Everyone stresses out sometimes. The good news is that, with practice, you have the power to control your own stress response by actively engaging the counterpart to your fight-or-flight mode—your rest-and-digest system.
Here are a few ideas to help you keep your cool the next time you start slipping into a state of stress or anxiety.
1. Switch up Your Breathing
Breathing exercises can shift your body into a different state. Experiment using your diaphragm, inhaling through your nose, or finding resources online that walk you through methods like Wim Hoff, kapalabhati, alternate nostril breathing, or other forms of pranayama.
2. Experiment With Mindfulness
Mindfulness, especially mindful meditation, has been shown to increase activity in the rest-and-digest side of your nervous system, while decreasing your body’s fight-or-flight response. Find the mindfulness app that works best for you, or you can use Oura’s Moment feature to guide you through mindfulness exercises.
3. Sweat It Out
How many New Year’s resolutions feature a promise to go to the gym? Getting into the practice of regular exercise is challenging at first, because forming any new habit takes time. But once you make it part of your routine, it becomes easier. Regular exercise not only does wonders for your long-term emotional and physical health, it also boosts your body and mind’s ability to handle stress.
4. Try a New Pose
Why not combine relaxation techniques? Yoga combines breathing, meditation, and exercise all into one activity. Working on your downward dog and sinking into savasana can help you reach your rest goals—and your toes—while also giving you a physical workout.
5. Put Your Phone in Timeout
For real. You have a busy life, and billions of dollars were poured into making your phones, tablets, computers, and TVs addictive. They were designed to constantly grab your attention. Removing the bright light and stimulation will help your body wind down.
6. Get a Massage
Who doesn’t love this suggestion? Relaxing the muscles in your body can help send the signal to your brain that it’s okay to take a break. Any self-care activity will do. Even alternative therapies like acupuncture or reflexology can put your mind into a different state. In fact, researchers have found that the mere act of going to a therapist or healer who listens to your concerns can stimulate a powerful placebo effect that makes you feel better before your treatment even starts.
7. Explore the Great Outdoors
Regularly spending time in nature has been shown to lower stress hormone levels. Some fans of this technique have even coined the term “forest bathing,” but we don’t recommend abandoning soap and water just yet.
8. Revisit Your Hobbies
Setting aside time each day to actively pursue interests outside of work and household duties helps you prioritize relaxation and rejuvenation. Consider how you spend your time, and if there’s an old hobby that started gathering dust since you started binge-watching that new show, think about switching up.
9. Float Your Cares Away
Recently popularized, float tanks are enclosed pods with a shallow pool of warm water saturated with Epsom salt dense enough to keep you afloat (like the Dead Sea). They take peace and quiet to the next level by removing sound and light, allowing your muscles and mind to reach peak relaxation.
Manage Stress More Effectively
Avoid becoming a ball of stress—try these tips and then observe how you feel. No matter which tips you try, the key is sticking with them for at least a week. By being consistent, you give yourself time to feel the impact and gather the necessary information to see any effects.
Keep in mind, everyone experiences stress and anxiety differently—what works for others may not work for you. The only way to make progress is to stay open-minded and try new techniques. Find what works best for you.
- Congleton, Christina, Britta K. Hölzel, and Sara W. Lazar. “Mindfulness can literally change your brain.” Harvard Business Review 45, no. 4 (2015). (link)
- Hautala, Arto J., Antti M. Kiviniemi, Timo H. Mäkikallio, Hannu Kinnunen, Seppo Nissilä, Heikki V. Huikuri, and Mikko P. Tulppo. “Individual differences in the responses to endurance and resistance training.” European journal of applied physiology 96, no. 5 (2006): 535-542. (link)
- Hunter, MaryCarol R., Brenda W. Gillespie, and Sophie Yu-Pu Chen. “Urban nature experiences reduce stress in the context of daily life based on salivary biomarkers.” Frontiers in psychology 10 (2019): 722. (link)