Top 10 Ways To De-Stress

This is the 6th post in December’s Top Tens in 2010 Series. This guest post was written by Grace Boyle, 20-something adventurista, blogger & foodie extraordinaire.

Our generation is very tapped in. We’re not only work full-time, but we run blog(s), have side projects, pursue our passions and of course, have to make time for friends, loved ones and ourselves. In all that mix, stress naturally arises.d is for de-stress

Furthermore, 1/3 of Americans feel they are living under extreme stress and over half of Americans feel their stress has increased over the last five years. Stress isn’t just uncomfortable; it causes health and mental problems.stress headache

These are the top ten ways I think we can relieve stress and not to mention, most of them are free!

1. Get Outside: Since graduating college and working full-time, I noticed the need to be outside more than ever. I remember summer vacations when I was always outside, working outside or had time to just lay in the sun…all the time. I crave being outdoors, smelling fresh air, getting into nature and unplugging from the social world we live in. Taking a walk and getting outside, even for 15 minutes can greatly lift your mood, clear your head and relieve stress. I opt for snowboarding and hiking regularly.

2. Exercise Regularly: It’s no surprise that the endorphins we create with exercise help us feel happier and also help us cope and fight stress. The endorphins are by nature, a soothing hormone. Besides the scientific piece, we also can burn stress on a run, unwind during yoga or enjoy playing a game of pickup basketball with friends. It takes our mind off of things and allows us to focus on our fitness and health, which ultimately, help us live better lives.

3. Take a hot bath: If you don’t have a bath, maybe your gym has a jacuzzi or a friend has a hot tub. The hot water loosens our muscles, relieves pain and naturally relaxes us. I love to add epsom salt to the bath. Epsom salt is rich in Magnesium, which actually helps our bodies regulate over 325 enzymes, and plays a role in helping us organize our muscle control, energy production and the elimination of harmful toxins.

4. Music: This one is simple. Music can have a calming effect on your brain and physiology – this can benefit you if you’re in physical pain or just trying to wind down before bed.

5. Massage: Although some massages can be expensive, they’re a luxury worth investing it. Tip: Look for a massage school near or around your city – students are always looking for practice and their rates are usually 50% the going price. You can always ask a friend to rub your shoulders to loosen the tension and stress of the day. It can go a long way.

6. Get More Rest: Studies show that eight hours of sleep is ideal. The difference between getting six hours of sleep and eight is 50% more cortisol, the “stress hormone” that when flared, causes sleep problems, poor immunity and even abnormal weight gain. Cutting your cortisol in half, with eight hours of sleep, can greatly benefit your entire body and mind. You feel rested and ready for the day, instead of tired and dragging your feet.

7. Cut Back On Caffeine: I still rock the cup of coffee in the morning. I love it. It is also social and cultural for me. However, massive amounts of caffeine can increase stress. If you’re looking to balance your caffeine intake, opt for Black Tea instead. It still has some of the zing you might be looking for. PhD, Andrew Steptoe, says that naturally occurring chemicals such as polyphenols and flavonoids are responsible for tea’s calming effects.

8. Get Up A Half Hour Earlier: By allowing a little more time in your morning, you aren’t as rushed and you’re able to enjoy your morning. The morning and our morning routine are important starters to our entire day. When I wake up a half hour earlier, I have more time for me, I am able to get things done that I normally would have put off and I’m prepared for the day. Just try it – even if it means a couple times a week.

9. Creative Expression: This is similar to a hobby or a passion. Whether you’re a painter, a writer, a video gamer, a knitter, etc. there is something that likely brings you joy. Make time for these outlets. Unfortunately, these can often fall to the wayside when we’re stressed and overwhelmed. For me, I love photography, learning about food (or eating it!), hiking and reading. When I start to lose these hobbies or haven’t indulged in them, I feel a little more empty. These should help uplift us. Write down what you love to do, and commit to doing it at least once a week.

10. Yoga: Although I mentioned exercise, yoga is a form is deep relaxation. It can physically and mentally stabilize you as well as help you unwind. There is no “type” of person that should do yoga, so anyone can try it. Over 11 million people in the US practice yoga.

Among yoga’s anti-stress benefits are a host of biochemical responses. For example, there is a decrease in catecholamines, the hormones produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Lowering levels of hormone neurotransmitters — dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine — creates a feeling of calm. I attend yoga not only as my regular exercise but because it makes me feel light and free of stress.