6 Surprising Ways to Reduce Stress

6 Surprising Ways to Reduce Stress

From work to classes to raising a family, stress comes from all angles. Sometimes, it can sneak up on you so fast that it makes you feel incredibly overwhelmed. For some, stress and anxiety can even cause a panic attack. Ultimately, stress is not good for us in more ways than one. However, when you feel stressed out, there are many healthy ways you can combat it and feel calm again. This article lists six surprising ways to reduce the stress that you may not have thought of before.

1. Hugging a Stuffed Animal

Did you know that stuffed animals can reduce stress? It's true. Kids and adults alike can benefit from hugging a cute stuffed animal. It's no different from getting a hug from a loved one — which is known to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels and increase oxytocin — especially if the stuffie is sentimental. Plus, a cute and soft stuffed animal simply makes you smile. However, if you or a stressed-out loved one doesn't own a stuffed animal, get them one! Send them a stuffed animal care package, complete with a plushie of their favorite animal, accessories like socks and stickers, and even a personalized note. 

Gift-giving can also be a stress-reliever. You can even send care package donations of stuffed animals to help others get through challenging times. Foster families, domestic abuse shelters, veteran homes, and children's hospitals are all wonderful places you can donate a stuffed animal care package. So send a stuffie to someone who needs it and reduce your stress all at once!

2. Tackling Messy Areas Around the House

According to numerous studies, a cluttered space can induce stress. Whether the clutter and messiness remind you of chores you've been meaning to get to or just make your home feel a little less like a sanctuary and welcoming space, it can pile on top of existing stressors. So instead of ignoring that dish-filled sink, hamper of laundry, or pile of random items around the house you've been meaning to put away, tackle it! Sometimes, addressing an issue that is causing stress is the best way to beat it. 

Even if cleaning seems overwhelming, tackle one project or room at a time. Make it feel more like a ritual, tackling the messy area with mindfulness. While it looks like a repetitive and mundane task, things like washing dishes and doing laundry require a small degree of focus that allows you to forget everyday stressors and relax. 

3. Doing Yardwork or Gardening

Like doing dishes, laundry, or tidying up a space, gardening and yardwork offer many of the same benefits — plus a very important one! There's something in our very core that appreciates being outside in nature.  According to a study published in Frontiers of Psychology, spending only 20 minutes a day outside in nature helps lower the cortisol levels (our stress hormone). 

Rake leaves in the yard or sweep the driveway to focus the mind while soaking up some vitamin D. Tend to a garden or add a few potted plants to the entrance of your home. Spending time outdoors and focusing on a small project can give a Zen-like meditation and relieve stress on multiple levels. Even if you don't keep your hands busy, take a walk in the park or green space or hike a trail for some forest bathing.

4. Taking a Trip to an Aquarium

Some folks like forest bathing, while others prefer watching the water or fish. To each their own! If you are the latter, one excellent way to reduce stress is to head to an aquarium and watch a wall of fish floating by. You'd be surprised how calm you feel after spending time in a dark room with a glowing wall of graceful stingrays, jellyfish, or schools of fish.  Science has proven it can reduce your blood pressure and heart rate.

If you don't have a local aquarium where you can simply pop in, then put on some calming white noise or ocean sounds and watch YouTube videos of the underwater universe captured through the eyes of scuba divers and their GoPros. It's an easy at-home stress reliever!

5. Eating Smaller Meals More Often

This stress-reducer might really surprise you! When we choose to eat more frequent, smaller meals, it maintains our body's blood sugar balance instead of sending it into the beginning of a fight or flight response. So many times, when we are busy and stressed, we turn to bad habits like eating through lunch or not eating lunch at all. However, this can create additional stressors on our nervous system. But instead of simply stopping for a lunch break, it's actually better for your body to eat smaller meals throughout the day. 

Still, we understand this doesn't work for everyone. So if you can't take breaks often, try to maintain your blood sugar balance by eating healthy snacks. Avoid snacks high in refined sugar and caffeine and reach for something with both carbs and proteins to sustain that adrenaline-fueled fight or flight response. 

6. Staying Hydrated Throughout the Day

According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, women should be drinking roughly 2.7 liters of water per day, and men should be drinking 3.7 liters. This all varies on circumstances like where you live, your activities, whether you are pregnant, etc. Ideally, you should be drinking throughout the day, too. You can't simply make up for it at night once you realize you are dehydrated. 

While we get much of our fluids from foods we eat, teas, and even coffee, it's important to stay hydrated throughout the day. According to studies, our cortisol levels can increase if we are just a half a liter dehydrated — that's not much! So instead of allowing your cortisol stress hormone to spike, keep a water bottle beside you at all times and drink whenever you get the opportunity. 

Be Kind to Yourself

Now that you know some of the surprising ways to reduce stress (and how it can sometimes sneak up on you), use them to your advantage! Remember to be kind to your body and mind and reduce everyday stressors.

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