If left untreated, stress can lead to depression, high blood pressure, or other serious health conditions. But fear not—beating stress doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. In honor of Stress Awareness Month, try these fun, simple, and low-cost ways to reduce your stress level and improve your health:
- Get outdoors. Light physical activity can be a mood-booster. Not up for exercising? Go hang out at your favorite beach or park—just getting outside to enjoy nature may take some stress away.
- Laugh! Laughing is an easy and enjoyable stress reliever. Invite friends over to watch a comedy movie, or surf the web to enjoy your favorite humor sites.
- Connect with friends. Talking or spending time with your favorite people can improve your mood. Host a potluck dinner or tapas party where everyone brings a dish, or call a friend just to see what’s up.
- Write it down. Feeling worried about something? Write it down in a journal. Or write a note to your future self, to open at a time you really need some inspiration, reminding yourself of what you find meaningful and that you shouldn’t sweat sweat the small stuff.
- Try something new. Try a new hobby or learn a new skill—check out YouTube for instructional videos or look online for how-to websites so that you can learn for free.
- Lose yourself in a good book. Reading is a great way to take your mind off your worries—plus, reading can even benefit your health. Need something new to read? Visit your local library, where you can check out books for free.
- Be creative. Painting, writing, singing, crocheting, knitting, and dancing are just a few of the many creative activities that can provide great stress relief.
- Just breathe. Rhythmic, slow breathing can relieve stress. Get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and allow yourself to just breathe for a few minutes.
- Spend some time with animals. Research indicates that pets can help reduce stress-related increases in blood pressure. Just another great reason to take your dog for a walk or engage in playtime with the cat! Don’t have a pet of your own? Offer to walk your neighbor’s dog, or volunteer at a local animal shelter.
- Volunteer. Helping someone else can also help you feel satisfied. Volunteer at a local shelter, soup kitchen, or church. Offer to do a gratis chore (like mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or babysitting) for your neighbor. The possibilities are endless!
- Unplug and unwind. Being “always on” can contribute to stress. So put your smartphone down, step away from the TV or computer, and spend some time relaxing.
- Declutter your space. A messy home or desk can increase your stress level. Doing a little spring cleaning can distract you from any worries, and the end result—a tidier space—can leave you feeling less stressed, too.
- Be grateful. Remind yourself of a few things you’re grateful for—it can help you be optimistic and focus on the positive, non-stressful aspects of your life. Consider keeping a gratitude journal, where every day you write down one thing you’re grateful for.
- Cut it out. Are you stressed out because you have too much to do? Take a step back—evaluate the things you must do and the things that are most meaningful to you. For the tasks that aren’t “musts” or meaningful, brainstorm ways to delegate them, shorten the time and energy they take, and become comfortable saying “no, thank you” to requests you can’t accommodate.
- Snooze the stress away. Getting proper sleep can reduce stress. Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly for optimal well-being. If stress is causing you to sleep poorly, read Ten Steps to Better Sleep for some helpful tips!
If you feel that stress is affecting your life, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional for help. Find out if your company offers an employee assistance program (EAP) as one of your benefits; these programs offer free, confidential counseling. If that isn’t an option for you, click here to learn more about some free and low-cost behavioral health resources you can use.