1) Move Your Body
When stress starts to feel overwhelming, the natural inclination is to take a load off, maybe vegetate in front of a screen for a while. The truth is, treating yourself to a little physical activity is a much better way to relieve that stress. Any form of vigorous exercise will send mood-boosting chemicals (like endorphins and anandamide) throughout your body. These natural compounds improve your mental wellbeing and reduce anxiety. In addition to the positive physiological effects, exercising is also a great way to distract yourself from intrusive thoughts. It even helps regulate your sleep schedule so that you can get better rest!
2) Breathe Deeply
The best way to relax when you only have a few minutes to spare is to take deep, calming breaths.
Fast, shallow breathing is a common effect of anxiety. Consciously making your breathing deeper and slower is an effective way to relax and reverse the trend. Scheduling regular deep breathing exercises is useful if you frequently experience problems with stress and anxiety. If you’re looking for structure and expert guidance, try taking a class in yoga, meditation or pilates. All of these disciplines feature lots of useful instruction on deep breathing.
3) Have Some Tryptophan
Eating is a common, instinctive reaction to experiencing stress. It’s not necessarily a bad one! If you snack on the right foods, you can actually be doing a lot to defuse stress and relax. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that boosts serotonin and melanin levels. These compounds elevate your mood and encourage sleep, respectively. Tryptophan-rich foods are great choices when you need to relax. Healthy eating choices with lots of tryptophan include nuts, turkey, chicken, soybeans, and cheese.
4) Seek Out A Hug
Human contact seems to have a powerful mood-boosting effect, and research into the phenomenon only backs up what we know instinctively: Hugging and cuddling are terrific stress-reducers. Physical contact with another person does great things to our hormones. It reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and boosts levels of oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” Don’t have a human pal handy? Never fear! You can get the same sort of relaxing hormone rebalancing from playing with a pet.
5) Put On Some Music
Have you ever noticed that listening to your favorite music can snap you out of a bad mood? Scientific studies have shown that this is an effective and verifiable way to lower stress levels. Research has investigated the positive effects of music in a wide range of different situations. Not only can background music slow the accumulation of stress in everyday life, but playing music in even the most extreme high-stress situations (e.g. surgery) can have a soothing effect. If you want to use music to unwind, let your own taste be your guide rather than picking “relaxing” genres. Play whatever sort of music has boosted your mood in the past.
6) Treat Yourself To A Little Chocolate
Chocolate isn’t just a delicious treat and a traditional comfort food; it’s also a scientifically-verified tool for improving your mood. Chocolate contains many highly beneficial chemicals and minerals. Phenylethylamine boosts your endorphin levels, and anandamide (a neurotransmitter) has a calming effect. Chocolate also has lots of magnesium, which is a potent promoter of relaxation. Feel free to enjoy a (reasonably-sized) chocolate treat the next time you need to relax and unwind!
7) Enjoy A Little Pampering
Setting aside time for some indulgent, pampering self-care is a great way to de-stress and relax. If you have room in your budget, why not make the treat more luxurious by letting experts handle your pampering? Book a session at your local salon or spa! Remember that there are DIY at-home alternatives that are kinder to your bank account, too. You could simply run a bath and light some candles to create an indulgent, relaxing retreat in your own bathroom.
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