Politics, pandemic, and social media got you stressed out? Don't want to adult today?
Here’s a list of simple things you can do right now to lower those cortisol levels and improve your mood:
Exercise: If you feel like you want to run away from a stressful situation, get running! Exercise lowers the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, as well as stimulates the production of endorphins. Endorphins are our body’s natural painkillers and they also lift our mood. So go for a run or get under some weights.
Stretch: Reducing stress through physical movement doesn’t have to be intense. You can also reduce stress through stretching. When we hold stress in our bodies, our muscles tense up. Stretching interrupts the stress response and helps to let go of the stress “stored” in the body. We also usually tend to take deeper and slower breaths when stretching, which also helps to calm the mind and relax the body.
Take a hot bath: There are many health benefits to taking a hot bath. A hot bath can “improve blood circulation, calm the nervous system, and help relieve intense pain.” Your skin releases endorphins in warm water and your muscles relax. Plus soaking in a hot bath for an hour burns the same amount of calories as taking a 30-minute walk! Talk about multitasking!
Drink a glass of wine: Pour yourself a glass of red and relax. Red wine contains resveratrol, which can actually “block enzymes linked to stress, depression, and anxiety.”
Drink herbal tea: If you want a non-alcoholic option, go with an herbal tea like chamomile, peppermint, green tea, or rose tea. Herbal teas contain L-theanine, which helps to reduce stress, improve sleep, and lessen PMS.
Watch something funny: Laughter actually is medicinal. When you laugh, you take in more oxygen, your muscles relax, your cortisol levels drop and your endorphin levels rise, you boost your immune system, and you lower your blood pressure. So tune into a stand-up comedy show or your favorite sitcom for some out-loud laughing.
Take a nap: We all know that sleep is good for us, so indulge in a nap. Both cortisol levels and blood pressure drop during a nap, which lowers your risk for heart disease.
Talk to your mom: One study found that talking to your mom on the phone for 15 minutes diminished the stress response and released oxytocin the same amount as if your mom were there with you in-person hugging you.
Journal: You don’t have to devotedly journal every day to receive the benefits. Using a pen and a notebook to work out a stressful situation or to get worrying thoughts out of your head on an “as-needed” basis is just as helpful in relieving stress and finding resolutions to your situation.
Pet your dog or cat: If you’ve been waiting for a sign to get a pet, this is it. It’s been scientifically proven that petting a dog or cat for just 10 minutes significantly lowers your cortisol levels.
Garden: Boost your mood and lower your stress levels with just 30 minutes of working with plants. Plus your garden and yard will look fabulous!
Talk a walk in nature: If you don’t have a green thumb, that’s okay. You can just walk through nature instead. Walking in nature reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. It can disrupt rumination and lower blood pressure. This is the perfect motivation to go to the park, beach, or mountains!
Clean your house: When I get stressed, I clean, as do 61% of Americans. Cleaning and organizing reduce anxiety by allowing us to feel in control of our environment, to take action, and to put it right.
Meditate: Mindfulness meditation is particularly helpful in lessening anxiety. Focusing on the present prevents you from getting dragged down by all-consuming, worrying thoughts.
Get a massage: It could be a back, foot, or hand massage, they’re all beneficial! Massage can drop your cortisol levels by 30%, as well as raise your serotonin and dopamine levels by about 30% too.
Do a good deed for someone else: Research shows that doing small acts of kindness for others, even something as small as opening a door for a stranger, can reduce stress and negative emotion, as well as buffer our wellbeing from the negative side effects of stress. The more intentional we are about doing good for others, the more we shore up our emotions and mental health against stress.
Practice gratitude: We all have many things we can express gratitude for, from big things like being alive to small things like a good cup of coffee. Focusing on what we do have reduces negative emotions like envy and lessens stress. Developing the habit of gratitude can actually make you healthier and improve your relationships too!
Being an adult often feels synonymous with being stressed. Take a moment and destress with one of these ideas before moving on to the next thing on your list.