Stress affects everyone in varying degrees. And what’s stressful to me — paying the bills, writing a great article, organizing and cleaning the house, having a mile-long to-do list — may not be stressful to you.
But regardless of what ruffles you, it helps to have many stress-relieving options on hand to either stave off stress or minimize it when you feel the tinges of overwhelm.
To get the scoop on ways to deal with stress, we spoke with Dr. Darlene Mininni, Ph.D, the author of The Emotional Toolkit and a contributor to Dr. Drew’s TV show Lifechangers. Here, she shares a list of quick and even unexpected strategies that can help.
Following these tips you’ll also find additional pieces on minimizing stress.
1. Let the sunshine in.
Stress can sink your mood. But a little bit of sunshine can lift your doldrums. According to Mininni, “Sunshine is Mother Nature’s natural mood booster. When you’re exposed to natural light, you raise your body’s natural feel-good chemical, serotonin, and that makes you feel good.” She suggests pulling back the curtains at home, opening up the sunroof of your car or taking a walk for 15 to 30 minutes.
2. Kvetch away.
In 2001 clinical psychologist Barbara Held, Ph.D, penned the book Stop Smiling, Start Kvetching: A 5-Step Guide to Creative Complaining. In it, Held explains that the right kind of complaining can make you feel better and even connect you to others so you don’t feel so alone about your troubles. Kvetching, she notes, can help you unburden yourself. (You can learn more about the book here.)
But the key is to complain productively. “Complain to your heart’s content, but only for 15 minutes or less. More than that, and you could get stuck in negativity,” Mininni said. It’s also important to brainstorm solutions. Mininni suggested asking yourself: “What can I do to make this better?” If there’s nothing you can do to improve the situation, then consider how you can accept it.
3. Crank up your iPod to your favorite tunes.
Listening to music can soothe your nervous system and boost your mood, Mininni said. For instance, a 2009 study found that listening to music during bedrest after having open-heart surgery helped patients relax and released the hormone oxytocin. There’s a large body of research that shows music’s calming effects.
It doesn’t seem to matter what music you listen to. Just keep in mind that “Upbeat music will energize you if you’re feeling down, and soothing music will calm you if you’re feeling anxious,” Mininni said.
4. Watch a funny film with friends.
Laughing produces fewer stress hormones, leading to greater happiness, Mininni said. And “If you watch a funny flick with other people, you’re 30 times more likely to laugh than when you’re alone.” (Here’s how else laughing can help.)
5. Savor the little things in your life.
Being grateful for the little things in your life — such as eating a good meal or even finding a good parking spot, Mininni said — can help you better cope with stress and improve your mood. There’s good evidence to show that gratitude contributes to well-being and life satisfaction.
(Also, see this list of research studies. In particular check out Emmons and McCullough’s 2003 study “Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.”)
More on Stress Relief
Check out these additional pieces for building your stress-relief toolbox:
- 10 Practical Ways to Handle Stress
- 4 Ways to Change the Way You Deal with Stress
- 5 Ways to Stress Less
- 6 Myths About Stress
- 6 Ways to Stress Less at Work
- 20 Tips to Tame Stress