Anxiety and stress are natural parts of life—in fact, they can even be beneficial in certain situations. If, for example, you need your wits about you in a dangerous situation, anxiety can help sharpen your senses and focus your attention.
But if your feelings of stress and anxiety are extreme and long-lasting, chances are you want to know how to navigate and mitigate those feelings—especially if they’re interfering with your day-to-day life. While you can’t always control the cause of your stress, there are a few ways to manage the symptoms of stress just by shifting some daily habits. Take a look below at 7 research-backed ways to reduce your stress levels.
Research supports the idea that exercise is a great way to burn off anxious energy. For example, a 2015 review of 12 randomized controlled trials found that exercise may be a useful treatment for anxiety. Then a 2019 meta-analysis found that people with anxiety disorders who reported high-level physical activity were better protected against developing anxiety symptoms than those who reported low physical activity. The bottom line? To get rid of stress, get moving.
Studies have shown that meditation is a research-proven way to reduce stress. A 2013 meta-analysis of more than 200 studies of mindfulness among healthy people found that mindfulness-based therapy was especially effective for reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Meditation may also help with anxiety caused by stressful circumstances; a 2018 review showed that mindfulness can also help treat people with specific problems including depression, pain, smoking and addiction.
Take a quick trip to your local grocery store and you’re sure to find more than a few teas that boast of their stress-reducing properties. But how do you know which teas to trust? According to a small 2018 trial, research suggests that drinking chamomile tea can alter your cortisol levels, which help with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
Who knew reducing stress could be as easy as grabbing a pencil and some paper? Writing about thoughts and feelings that arise from stressful or traumatic events—sometimes called expressive writing—can help some people to cope with these events. In fact, a study by researchers at the University of Chicago found that students who were anxious about taking tests who wrote about their thoughts and feelings before an exam earned better scores than those who did not. Another 2016 study found that creative writing was a successful way for children and adolescents to manage their anxiety.
Aromatherapy, a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being, has been around for thousands of years. The idea is that smelling certain soothing plant oils can help ease stress and anxiety, but certain scents will work better for some than others. If you want to try aromatherapy, you could start with lavender, which a 2012 study suggests can help with an elevated heart rate in the short-term and insomnia over the long-term.
According to research from Stanford University, more than 50 percent of people live in urban areas—and by 2050 that number is supposed to rise to 70 percent. While studies have shown that ;living in such urban areas has been linked to mental illness, there is also evidence that something as simple as a 90 minute walk through a natural environment can decrease the frequency of repetitive negative thoughts. Make some time to get out of town, or go for a hike or bike ride if you can.
Funnily enough, research has shown that simply chewing gum can cut back on anxiety and stress. In a study carried out by researchers at Swinburne University, people who chewed gum while multitasking under taxing conditions experienced reduced stress and anxiety, lower cortisol levels, and increased alertness and performance when compared to the control group. While the underlying mechanisms behind these effects are unknown, they may be due in part to the fact that chewing gum leads to improved blood flow to the brain.
Many people deal with chronic stress and anxiety, dealing with a wide range of symptoms including nervousness, agitation, tension, a racing heart, and even chest pain. If this is you, take comfort in knowing that there are medical treatments available in addition to the natural remedies mentioned above. If you struggle with extreme anxiety, reach out to you healthcare provider today to get the help you deserve.