In times of adverse and demanding circumstances, we experience the feeling of stress. Family, work, relationships, finances, school, and health conditions can all contribute to a feeling of unmanageable stress. Stress may initially help someone to become more productive, but at a certain point, we become fatigued, exhausted, and even have declining health. Stress is mediated by a hormone produced by our adrenal glands called cortisol and can have detrimental effects throughout the body and mind. In fact, skin conditions such as psoriasis,[2,3] acne, and eczema have been associated with high levels of stress. Change, conflict, frustration, and pressure are all types of stress that someone may feel. Everyone experiences stress differently, so it is important to find your own personal method of managing and reducing stress to improve overall health and wellness. Below are 10 ways that may help reduce stress:
1. Talk or Write It Out. Try speaking about your stressors to friends, family, or a therapist. Several studies have found that discussing acute stressors with others can help to adapt to stressful situations through reasoning and validation.[6,7] Writing about your stress in a journal may also help to understand your own feelings and perception of the stressful circumstances.
2. Exercise. Participating in regular physical activity can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and may also improve mood disorders. Studies have shown that exercise can increase a chemical in the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which can help the brain to adapt to changes and stressful situations.
3. Meditate. Meditation is an ancient and spiritual practice, with its earliest records found in old texts of Hinduism called the Vedas, and later developing in religions such as Buddhism and Taoism, all with a focus of spiritual growth and ultimate concentration. The term mindfulness is used to describe a type of meditation “where you bring your full mind to an object…and where following your breath improves your awareness of being in the present,” says meditation teacher and author Lodro Rinzler. Clinical studies have found that mindful meditation may be an effective modality for reducing stress.[11,12]
4. Massage. Studies have demonstrated that massage may be an effective mind-body therapy for reducing stress and chronic pain.[13,14] One study even demonstrated that perceived stress and blood cortisol levels were significantly reduced following classical massage therapy. There are many different massage techniques, including Swedish massage, deep tissue, hot stone, reflexology, acupressure, Ayurvedic massage, Shiatsu, aromatherapy massage, and others.
5. Yoga. Yoga consists of combining poses, breathing, and relaxation or meditation. It is a well-known practice to reduce stress. Not only can yoga reduce stress, but may help with sleep, reduce blood cortisol, lower blood pressure, and improve fitness.
6. Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy uses essential plant oils, such as lavender, jasmine, chamomile, and peppermint to promote wellness in a variety of ways. These oils may be diffused into the air or used in massage to promote relaxation, stress relief, and even to alleviate skin disorders such as acne. Studies have found that aromatherapy inhalation was an effective stress management method and improved overall mental health.[18,19]
7. Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a practice in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) used to balance or unblock your energy, or “Qi” (pronounced chee) and reduce illness. Acupuncture may be an effective modality to reduce stress.[20,21] It has even been used to improve symptoms in skin conditions such as acne and wrinkles.
8. Music. Listening to music may help you relax your mind and allow your stress level to ease. In fact, one study found that after 20 minutes of listening to classical music, subjects not only reported lower stress, but they actually had lower blood pressure. Listening to music you enjoy may be a simple way to lessen anxiety and take a breather from a stressful situation.
9. Crafts or Hobbies. Activities such as knitting, painting, and carpentry are all examples of activities that may help you tap into better emotions and remove yourself from chronic stress. Trying new things or doing hobbies with friends are great options for reducing stress.
10. Sleep. How many hours of sleep are you averaging per night? This could be a major factor influencing stress. In fact, one study reported that adults who typically slept less than 8 hours per night reported significantly higher levels of stress than those who slept 8 or more hours per night. Improve sleep hygiene by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day, and avoid the vicious stress and sleep cycle. Sleep deprivation and poor quality of sleep may lead to dysregulation of our hormones, including excess cortisol that can worsen stress.