What is stress and how does it affect us?
The way modern life has shaped up, more and more of us are spending time amidst chaos. Despite the conveniences of modern life, we still feel anxious and stressed. That’s because these modern times require us not to just achieve but also overachieve. It always has to be the ‘best’ or ‘exotic’. Moreover, the social media space always compels us to compete and impress all the time.
This brings with it a desire to control the way things happen, their outcomes, and other people’s reactions. And the result? More stress.
Every stressful episode not just tosses around your emotions but also has clear physical manifestations. Think tensed-up shoulders and jaw, a racing heart, and a churning stomach. That’s how our body reacts to stress.
If the stress is situational, the impact is short-lived. However, long-term exposure to stress and not doing anything about it affects the quality of your living. Chronic stress may cause depression and personality disorders along with serious problems such as constant muscle pains, high blood pressure, digestive issues, low immunity, and much more.
Wondering how to reduce stress? While there are several ways including medication, therapy, and other lifestyle changes, you can’t control the timing of the next stress trigger. What you can surely do to relieve stress is to control your reaction to these triggers.
This is where stress relief activities and their ability to reduce stress come in.
As the name suggests, stress relieving activities are those that are targeted towards reducing your feelings of stress. They are specially designed to take your mind off a stressful episode by providing an engaging distraction.
What are some healthy ways that help relieve stress quickly?
A particular trigger of stress may make you feel physical pain or overwhelm your mind. It may even give you palpitations and a spinning head. Stress relief activities are simple, fun, take little practice, and offer immediate relief from all these undesirable physical outcomes. The stress relievers that you choose depend on how and what you are feeling at that moment.
Here are some of the best and the most fun stress relief activities that work in most situations. We have divided them into stress relief activities at work and at home.
Stress relieving activities at work:
Given the competitive environment that workplaces have these days, all of us are bound to feel stressed at one point or the other. Stress is inevitable while chasing targets and managing fast-approaching deadlines. These, coupled with, the endless hours that we all spend stuck in traffic while travelling to and from work add to our stress levels.
Here are some smart and fun stress relief activity ideas that will help you breeze through a day at the office.
- Go for a walk: Exercise in any form is an ultimate stress buster. Moreover, it has science-backed benefits too. Walking like any other exercise helps release endorphins or happy hormones and curtails the production of cortisol, which is the stress hormone. This is your body’s natural defence against stress.
One of the most fun stress relief activities, it gives you a time-out from the stressful situation by physical distancing you from it. Walking loosens your tight muscles, gives you time to think, and helps you find solutions.
Studies say, and we recommend, walking in a natural environment and being amidst greenery and solitude has an amazing impact on your stress levels.
- Read up: We always read for pleasure. But did you know that reading is an excellent stress buster too? This is especially for times when you cannot walk away from your office space. Reading takes your mind off the situation, taking it to another place or time.
When you engage yourself in a story, your heart rate comes down and your muscles relax. In the long run, this is a great way to channelize your energy and improve your concentration levels.
- Try soothing teas: While coffee is known to be the go-to drink when it comes to workplaces, there are chances that it may cause your heart to race. This happens because caffeine acts as a stimulant and may make you feel even more jittery during a stressful episode.
We recommend a soothing cup of tea. Try green tea or chamomile tea. Such teas have a lower amount of caffeine and help you relax. Moreover, it’s not just the regular tea. Next time you feel worked up in the office, go for those delicious mint, lemon, or lavender teas. They will not just help you calm down but also tackle the stress-related stomach issues.
- Stretch: Spending long hours at the work desk coupled with the everyday stress of meeting deadlines is likely to leave you with muscle stiffness and pain. By improving your circulation and loosening your muscles, stretching, one of the most effective stress relief activities, is a great way to reduce all that tension and stress.
Neck swings: Relieve stress by tucking in your chin and rolling your head gently from one shoulder to the other. Do this 3-4 times.
Hamstring stretches: This is one of the best stress relief activities that straighten your back and legs. To do this, flex your left leg and reach out for your toes. Do this while giving your back a deep stretch. Repeat on the other side.
Chest stretch: This is not just one of the most effective stress relief activities that open up your chest and back muscles, but also reduces stress-related palpitations. To do this stretch, extend your arms behind you and clasp your hands. Gently lift your arms up till you feel your chest stretched.
Seated spinal twist: This stretch needs your body to twist, which imitates the motion of wringing the stress out of your system. Coupled with deep breathing, this is one of the most effective stress relief activities. Sit on the edge of your chair and place your right hand at the back. Place your left hand on your right thigh to stabilise yourself. Inhale deeply and lengthen your spine. Exhale and rotate your spine while gazing over your right shoulder. Alternate the stretch with your left hand.
- Get social: As social beings, we are all wired to thrive on social contact. It makes us feel connected and helps us communicate our feelings and unload things that are weighing on our mind. This applies to a stressful situation too. So, the next time your feelings overwhelm you, go talk to your office friend. One of the best stress relief activities at work, this relieves your pent-up emotions and also lowers your blood pressure and heart rate. Not just this, talking to someone may also give you a better perspective on your situation.
