How To Relieve Stress in 13 Simple Steps

A little bit of stress can be helpful - it sharpens focus, stimulates creativity and growth, and even boosts motivation.

A lot of stress is unhealthy - it results in a whole host of physical, mental and emotional health problems. Stress has been referred to as the ‘silent killer’ since it can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pains, depression and anxiety.

Scientific study has pointed to correlations between stress and the top six causes of death in America - cancer, lung problems, heart disease, liver cirrhosis, accidents and suicide.

According to Palmer, 1989, stress is the “psychological, physiological and behavioural response by an individual when they perceive a lack of equilibrium between the demands placed upon them and their ability to meet those demands, which, over a period of time, leads to ill-health.”

In short, stress is the way we respond to a challenge or demand. Everyone experiences stress and it can be triggered by a huge range of events - from small hassles to major life changes.

Stress caused by normal life challenges is okay - as long as we don’t allow it to become chronic. The trick is to learn how to relax and let go of tension when it is not serving us.

How do we do that?

In the same way, we have a stress response, we also have a relaxation response. According to the NIH’s National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, when our relaxation response engages our breathing slows, blood pressure decreases and we use less oxygen.

More info on that here: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress/relaxation.htm
 

Stress caused by normal life challenges is okay - as long as we don’t allow it to become chronic. The trick is to learn how to relax and let go of tension when it is not serving us.

 
Unfortunately, there isn’t a blanket ‘one size fits all’ prescription when it comes to stress relief. What works to trigger the relaxation response for one person won’t necessarily work for another, and the methods you employ at home may not be appropriate at work.

Therefore, it’s important to have a variety of stress relief tools and relaxation techniques at your disposal. That way, when chronic stress does rear its ugly head, you’ll have a strategy ready that works effectively in your current circumstances.
 

It’s important to have a variety of stress relief tools and relaxation techniques at your disposal.

 
To help you find which methods work for you, we’ve collated some great strategies. Try them all and you’ll no doubt identify the quickest and easiest ways to reduce stress and trigger your relaxation response.
 

STRATEGY 1: BREATHE

When we’re stressed, adrenaline gets pumped throughout the body, our heart rate increases and we breathe fast and shallow. According to Harvard Medical School, a few deep belly breaths are all we need to reset the system.
 

 
As little as a few minutes of long, slow, deep breaths can energise the body, improve brain function and lighten the load it felt like you were carrying before you began breathing.

Following the breathing exercise, it can also be helpful to shake off the excess energy stress often leaves in your body - shake it out, jog down the hall, jump up and down, dance.
 

As little as a few minutes of long, slow, deep breaths can energise the body, improve brain function and lighten the load it felt like you were carrying before you began breathing.

 

STRATEGY 2: GET STILL

“When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself.  When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.”  Eckhart Tolle

There is nothing like ‘just being’. It’s a fantastic way to centre and relax yourself and can be particularly great during busy, stressful times because you only need fifteen minutes. It often brings with it desperately needed perspective.

Paul Blackburn, founder of Quantum Orange and personal development expert, wrote a book titled Beyond Success. Here’s an excerpt on stillness from that title…

“Stillness is a close relative of mindfulness, though we don’t have to focus consciously on the moment – it’s a method of just being. Silence is often a critical aspect of any practice involving stillness. This almost simultaneously defies definitive description and is stunningly simple."

For example, many people visit our home and express how beautiful it is. Yet when pressed they are unable to answer exactly what it is that has struck them.

Of course, it’s not the house itself – it’s the 250 acres of native Australian bush surrounding it that hits them. Standing in the middle of a paddock that appears to be endless, timeless and serenely, silently, still can have a profound effect on someone used to traffic noise, streetlights and the frenetic need to do something, whatever that might be. The impact is even greater on those who visit on a clear night and see the Milky Way in the sky.
 

 
We can lose our connection to our spirit by being away from nature too long, but even people that are lucky enough to live in magical environments can let them become familiar and fail to notice them at all. Strange as it may sound, this trap is one I have fallen into more times than I care to mention, so now I grow veggies in a patch out the back. Tending the garden drags me out there when I think I don’t have time and causes me to slow down and connect with what I call the Great Spirit. Watering, weeding and wondering can’t be rushed. Sometimes I think growing the veggies does me more good than eating them.

I have two other favourite ways to practice stillness.

The first is that now and then I take the dog up into the top paddock (15-minute walk), light a fire, boil the billy, and make and drink a cup of tea. The time required to gather the firewood, get it cranked up and then boil the water is enough to slow me down and lower the pressures of the day to the correct level. Drinking the tea without burning my mouth can’t be rushed either.

This kind of contemplative time revives, refreshes and renews. I take the dog because it can’t talk and loves me just as I am. It’s happy and eager to go wherever I decide, and coming back home is as big an adventure as leaving. This kind of companionship might be ruined with words.
 

