Stress is defined as “any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action.” (Elizabeth Scott, 2022). Truth is, that not all stress is bad. Mild stress helps us to stay motivated. It’s how we thrive and accomplish tasks. However, it is possible that the mild stress we’re experiencing may quickly turn into overwhelming pressure and can send us into a downward spiral. It starts with things like irritability, insomnia, brain fog, muscle tension and, if untreated, escalates over time to things like cardiovascular conditions, obesity, and chronic illness. That’s why you need to familiarize yourself with stress relief techniques that you can use whenever you feel excessive, debilitating stress.
I encourage you to consider these non-traditional suggestions of stress relief that can help to live a more peaceful life.
3 non-traditional ways of stress relief
1. Set boundaries
Attending the event you didn’t want to actually go to, leaving the house for a commitment when you would rather stay home, taking on more responsibilities at work even though you are already overloaded with work, agreeing to something that doesn’t feel aligned with you, spending time with people who drain your energy — basically, saying “yes” when you want to say “NO!” Any of these sound like you?
Humans are wired to want to belong and be a part of a community. Because of this instinct, we often say yes to and do things we don’t want to do for the fear that someone will be angry with us, will not like us, or will stop engaging with us and we will be ‘left out’. Hence, we often end up doing things that cause us to feel more stressed and overwhelmed.
By firmly deciding where you will spend your time and what you will say yes to, you are saving your mental space and your time for things that fill up your cup and bring you joy while also allowing for the down time your body needs. Remember, if stress relief is your goal, boundaries are your friends.
Of course, setting boundaries is not easy work; you will have to work on finding the confidence to say No. Initially you may find it challenging and feel compelled to justify yourself and give reasons for saying No. Those who have a problem with you setting up boundaries are generally those who benefited from you not having them in the first place.
2. Spread kindness
“We do ourselves the most good doing something for others”
— Horrace Mann
Have you ever purchased a gift for someone that you knew they really wanted and then felt such warmth when you watch the expression on their face as they open it? This is the power of doing something nice for others as a means of reducing your own stress.
Small acts of kindness toward people you know as well as complete strangers can go a long way in boosting your mood, which in turn decreases your stress response.
Smiling at someone, holding the door for a stranger, sharing your baked goodies with your team at work, paying it forward by purchasing the coffee for the person behind you, or letting someone go in front of you in queue at the supermarket— these are small acts have big impact on your emotional state. Try random acts of kindness whenever and wherever you find the opportunity and soon you will see that your stress becomes much more manageable.
3. Laugh more
Laughter truly is the best medicine. It is something we undervalue and something we don’t do often enough. When you laugh, there is lots at play on a physiological level—the nervous system loves laughter! Studies have found that laughing stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. Also, when you laugh, you take in more oxygen and your blood get pumping, especially with those big belly laughs.
Can you think of a time you spent laughing over a funny movie, doing something foolish with a friend, or playing with children? After these events your mind feels clearer, and you feel lighter. The physiological and psychological benefits of laughing are plenty; the next time you’re feeling stressed, take 10-minutes to find a video that you know will make you laugh and feel the stress melt away! Or, if you’re having a rough day, just smile at yourself in the mirror, it’s OK even if it’s a fake smile.
“Calmness is the cradle of power,” said American novelist and poet Josiah Gilbert Holland. At the end of the day stress will always be with us, wherever we go, but by making a conscious effort to regularly do things that being stress relief and help you stay calm, you can rest assured that the wellness you strive for is well within your reach.
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I sooo appreciate these non traditional stress reduction strategies being highlighted by Andrea. Setting boundaries (and working so hard to keep them!) has been a game changer for me. Manicures and face masks are great, don’t get me wrong, but this article speaks to some self-care/stress relief strategies that are easy, free, and help promote actual life changes.