12 little ways to help relieve stress today

Whether you have just a few minutes or a few hours, these tips can help you feel more relaxed all day long

Senior women having coffee in front of suburban home

Feeling stressed sometimes is normal. It might be tough to believe, but stress actually serves a purpose. It’s how your body responds to pressure and tension. And stress hormones can help you focus, stay alert, and improve your memory.

But too much stress can be bad for your health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can cause sleep problems, headaches, digestive issues, back pain, and even increase your risk for depression and other serious health problems.

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to let stress get the best of you. There are many simple ways to bust stress throughout the day. Try these tips. They can help you feel calmer and happier from morning ’til night.

Skip that extra cup of coffee. Too much caffeine may increase stress in the long run, says Julian Lagoy, MD. He’s a psychiatrist with Mindpath Health based in San Jose, California. This beverage might feel like a stress reliever initially. A few cups in the morning may be fine for some people. But if you drink a lot, cutting down could keep your stress levels better regulated.

Take some deep, slow breaths. This kind of breathing helps you relax and feel calmer. Research finds it can lower stress hormone levels, blood pressure and more. One exercise to try: Breathe in slowly for a count of 4, then breathe out slowly for a count of 8. Repeat.

Tune in. Listen to music that brings you joy while also helping to soothe and relax you. Music has been shown  to help reduce heart rate and blood pressure. It can also ease anxiety.

Move your body. Exercise is a great way to de-stress. Anything that gets your heart pumping counts, says Dr. Lagoy. Take a group fitness class, rake leaves, or ride a bike with your spouse. If you prefer something more relaxing, consider yoga or tai chi.

Get outside for a walk. Put your phone on silent or vibrate – or just leave it at home. Look at the sky, the trees, and nature around you. Spending time outside can help lower stress, especially if you’re in a green space.

Relax with a hobby. Make time to unwind with an activity you love. Maybe that’s doing a jigsaw puzzle, baking, woodworking, or journaling.

Call a friend. Social connections are key for reducing stress. Grab your phone and call a pal you haven’t talked to in a while, just to catch up. It can put a smile on your face the rest of the day.

Gather around the table. It’s easy to eat on the run when you’re busy. But sitting down for a meal with your family is a great way to clear your head and connect with loved ones. A shared meal can improve emotional well-being in adults and kids.

Try five minutes of meditation. Apps like Headspace have numerous guided meditation options. Plus, it’s available through Wellvolution® to eligible Blue Shield members. This makes it easier to try meditation if you haven’t done it before.

Cuddle with your pet. Pets can decrease stress and improve heart health at the same time, says the National Institutes of Health. Spending time with your pet can also reduce loneliness and boost your mood.

Stick to a regular bedtime. Quality sleep can play a big part in reducing stress because it gives our brains time to recharge. If you are sleeping less than what your body needs it can affect your memory, concentration, and mood, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Laugh out loud. The more often you laugh, the easier it can be to deal with stressful events. That might mean watching a silly TikTok video, tuning in to your favorite TV sit-com, playing a funny board game with friends, or telling a few jokes yourself. Anything that makes you giggle is good medicine.

Page Last Updated 11/07/2022

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Consult your doctor prior to starting an exercise program. Blue Shield of California is not a healthcare provider and does not provide medical advice. Always consult with your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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