Keep calm and carry on. It’s a familiar slogan on coffee cups and kitchen towels. Originally used as a way to encourage people during wartime, it’s more appropriate than ever as people look for ways to de-stress during this time of uncertainty. As you navigate new and unfamiliar burdens while spending most of your time at home, stress may take an unchecked toll on your body and mind.
But keep calm: We’ve rounded up six of the best way to de-stress so you can unwind and stay positive right now!
Different types of stress
Surprisingly, there are different types of stress.
Acute stress — the kind that occurs episodically (think: an argument with your spouse or a job interview) — is OK and can help when you need to think on your feet and react quickly.1
Chronic stress on the other hand — the kind that is continuous, prolonged or recurring (think: the loss of a loved one or financial troubles) — can take a toll on your mental and physical health, and might even compromise your immune system.2 This is the kind of stress that can make it difficult to keep calm and carry on.
Some signs that you might need to formulate a plan for how to relieve stress include:3
- Consistently feeling irritable, angry or restless
- Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Feeling overwhelmed, anxious or unmotivated
- Difficulty making decisions
Fortunately, there is something for everyone among the tried and true stress-relief options. Some of them may come more naturally to you and some may be a stretch. The trick is to try them — or develop your own — and discover what works best for you. Because left unchecked, chronic stress may put you at risk for health problems, including:4
- Heart disease
- Weight gain
- Digestive issues
6 of the best ways to de-stress
If you’re feeling like you could use some time to decompress, check out these six ideas.
High on the list of ways to de-stress, meditation has been used for thousands of years and by countless cultures to achieve mental clarity and emotional calm. Most types of meditation use some form of focus and mindfulness to eliminate the jumbled thoughts crowding your mind and causing stress. Regular practice can produce a deep state of relaxation. Meditation can be practiced anywhere, and the stress-relieving benefits are both immediate and long-term.5
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Meditation methods can be as simple as sipping coffee or tea in a peaceful spot, repeating a positive mantra in the morning, or even following a guided visualization. Physical disciplines include Tai Chi and certain forms of yoga.
Try it: Diaphragmatic breathing benefits mental and physical well-being by using focused deep breaths to create a relaxed, mindful state that can help with everything from anxiety to post-workout recovery. If want to integrate some more movement into your practice, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Yoga to get started.
Working from home. Caring for family members. Homeschooling and meal planning. You are likely dealing with new burdens and responsibilities that leave you little opportunity to take care of yourself. But practicing good self-care is a solid strategy for mitigating the effects of stressful times to stay healthy.6
Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash
If you are already practicing the basics of self-care (good nutrition, regular exercise, quality sleep) then try to up your self-care game periodically by setting aside some time just for you. Just for a day, an afternoon, an evening, try saying “no” to some of the usual demands on your time and “yes” to doing some things that make you smile, feel relaxed, valued or special.
Only you know what makes you feel rejuvenated and happy. Aim for activities that inspire positive vibes and reinforce healthful habits.
Add these ideas to your list of ways to de-stress:
- A spa night with a soothing facial mask and fragrant bath products
- An at-home movie night with your favorite genre (musicals, westerns) or actors
- A solo walk (or accompanied by a furry friend) in a favorite spot, like your neighborhood or a local trail
- Mindfully prepare and enjoy a favorite, (healthy!) meal or treat.
Try it: Here are 5 Reasons Why You Need Good Self-Care in Your Life
#3 Get moving
Did you know? Regular physical activity can relieve stress and anxiety.7
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That feel-good sensation following a workout can help banish tension. Adding movement to your day can translate to an overall sense of well-being and calm.
According to the American Heart Association, exercise can:7
- Release stress and calm you
- Improve your mood and help you think clearly
- Help control your appetite
- Give you more energy
- Lower your blood pressure
- Reduce your risk of developing heart disease and stroke
Try it: Incorporate some of these simple at-home exercises into your routine.
#4 Unplug from media (social and otherwise)
Scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll … When you scroll and click through your social platforms and the online news sites, are you really taking a break? Chronic social network use can actually increase stress in your life. There is even a term for it: technostress.8
Taking periodic breaks from all media and limiting their use can lead to less stress in your life and improve your overall sense of well-being.9
Try it: Tonight, put your phone away and abstain from watching TV at least an hour before you go to bed. You might find it easier to get restful sleep!
Photo by Przemyslaw Marczynski on Unsplash
#5 Write in a journal
Keeping a journal or diary is more than just a way to document your experiences and record your thoughts. Journaling is an effective stress relief exercise, and people who write in a diary or other notebook reap both physical and emotional benefits. Pouring your stressful emotions or documenting the priorities and goals in your daily life can help you identify precisely what is stressful and how it impacts you, laying the groundwork for successful stress-relief strategies.
Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash
Journaling can help you:10
- Prioritize problems, concerns and responsibilities
- Track your day-to-day feelings so that you can recognize stress triggers
- Provide an opportunity for positive self-talk
Try it: A bullet journal is a useful format to provide clarity around responsibilities and goals.
#6 Listen to relaxing music
Music is a powerful stress-relief tool. It can distract you from chaotic thoughts and tap into positive emotions and memories. Listening to music has a measurable positive impact on both physical and mental stress levels.11
Try it: Take a music break and choose music that has positive associations and that foster contemplative, pleasant thoughts. Slow, quiet, classical selections might even help to slow the pulse and heart rate and lower blood pressure.12
Photo by martin-dm on iStock
Bottom Line: Don’t let stress take a negative toll on your well-being. There are tried and true, widely embraced methods to mitigate stress. Give them a try! But the most effective method is the one that works for you and allows you to identify your challenges, keep calm and carry on.
Do you have a favorite way to de-stress that wasn’t listed? Share with us in the comments below!
Colleen Gibbs is a communications professional with 20 years of experience in journalism, public relations and content marketing. She has written for the music, culinary, finance, and zoo and aquarium industries. If Colleen is not outside cultivating her butterfly garden, she is inside reading yet another Tudor England biography or perfecting her coq au vin recipe. The mother of two college students, Colleen has a stand-up paddle board and is not afraid to use it.
Favorite healthy snack: Roasted unsalted almonds and ALL the summer fruits.
Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
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Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig