19 Unexpectedly Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Increase Resilience

Take a moment & rewind with these quick activities

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Unsplash / Matthew Henry
Unsplash / Matthew Henry

1. Swap diet soda for water 

Aspartame, a sweetener used in many soft drinks such as Diet Coke, has recently been shown to reduce the creation of important neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. These are important to keep us motivated and feeling good. So while diet drinks might help your weight, they’re not so great for your mind, so swap those for a glass of pure water instead.

2. Get hot

Getting hot during the day is surprisingly useful for your mental health and for good sleep. Our sleep rhythm depends on temperature, so to fall asleep easier and stay asleep, it’s great to warm up during the day and then drop the temperature at night. Doing a workout is a great way to heat up your body during the day. Or try a sauna – they can help with depression, guard against stress, boost the immune system, and even heal muscle tissue.

3. Tell a friend you’re proud of them

Imagine if someone texted you out of the blue just to say how proud they are of what you’re doing. Making sure your friends know that you see and respect them will not only strengthen that connection in the future, but make you feel better right now. Lots of research shows that doing things for other people really helps our own sense of wellness and mental health, so make compassion and empathy a regular part of your life.

4. Mind map something you’re worried about

Pick anything on your mind and write out – with pen and paper – why it worries you, causes, solutions, long term effects, all the potential benefits. Make your concerns concrete and externalised. Focus on keeping your words constructive as you do this. However, if you find you are really struggling with something, speak to a professional. Reaching for help when you need it is a key part of resilience.

5. Stand in the sunlight

We are built for sunshine. It regulates our mood, our sleep, and our biological processes through vitamin D that’s synthesized through sunlight. Plus, it can just make you feel happy to be alive in the world.

6. Visit a pet store

Whenever work stressed me out, I would visit the local pet store to see the kittens. The joy of playing with baby animals can seriously not be overstated. Better yet, get a pet yourself! The research shows that pets drastically reduce stress, and in 2013 the American Heart Association put out a review of the science of pets, showing that they can decrease mortality risk and improve mental health.

7. Throw out your lightbulbs…

…If you have stark white lights. Our sleep cycle is moderated not just by room temperature, but also by light temperature. Famous scientist Rhonda Patrick uses lightbulbs that change color to a very soft red after sunset. If you can’t afford color changing bulbs, settle for just keeping one or two warm (more orange) lamps on, as opposed to cold (more blue) lights.

8. Reframe stress into challenges

Stress can result in anxiety if handled poorly, or achievement if handled well. Instead of thinking about your worries as problems, think of them as challenges – and if possible, as opportunities. This changes the brain’s fight or flight response and makes you more creative and determined.

9. Set an alarm

Our circadian rhythm (or sleep cycle) moderates our mood. Waking up at the same time every day is really helpful regulating your body – no matter how much you feel that sleeping in would be better.

10. Skip rope

We all know that exercise protects against stress. Robert Butler from the National Institute on Aging once said; “If exercise could be packaged in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.” Skip rope, in my opinion, is one of the easiest and most fun exercises you can do at home.

11. Clean your room

The state of your space sometimes reflects the state of your mind. Sometimes a lot of stress in your life result in a messy space since you don’t get time to clean. And next thing you know, the mess in your space adds more stress to your life in a sort of messy cycle. Starting with a cleanup at home can be a small win that sets about a big cleanup in your life – try it!

12. Do something extravagant for someone

Travel out of your way just to hug someone. Get someone flowers for no reason. Write a collection of twenty haikus to express your appreciation. Mail them a letter even if they live next door. These are the memories that will mean the most, and these are the best parts of life, the moments we live for.

13. Answer this question: “how have you grown in your life?”

Sometimes we get wrapped up in our failings. We think about right now, and about tomorrow, and we worry. But when you look back at your life, where are all the areas that you’ve improved over time? Give yourself some kudos and some perspective.

14. Get a virtual friend

Sometimes it helps to just chat and get things out of your head. While friends may not always be available, these days there are virtual friends and coaches that use AI to give you a judgement-free zone to talk about whatever is on your mind. Some will even suggest techniques and ways to think more constructively.

15. Eat more cherries

When it comes to stress, inflammation is not your friend. Cherries have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and improve sleep quality – in one study, people with insomnia drinking cherry juice increased sleep time by 84 minutes.

16. Magnesium supplements

When your body is stressed, it burns through magnesium. Modern water filtering strips water of magnesium, so find a good supplement or eat more spinach, nuts, or even bananas.

17. Name your plants

It’s weirdly nice to come home and water Bernard the peace lily, pull out weeds around Barbara the chili plant, and dust Franklin the fiddle leaf fig. Naming your plants improves a sense of connection with them, increasing the effects of wellness through giving and caring, even if only to your plans.

18. Cut out sugar completely

We have conclusive evidence now that sugar is detrimental for gut health, sleep, and most functions of the body. Sugar contributes to stress and anxiety, and cutting it out completely does amazing things for your mind. If it says sugar, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, barley malt, dextrose, maltose or rice syrup on the label, probably best to avoid.

19. Take preventative action

By thinking ahead about what can go wrong in some area of your life, you can take action. Perhaps there are even things you can do now to totally avoid issues in the future. Such as flossing your teeth to avoid needing a root canal. Or servicing your car regularly to avoid it breaking down! This is a great way of building resilience proactively. Of course, there are many other ways to build resilience that can help reduce stress even more.

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