This kind of contemplative time revives, refreshes and renews.

 
The second is that I keep a Zen (kind of) calendar on the bedside table. One of my children usually gives me one for Christmas. It is designed to display one day at a time, and I rip yesterday’s off each morning to look at today's. Each page has a short piece of wisdom written on it, in addition to the date.

On arising from bed, I like to grab the top one, read it, and then contemplate the message of the day for a few moments before heading off to the shower. It usually takes less than a couple of minutes, but it sets up the entire bathroom-thinking time to run along a sequence inspired by that original insight. It’s much better than dwelling on how many jobs there are on today’s schedule and winding up on the day before it has even started. Not only is it a better way to start the day – because I travel inwards instead of into the future – but it also means I turn up for breakfast in less of a rush and much more at peace.

I should add that these two little routines have provided me with tremendous insight because my most inspired thoughts turn up during this still time.”

 

What does stillness look like for you?

Only you can answer that. Suffice it to say you need to find at least three ways you can practice stillness that really do it for you.

Remember - stillness does not necessarily mean being physically stationary. Stillness happens when you are experiencing harmony with yourself and the world around you. It can be discovered any time there is total, uninhibited participation in the current moment.
 

Stillness happens when you are experiencing harmony with yourself and the world around you. It can be discovered any time there is total, uninhibited participation in the current moment.

Here are a few ideas to get you started with practising stillness:

  • Find a spot in nature you can just sit and enjoy the view
  • Get a ‘zen garden’ to play with (one of the tabletop sand and stone setups you can play with)
  • Take ten minutes at least two times per day to just sit and breathe deeply
  • Find a place where you can have quiet time (i.e. seek out a lack of sound)
  • Disconnect from your technology and devices for an evening
  • Try Yoga
  • Give Tai Chi or Qi Gong a go
  • Spend uncluttered time being totally present with a pet
  • Practice mindfulness
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STRATEGY 3: MEDITATE

The (many) benefits of meditation have been scientifically proven over and over again. From improved brain function and a better mood to better physical health and everything in between, meditation is the king of personal effectiveness tools.

Find a version of meditation that works for you and get it into your daily routine.

Any person who regularly meditates will tell you that it consistently delivers calmness even when there is a storm raging around or within them.
 

Any person who regularly meditates will tell you that it consistently delivers calmness even when there is a storm raging around or within them.

 
There are plenty of free meditations available on the internet. You can even just play some peaceful music while you close your eyes and breathe deeply. The key is to find a quiet place, sit comfortably, focus on your breathing (it needs to be slow and deep) and stay in the moment. If your mind wanders, just gently bring it back. Don’t judge.

You can download a free meditation here.
 

STRATEGY 4: CREATE

Creativity is an excellent way to tap into the part of your brain that doesn’t ‘wind up’ with stress. It forces a step away from the pressures of the daily grind and brings you into the moment. Creativity is also an excellent way to get in touch with yourself.

Try whatever works for you - painting, drawing, writing, designing houses, singing, DIY, playing music or dancing. If it’s something creative you can get lost in, it’s perfect.

Here are a few ideas to get you started with doing creative things:

  • Get into DIY projects
  • Try learning an instrument
  • Draw
  • Paint
  • Sing
  • Get an adult colouring book
  • Give image streaming a go
  • Write
  • Go to a dance class

 

STRATEGY 5: GRAB A HUG

When you’re struggling and you need a hug from a loved one - ask for one.

Hugging has been shown to release oxytocin, which helps to get stress hormones back under control and can produce a sense of relaxation.

The more often you hug - the more resilient you’ll be!
 

Hugging has been shown to release oxytocin, which helps to get stress hormones back under control and can produce a sense of relaxation.

 

STRATEGY 6: GET OUTSIDE

There’s something about getting outside and in nature that gets you connected (with yourself, the earth and life) in a way that is difficult to replicate with other activities. With that connection in place, stress tends to melt away like ice in the sun.

If you’ve got the room, start a garden. If not, you could find a local plot you can use or try gardening in pots.

You could also try bushwalking or stargazing, go to the beach or make a campfire in the backyard.

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The Step By Step Roadmap To Banishing Stress

Discover 13 practical strategies the super successful use to ensure they’re at their best, even in the most turbulent, stressful situations.
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STRATEGY 7: FIND EXCITEMENT, ADVENTURE & JOY

It’s hard to overstate the importance of this particular strategy. It’s a pretty simple one - find something that makes your heart swell and your face split with a smile so big it hurts. Then do it as regularly as you can.

This is a fantastic stress reduction technique because it’s hard to be stressed when you’re having so much fun. Sure, the things that were putting the pressure on are still there, but you’ll handle them much better when you’ve balanced them out with some fun.

Some people like skiing, others motorbikes, still others hiking, surfing, mountain biking, white water rafting, cars or walking on the beach. Whatever this thing is, it should make your heart sing. When you’ve been engaged in this activity, you should feel refreshed, reinvigorated and liberated.