- Meditate: Workplace can be a source of intense stress and burnout. You can try a quick 5-minute meditation at your workplace to alleviate stress and improve your productivity at work. For this 5-minute meditation, set your timer for 5 minutes so that you do not end up meditating for too long lest you miss out on that important meeting or call at work. Close your eyes and relax. Take long deep breaths starting from your diaphragm while loosening up your body. Slowly start inhaling from the belly, then ribs and chest and hold the breath to the count of five. Similarly, exhale in the reverse process to the count of five releasing breath from chest, ribs, belly while pausing a bit when last whiff of breath still remains to be exhaled. Repeat the cycle for 5 minutes. Visualise your body releasing tension from the head, then the torso region in a progressive manner.
Stress relieving activities at home:
It’s not just the workplace that has potential stress triggers. For some of us, being housebound with all those responsibilities and chores can also press our stress buttons.
When it comes to home, we usually associate stress relief activity ideas with practising meditation, mindfulness, and exercise. While these are very helpful, why not look at the lighter side of things for a change. Often, the activities that we reserve for children act as great stress relief activities for adults too.
Here are some stress relief activities at home that are not just super fun and liven up your spirit, but also train your mind to live in the moment.
While these stress relief activities are centred around fun they are relaxing and stimulating at the same time. They help you get out of your tunnel visioned mindset and make you leave your comfort zone, which is at times the best solution for relieving stress. These activities also subtly build your confidence and leave you with a sense of accomplishment.
Here are some stress relief activities at home for you to try:
- Finish a puzzle: Completing puzzles may seem like a hobby, something that you do to pass time. The truth is that it is amongst the most effective stress relief activities that also has health benefits! Doing a puzzle challenges your mind and takes your thoughts away from the stressful triggers. Since this is an activity that all of us loved doing as children, it sparks feelings of nostalgia and helps release happy hormones. With these natural feel-good moments, comes a feeling of accomplishment. All in all a great recipe for busting stress.
- Create art: It’s not just we who recommend making art. There are several studies to back the fact that art has healing powers and act as one of the most cathartic stress relief activities. Whether you choose to paint, draw, or doodle, they all give your feelings an expression. When you create art, the creative side of your brain takes over and reduces the production of cortisol. Chromotherapy, also known as colour therapy, is regularly used by therapists for improving people’s response to stress triggers.
- Bake: Though it may sound unrelated, baking is one of the most impactful stress relief activities. The fragrance that emanates while you bake, induces a sense of comfort and cosiness. Not just this, the very act of putting something together from the scratch and seeing it complete, fills you with a sense of accomplishment. This has positive reinforcement and regulates your emotions.
- Play games: Remember the carefree childhood when all you were concerned about was games and play? Why not use the same technique to take a little time off and reduce stress in the process. One of the best stress relief activities, games regulate negative emotions and give you a respite from all the demands on your time. So, the next time you feel bogged down, try a round of Pictionary, Monopoly, or the all-time-favourite Snakes & Ladders. Since most of these require playmate(s), we promise a healthy dose of laughter and fun too on the side.
- Dance: Putting on your favourite music and dancing to your heart’s content is a proven stress buster. Dancing isn’t just fun, it is also a superb exercise to release those happy hormones. When you dance, you channelize your energies towards something fun and engaging. It is one of the best stress relief activities that not just reduce stress but also make you healthier in the long run.
- Practise Yoga: Practising yoga regularly at home can relieve stress. Several studies have proven the efficacy of yoga in alleviating stress and anxiety. There are specific yoga poses such as cat-cow pose, standing forward bend, corpse pose, child’s pose and many other yoga poses that help in alleviating stress and anxiety symptoms.
What are some tips for stress relief activities?
Now that we have gone over some of the most effective activities for relieving stress, here are some things that you need to keep in mind.
Follow these stress relief activities tips to make the most of them:
- There isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to stress relief activities. They depend on the kind of stress that you are feeling at the moment and your current circumstances. For instance, dancing is a great stress reliever that works for most people. While dancing around your living room may work, but dancing in your office might not!
- Choose activities that resonate with you. What works for others might not work for you.
- It is a good idea to involve your friends in these activities. Productive social contact is a great way to take your mind off stress.
- Have realistic expectations from the stress relief activities. While they do offer immediate relief, give yourself time to feel better.
- While these things and stress relief activities tips help, it always works to make holistic long-term lifestyle changes to keep stress at bay. These include eating a balanced diet, learning how to practice mindfulness & gratitude, exercising regularly, and re-assessing your life priorities.
You should be knowing that no one activity will help you feel better every time. For that, don’t hesitate to experiment and explore things that interest you. However, as the final word, stress is a very real emotion that almost all of us feel. If these stress relief activities give you a moment’s respite and then the stressful emotions come rushing back, you should seek help from a qualified therapist. This is the only way to prevent chronic stress and lead a happy and fulfilling life.