These 11 tips offer various proven approaches to loosen the grip of stress on your mind and body. The key is to make a few of them a habit.
De-stressing aids your health, lowers your blood pressure, and lets you get enough restful sleep to be up-and-at-‘em when a new day dawns.
But contemporary life makes it hard to de-stress.
You may work very long days, leaving yourself a very narrow window of time to de-stress.
You might have to fight an exhausting commute to get home, arriving drained and full of stress on your doorstep.
Perhaps your boss expects you to be available 24/7, sending you emails or texts late at night or early in the morning.
Or, you could be putting pressure on yourself.
If your head is telling you to “do the laundry, check your emails, do some shopping …” during your off hours, it’s hard to wind down.
And yes, many people have additional responsibilities, like child care and cooking, that don’t allow for much de-stress time.
How to De-Stress: 11 Methods That Work
All these pressures may exist, but it’s still important to find ways and time to de-stress after a long day — your mind and body will thank you if you do.
Here are 11 tips for how you can do that.
1. Leave Work at Work
If you habitually work long days, a crucial way to de-stress is to make sure that, at some point, you put work to the side in your mind.
If your thoughts keep returning to the memo you need to send, the charts you need to create, and the follow-up you need to remind your assistant of, the fact that you’re at home will do little to help you unwind.
Create a word or phrase that turns your mind off.
Some people recommend a mental stop sign, just like the real ones you see on street corners.
When your brain starts thinking about work, or other stress-inducing matters, engage that psychological stop sign to shut down those thoughts in their tracks.
Spend 10 minutes at the end of your workday creating a to-do list for the following day.
This allows you to set work aside and keeps you from continuously ruminating about it once you get home. (1)
2. Unplug from Screens
Screens are with us all day long.
The large computer screens.
The demanding smartphone and tablet screens.
The continuously streaming television screen.
Though our screens provide entertainment and pleasure as well as help for work and school-related matters, they also demand our attention.
Numerous studies show that while personal screen time seems relaxing, it actually elicits the stress response. (2)
It’s also likely that being on your personal computer or smartphone will draw you back into the tangle of work and tension.
Allow yourself some screen time at home, but set aside some time to entirely unplug in the evening and on weekends.
3. Create a Relaxing Environment
When you’re home, create a relaxing environment for yourself.
Turn your home into a haven.
For example, turn off glaring overhead lights and use scented candles in place of lamps.
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Play soft music.
Have an especially comfortable place to sit.
Declutter your space so that you won’t sit on a toy, whether it’s your child’s or your cat’s.
Research confirms that being surrounded by clutter is stressful and that women, in particular, are stressed out by it. (3)
4. Make Time for Meditation
Get in the habit of meditating after work — it’s one of the best ways to de-stress.
A regular meditation practice brings about changes in your brain that make you more resilient to stress. (4)
There are many kinds of meditation, but one of the best for relaxing at the end of the day is the body scan meditation.
To do this meditation, you systematically focus on relaxing your arms, your hands, your legs, and other body parts to release any stress hiding there.
You can follow along with this quick body scan meditation audio produced by the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center.
If possible, make time to meditate once a day.
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Experiment with various guided meditations to see what works for you.
An excellent free app, Insight Timer, has literally thousands of free meditations to choose from.
If you like it, you can even incorporate additional, quick meditation sessions into your day.
Meditation master Leo Babauta has found that even a 2-minute mini-meditation is worthwhile to relieve stress. (5)
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5. Use Bath Time to De-Stress
Even the most hardened, stressed individual would have a challenging time maintaining their stress in a warm bath.
Hot water relaxes the body, and the mind follows suit.
So, an hour or so before bed, sink back into a relaxing bubble bath.
Experiment with your favorite scents.
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Many people swear by lavender as a relaxing scent.
Genuine lavender essential oil is especially relaxing and has been found to have potent anti-anxiety, antidepressant, and sedative properties. (6)
But the aromas of evergreen and flower scents like jasmine or rose are also soothing.
Hot water, bubbles, and fresh smells are natural enemies of stress.
Use them to send stress down the drain!
6. Exercise Your Stress Away
Exercise is a proven de-stressor.
Swimming is a very relaxing exercise because the body tends to relax in water.
Yoga classes, too, often have a de-stressing component as part of their routines.
Learn more —
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If you belong to a health club, check out their post-exercise offerings.
Saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs are all proven ways to de-stress. (11)
7. Dance Your Troubles Away
There is nothing like dancing around your living room to reduce stress. (12)
Dancing, especially exuberant and prolonged dancing, often leaves us drained, but exhilarated.
Choose music you really like, such as Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, or even old Fred Astaire — the man could dance!
Experiment with the timing of your dance routines.
For some people, dancing after they come in from work and change their clothes can work as the demarcation line between a workday of stress and their sanctuary of relaxation.
For others, early morning dance leaves them energized for the day.
8. Play with Your Pets
Your pets are companions that offer hours of fun.
If you have a dog, take him or her to the park or your backyard for regular games of fetch.
They like it, and so will you.
Learn more —
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If you have a cat, invest in fun toys that make for some interactive jumping and playing.
Don’t neglect cuddles with your pets.
Your pets aren’t only fun companions, they’re health boosters too!
9. Take Up a Hobby
Instead of de-stressing in front of the television with a glass of wine, take up a hobby that you can do after work.
Spend your evenings painting, sewing, researching genealogy, or learning to play a musical instrument.
Not only will a hobby help you relax, it will help keep you mentally sharp.
There’s recently been a revival in the craft of knitting.
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Learn more —
The Benefits of Coloring for Stress Relief
Knitters find the repetitive motion profoundly relaxing since it acts much like a meditation. (15)
Coloring books that are specifically designed for adults have become a popular de-stressing trend as well.
10. Take a Nap to Unwind
Many people swear by cat naps.
Twenty minutes or so of snoozing lets them wake up feeling refreshed and able to focus on the tasks at hand for a few hours more.
Set alarms and train yourself to cat nap, so that you’re not falling asleep at 7 pm and inadvertently waking up in the middle of the night.
Napping may seem like a waste of time, but some of the most productive and creative people in history, including Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and numerous US presidents, have been big fans of taking naps. (16, 17)
11. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
Don’t forget that you also need eight hours of quality sleep per night.
Sleep deprivation alone is enough to make you tense and irritable, as well as more prone to making mistakes and losing your temper. (18)
That said, it isn’t always easy to get to sleep if you’re tense.
Try listening to some soothing music before bedtime.
If the others in your household listen to television or music as you’re trying to sleep, invest in earphones — you may need complete quiet.
Also, adhere to a routine.
Many people can’t fall asleep merely because they are trying to do so at wildly different times each night.
How to De-Stress: The Bottom Line
There are many proven ways to wind down and de-stress.
Meditating, unplugging from electronic screens, listening to music, dancing, hanging out with pets, taking hot baths, exercising, and proper sleeping all can help.
The best activities to de-stress will vary from person to person.
It’s important to find a few that you will enjoy and stick with for the long haul.
About the author
Corinne Keating is a health and wellness journalist and blogger. When she isn’t writing for her blog Why So Well, she enjoys reading, hiking, and coffee.