30 Science-Backed Ways to Relax When You’re Totally Stressed Out

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8. Chew some gum.

Here’s something to chew on: One 2009 study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that chewing gum helped reduce cortisol levels and perceived anxiety among study participants.

9. Do something kind for someone else.

When we’re feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, many of us feel unable to allot time or energy to anyone else’s problems. However, research has shown that the act of giving can activate the area of the brain associated with positive feelings, which will both lift your spirits and alleviate stress.

Whether you help someone lift a stroller up a flight of stairs or pay a toll for the person driving behind you, doing something good for someone else can go a long way in the fight against anxiety.

10. Hit the gym.

According to the Mayo Clinic, virtually any type of exercise can be an effective stress reliever. That’s because breaking a sweat increases the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, which in turn improves your mood and takes your mind off of whatever it is that’s stressing you out.

11. Listen to some soothing music.

Unsurprisingly, one of the easiest ways to de-stress is with some soothing music. One 2013 study published in the journal PLOS One found that when subjects were exposed to stress-inducing tests, listening to calming sounds like classical music and recorded rippling waters helped them keep their cortisol levels down and return to a state of equilibrium post-stressor.

12. Play with your pet.

Add stress relief to the list of benefits of owning a pet. A 2002 study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that, when compared to people without pets, pet owners had overall lower heart rates and blood pressure levels, reacted less intensely in stressful situations, and were better able to recover following anxiety-inducing encounters.

13. Take a boxing class.

If you’re desperate for a quick fix, consider taking your aggression out on a punching bag. Not only has boxing in the face of stress been shown to alleviate anxiety, but it’s also a great total body workout!

14. Try yoga.

Yoga has been shown countless times to have just as many mental health benefits as it does physical health benefits. And while most yoga practices are 60 to 90 minutes long, holding a single pose for a short period of time can yield great stress-busting benefits.

15. Don’t forget to stretch!

A little bit of stretching goes a long way in the fight against stress. When researchers from Spain’s Universidad de Zaragoza had subjects stretch for 10 minutes every day for three months in 2013, they found that they were less anxious, happier, and more flexible than those who didn’t partake in stretch breaks. So even just a few minutes of stretching every day is enough to significantly soothe your stress.

16. Spend some time away from your phone.

Constant cellphone vibrations and email alerts keep us in fight-or-flight mode by stimulating bursts of adrenaline. Sure, adrenaline served our ancestors well when they ran into lions and tigers—but these days, it only serves to stress us out unnecessarily.

So, the next time you’re feeling overly stressed, make sure to power down your phone for a little while. You may miss a few texts and Twitter alerts, but at the end of the day, your mental health and mood will thank you for the break.

17 . Meditate.

Meditation is one of the greatest stress relief tools there is—and you needn’t do it for hours on end to experience its mind-cooling benefits. According to a 2014 meta-analysis published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, mindfulness meditation can improve anxiety levels, improve mental health, and help with depression. Ready to meditate until you’re feeling mellow? Download an app like Headspace, which will walk you through guided stress-busting meditation sessions.

18. Get it on.

Feeling stressed? Sεχ might just be the solution! “Sεχ is a powerful, powerful stress-buster,” says Daniel Kirsch, Ph.D., president of the American Institute of Stress. “It releases endorphins and induces deep relaxation.”

19. Kiss your partner.

A faster way to de-stress that’s just as fun as having Sεχ? Kissing your partner. Research published in 2009 in the Western Journal of Communication found that locking lips unleashed chemicals that ease stress hormones in both Sεχes.

20. Write down the things you’re grateful for.

Research has shown that taking a little time to be grateful for what you’ve got is a potent stress buster. One 2015 study published by the American Psychology Association looked at approximately 185 people with heart failure and found that being grateful and writing down feelings of gratitude helped them feel less anxious and less depressed.

“Journaling about gratitude is a reliable exercise,” study author Paul Mills, Ph.D., said in a press release. “The more things you can identify, the more your perception of wellbeing begins to change.”

21. Squeeze a stress ball.

Stress balls, fidget spinners, and other tactile playthings can recenter your drifting focus away from stressful thoughts and toward something more tangible. Plus, who doesn’t love squeezing a squishy stress ball?

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