6 Best Stress Relief Techniques to Improve Mental Health

Physical activity and other stress relief techniques can help relax your mind. (Image via Unsplash/Gift Habeshaw)
Physical activity and other stress relief techniques can help relax your mind. (Image via Unsplash/Gift Habeshaw)

Stress relief techniques are the need of the hour. It's no secret that emotional and psychological stress can wreak physical havoc on the body.

We’ve all heard about the mind-body connection and probably have our own stories of how things can go downhill physically and mentally during times of stress. Current scientific research has found evidence of stress having a link with physical and mental ailments.

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Top Stress Relief Techniques for Mental Health

Throughout our lives, we encounter stressful events, which can range from simple annoyances like traffic jams to more significant concerns, like a loved one's sickness.

Stress releases a barrage of hormones into the body, regardless of the reason of stress. That causes breathing to accelerate, muscles getting tensed up, and the heart pounding.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce stress and enhance mental health. Here's a look at six such techniques:

1) Breathwork

Breathwork is a straightforward yet effective technique. The process is not complex and can be as easy as taking long, calm, deep breaths (also known as abdominal or belly breathing).

Breathing helps you gradually detach your mind from bothersome ideas and sensations. People with eating problems can benefit most from breath concentration, as it can help them focus on their body in a positive way.

This strategy, though, may not be ideal for people who have health issues that make breathing difficult, such as respiratory diseases or heart problems.


2) Yoga, Tai chi and Qigong

These three ancient arts combine rhythmic breathing with a series of postures and flowing movements.

The physical aspects of these practices offer a mental focus that can help distract you from racing thoughts. They can also enhance flexibility and balance.

However, if you're generally not active, have health problems, or have a painful or disabling condition, these relaxation techniques might be too challenging to begin with. Check your readiness with a doctor before starting them.


3) Engage in More Physical Activity

The trick to stress management is movement. Get moving! (Image via Pexels/ Andrea Piacquadio)
The trick to stress management is movement. Get moving! (Image via Pexels/ Andrea Piacquadio)

Consistently moving your body can help if you're feeling stressed. In a six-week study involving 185 university students, aerobic activity for two days a week was found to considerably lower the stress brought on by uncertainty.

Self-reported depression is dramatically reduced by the exercise program. Additionally, regular exercise has been shown to lessen the symptoms of common mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.


4) Spend Time with Nature

Spending time outside is a crucial stress relief technique. (Image via Pexels/Mikhail Nilov)
Spending time outside is a crucial stress relief technique. (Image via Pexels/Mikhail Nilov)

Spending more time outside can help alleviate stress. Studies have shown that being in nature and spending time in green areas, like parks and forests, are excellent ways to manage stress.

According to a meta-analysis of 14 studies, individuals in college can benefit psychologically and physically by spending as little as ten minutes in a natural environment.

These markers include perceived stress and happiness. Although hiking and camping are excellent possibilities, some people don't like them or don't have access to them. You can look for green areas, like neighborhood parks, arboretums, and botanical gardens even if you reside in a city.


5) Mindful Eating and Drinking

By being mindful of what you consume, you reduce mental health concerns significantly. (Image via Pexels/Askar Abayev)
By being mindful of what you consume, you reduce mental health concerns significantly. (Image via Pexels/Askar Abayev)

Some of us turn to alcohol or binge eating to combat stress. Although these actions may appear to reduce stress in the short term, they may fact increase it. Stress effects can be exacerbated by caffeine as well but having a balanced, healthy diet can assist in reducing stress. Every aspect of your health, including mental health, is impacted by your diet.

Research has shown that people who consume a lot of ultra-processed foods and added sugar have greater perceived stress level. Chronic stress can cause you to overeat and gravitate towards meals that are very tasty, which can be detrimental to your general health and mood.


6) Awareness of Triggers

You become what you surround yourself with. If you are like most people, your life may be filled with too many demands and too little time.

For the most part, these demands are the ones we have chosen. However, you can free up time by practicing time management skills, like asking for help when it’s appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and reserving time to take care of yourself.

If we set unrealistic expectations and try to meet these demands, they can become triggers for stress, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.


Takeaway

Although stress is an unavoidable part of life, chronic stress takes a toll on physical and mental health.

Fortunately, several evidence-based strategies can help reduce stress and improve psychological well-being. Exercise, mindfulness, spending time with a pet, minimizing screen time, and getting outside more often are effective ways to add to your stress management tool kit.


Janvi Kapur is a counselor with a Master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.


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Edited by Bhargav