When you think of stress, you may automatically recall your heart racing during a period of emotional or physical strain. Stress is your body’s reaction to a certain challenge or demand, and it can make you emotionally or physically anxious. However, not all stress is bad. The American Institute of Stress highlights that any definition of stress should include good stress, or eustress. While eustress can improve our performance, distress can cause it to decline. Thus, learning to decrease negative types of stress (while maintaining eustress) is necessary and healthy. Here are four proven techniques straight from the American Institute of Stress.
1) Viewing nature.
If you’re a parent, you may have heard the suggestion to take your fussy, distressed baby outside. Often times, this is like hitting the “reset” button. Whether you’re taking a walk or just getting some fresh air on the porch, nature works wonders for us from the time we’re small.
Viewing nature is one of the top ways that you can decrease stress according to the American Institute of Stress. However, there is one caveat. Nature must be real. One study was performed with college students where 30 individuals sat in front of a window while performing low-stress tasks. Another 30-individuals sat in front of a large plasma screen TV depicting nature. Upon monitoring their heart rates, the study found that the students viewing real nature were able to restore their level of calm following the stressful activity faster than those viewing the depicted nature. In fact, TV with nature ended up being no better than a blank wall.
The takeaway? Nature can be a quick, easy, and free way for you to decrease your stress. You can walk, sit on a porch or just take your work outside. The presence of nature — as long as it’s real – is helpful!
This one likely doesn’t come as a surprise. Exercise always tops the list when it comes to decreasing negative stress and increasing eustress. The American Institute of Stress says the benefits of exercising can be achieved in as few as 20 to 30 minutes. This means that you can start with just a little bit of walking several times of the week to de-stress and feel better. It seems like a pretty good trade-off even if you’re not ready to hit the gym!
3) Getting crafty.
Knitting, crocheting, and sewing have all seen as much as a 51 percent increase in the last 10 years according to the American Institute of Stress. If you’re wondering why it makes such a great activity to decrease negative stress in your life, one potential reason is that it requires concentration on repetitive movement. Your concentration on a single action taken over and over again means that you’re refocusing your mind and body without realizing it. Often, individuals report that they’re able to breathe more deeply and feel relaxed during this time. Even if this is an activity you engage in for 30 minutes or an hour a day, you’re still setting aside time to reset and engage in self-care.
Like all of the crafts above, yoga allows you to focus on your breathing and movement, just in a different way! Yoga is unique because it is not exclusively ‘just exercise’ (although many people may consider it to be). Rather, yoga is a spiritual discipline that focuses on bringing harmony between the mind and body. All types of yoga focus on breathing, meditation, and relaxation. This can be a phenomenal way to reduce negative stress in your life, and there are a variety of styles of yoga to select from.
While distress can feel alarming when it occurs, it’s important to remember that not all stress is bad (distress). Eustress can help improve your performance when it’s maintained at a healthy level. Using these coping techniques will allow you to reduce negative stress so that you can feel better and reduce any medical impacts on your body such as high blood pressure or a weakened immune system.
This content is informational and educational, and it does not replace medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a health professional.
For more information, visit the American Institute of Stress.
If you are interested in measuring your perceived stress level, click here.