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

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22. Take a deep breath.

Deep breathing—which encourages the full exchange of oxygen in the body—activates your body’s calming parasympathetic response and lowers levels of inflammatory compounds linked to stress.

Do it right by pushing your belly out on your inhale and contracting it in when you exhale. (In other words, your stomach should rise when you breathe in and shrink when you breathe out.) Pro tip: Hold your hand on your stomach as you breathe to ensure you’ve nailed it.

23. Phone a friend.

A strong support system is one of the best weapons in the face of stress. In fact, a 2011 study in the journal Developmental Psychology found that simply being around one close friend kept subjects’ cortisol levels down during stressful situations. If your bestie isn’t in close range, simply giving them a call or shooting them a text should do the trick.

24. Get some sun.

Exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin, which is associated with boosting one’s mood. If you don’t have time to spend the entire afternoon in the park, even just taking a few minutes to walk outside and soak up some rays could turn your stressful day around.

25. Spend some time in nature.

In a 2018 study published in the journal Health & Place, researchers concluded that there is a direct link between time spent in green space and reduced stress levels. (The Japanese call it “forest bathing.”) Our bodies were designed to be in and near green spaces, forests, or bodies of water, the researchers note, and that’s why we find a bucolic milieu so agreeable.

Can’t get to greenery in the middle of the day? Some research suggests that even looking at photos of nature can calm stressed minds.

26. Shout your favorite curse word.

When in doubt, swear your stress out. When researchers at Keele University in Staffordshire, England, asked a group of volunteers submerge their hands in freezing cold water in 2017, they found that using strong language helped participants keep their hands in for longer. The researchers’ conclusion? Foul language can be a useful way to tolerate pain and duress.

27. Eat your greens.

One of the easiest (and healthiest!) ways to de-stress is with more fruits and veggies. A 2012 study from the University of Otago found that students who ate more fruits and vegetables also tended to feel calmer and happier—and conversely, those who didn’t consume enough greens were more stressed.

28. Drink tea instead of coffee.

Highly caffeinated cups of coffee can give you much-needed energy boosts—but if you consume too much, you can end up elevating your stress levels and the hormones associated with them. So, instead of coffee, try tea. In a 2007 British study published in Psychopharmacology, people who drank black tea throughout the day experienced a 47 percent drop in their cortisol levels 50 minutes after performing stressful tasks compared to just a 27 percent drop in the placebo group who received fake tea.

29. Bust a move.

We know that both exercise and music are surefire ways to de-stress, so combining these into one activity—dancing—is a great way to calm down even faster.

30. Look at a happy photo.

With Facebook and Instagram, it’s never been easier to find and enjoy images that you associate with your own happiness. So, next time you’re feeling out of sorts and stressed out, revisit pictures from a great vacation, a fun wedding, or a night on the town, and remind yourself just how fun life can be. You’ll be hard-pressed to stay stressed when you’re staring at some of the best moments of your life!

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