Find whatever makes you feel like that and do it often!

It’s hard to write a list of helpful ideas on this subject because it’s such an individual thing. Just keep trying new adventures until you find the right feeling, then stick with it.
 

STRATEGY 8: LAUGH

Though it may sound like a cliche, laughter is great medicine. It reduces the physical effects of stress on the body by lowering the stress hormones and boosting positive hormones.

You’ll feel better after a good belly laugh, so seek one out!

Since a sense of humour is such a personal thing, you’ll have to find what gets you giggling. Try funny movies, stand up comedy or fun activities with friends.
 

STRATEGY 9: GET PHYSICAL

Physical activity is an excellent tool for reducing stress, improving general health and maintaining a positive outlook.

There’s no need to be bored on a treadmill either - if you mix it up, getting some exercise can also be a lot of fun.

Here are a few simple ideas to try:

  • Take a long walk (outside is best)
  • Go for a swim
  • Ride your bike home from work
  • Dance to loud music in your living room
  • Take a dance class (swing, hip hop, flamenco)
  • Go rollerblading
  • Wrestle with the dog
  • Play frisbee
  • Experiment with a martial art
  • Go indoor rock climbing
  • Try kayaking

Combine several stress relief strategies and set yourself up to triumph over yourself and life when you create your own Personal Success Routine.
 

Combine several stress relief strategies and set yourself up to triumph over yourself and life when you create your own Personal Success Routine. Find out more in this blog.

 

STRATEGY 10: SLEEP WELL

There’s nothing that will keep you stressed like being overtired. Whatever you need to do to ensure you get a solid, restful night’s sleep - do it.

Here are a few quick tips:

  • Make the room dark
  • Ensure it’s quiet
  • Try aromatherapy candles
  • Get a bed and linen that make you comfortable
  • Ditch your afternoon caffeine
  • Dim the lights half an hour before bed
  • Turn off the technology half an hour before heading to bed

 

STRATEGY 11: EXPRESS GRATITUDE

The practice of gratitude is one of the most proven methods for building resilience and reducing stress. Gratitude reminds you of all the things you have to be thankful for and also of all the resources you have at your disposal.

Studies have shown that grateful people have better physical, mental and emotional health, lower stress and a better quality of life.
 

Studies have shown that grateful people have better physical, mental and emotional health, lower stress and a better quality of life.

 
You can write in a gratitude journal, discuss what you’re grateful for around the dinner table or even practise gratitude in the moment.

It doesn’t matter how you do it - just make expressing gratitude habitual and you’ll reap a whole host of marvellous benefits.

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STRATEGY 12: MAINTAIN PERSPECTIVE

If you get a flat tyre, is your whole day ruined, or did you just have an unpleasant hour?

Many people, when stressed, tend to catastrophize minor events. Instead, take a deep breath and reframe the situation and your self-talk surrounding it.

Try looking at the situation from a different viewpoint. What’s the bigger picture? What could you learn? Is there an opportunity here? Will this thing that feels stressful now matter in a year, five years, ten years?
 

STRATEGY 13: ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR ROLE

When life is stressful, it’s very easy to feel like a victim of the circumstances. Instead, acknowledge that everything you do, from the moment you wake, is your choice.

  • If there is too much on your plate, delegate.
  • Learn to say no.
  • Take responsibility for your thoughts and actions.
  • Look for the lesson.

When you are willing to acknowledge your role and take any necessary corrective action, you can regain your power, take control of your focus and determine the best next steps to move forward with considerably less stress.
 

A FINAL HELPFUL HINT:

Remember - just because the world around you is in chaos, doesn’t mean you need to join in.

For obvious reasons, learning to handle stress well is one of the most important life skills to master. If you can stay true to the best version of yourself during difficult or stressful periods, then success will come a lot easier and life will be a great deal happier.
 

Remember - just because the world around you is in chaos, doesn’t mean you need to join in.

 
Finding the best stress relief strategies may take time and patience - you’ll need to experiment to discover what works for you - but it will pay off enormously in the long run. You may even find you can employ several strategies at once (like physical exercise and being outside) to have a greater impact on your stress levels.

The key is to learn to recognise when you’re stressed so that you can make use of the strategies you know will trigger your relaxation response.

Good luck and happy relaxing!

Download This Post As A PDF

The Step By Step Roadmap To Banishing Stress

Discover 13 practical strategies the super successful use to ensure they’re at their best, even in the most turbulent, stressful situations.
Download

The Quantum Orange Team

The QO team work hard to make sure our blog is packed with awesome, actionable content for you to read. While some posts are an individual effort, others are brainstormed, reworked, and even debated over lunch. By the time they reach you, the whole gang has contributed to them. So being the emotionally intelligent lot we are - we agreed to simply share the content credit!