, “Rainfall”), or Brown Noise (elimination of high frequencies, “River Rapids”).
Spotify has nearly unlimited playlists curated for relaxation and calm. Here are a few of our favorites (in no particular order).
- Relaxing Music (familiar songs remade in acoustic covers)
- Relaxing Classical (some familiar classics as well as contemporary compositions)
- Hanging Out and Relaxing (a Spotify curation of lyrical indie acoustic–perfect for body doubling and relaxed home environment)
- Relaxing Music for Stress Relief (a composed, single-artist album of dulcet, calming tones and instruments)
5. Take CBD
Yes, CBD is legal in all 50 states, and no, it won’t get you high like THC.
CBD is widely available in multiple forms that serve multiple purposes as well. You can use gummies to help soothe jitters, vapes to ease nerves, body creams, relief balms, and even stress relief teas.
Best of all, CBD has no side effects, and because it doesn’t affect or alter any genetics (DNA or RNA) it doesn’t create a dependency or risk of overdose.
Relax Your Brain and Body
There are so many things you can do to help your brain and body unwind. From old wives’ tales (like dripping cold water on your wrists) to scientific supplements—there is a solution out there for you.
No one should have to live in constant stress, and the playing field should be even for all, regardless of how unkind their nervous system is to them that day. So, when you’re feeling stressed, give one of these quick tips a try!
We hope you found something useful here, and wish you the best as you wander through the chaos of the world in a more relaxed frame of mind.