How to Destress Naturally and Improve Your Mental Health

Stress is your body’s natural reaction to harmful situations, both real or perceived. You feel it when your workload gets overwhelming, when you get an unexpected bill in the mail, and when you’re navigating relationship difficulties. 

According to the American Institute of Stress :

  • 77% of people experience stress that impacts their physical health
  • 73% of people experience stress that impacts their mental health
  • 33% of people report feeling extreme stress
  • 48% of people have trouble sleeping due to stress
  • About 50% of Americans are experiencing their stress levels getting worse, not better

While a little stress is okay, too much can make you mentally and physically sick. 

Understanding how to destress can prevent this, give you the crucial time you need to calm down, and face the problems at hand. 

Here are a few tips on how to destress naturally to improve your physical and mental health:

Practice Deep Breathing

Try the square breathing technique. It’s simple, yet effective, and goes like this:

  1. Inhale your breath and count to four.
  2. Hold your breath and count to four. 
  3. Slowly exhale as you count to four.
  4. Hold your breath and count to four again. 
  5. Repeat this process for a couple minutes or until you feel calm.

Focus solely on your breathing, and not on your other thoughts. Practicing this breathing technique helps reset your mind, calm your nerves, and let you return to the task at hand with a clean mental slate.

Go for a Walk

Multiple studies prove that regular physical activity improves your mental health and well-being. In one study, 185 university students participated in aerobic exercise two days a week for six weeks. After six weeks, students reported less perceived stress.

Regular exercise has also been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression .

Practice Self-Care

Natural nurturers (and people with others frequently depending on them) often forget about self-care. If you’re not functioning optimally, helping others becomes much more difficult. Sometimes you have to put yourself first. 

Here are a few ways to destress while practicing self-care:

  • Eat a healthy meal 
  • Taking a calming bath
  • Go for a walk
  • Practice yoga or stretching
  • Read a good book
  • Fill your space with calming scents 

Limit Your Screen-Time

During the pandemic, studies found that American teenagers doubled their screen time in May 2020 from 3.8 to 7.7 hours  per day… that doesn’t even include school-related screen time!

Extended time on social media is linked to stress, anxiety, and depression in teens. Also, people who get two or more hours of screen time at night can substantially disrupt their melatonin surge, which you need to fall asleep.

Have Less Caffeine

Like screen time, consuming too much caffeine can also impact your sleep, which leads to increased stress and anxiety symptoms

Caffeine is healthy in moderation, and everyone has different tolerance thresholds. For most of us, it’s recommended that we keep our caffeine intake below 400mg per day , which is about 4-5 cups of coffee. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, your threshold could be much less than 400mg. 

Watch Something that Makes You Laugh

Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine. 

You’re taking in more oxygen when you laugh, which stimulates your heart, muscles, and lungs, and releases endorphins, one of your “happy hormones.” 

Laughing also jump starts, then deactivates your stress response, leaving you with a feeling of relaxation. 

The next time you’re feeling stressed, switch to TikTok or YouTube and find viral videos guaranteed to crack you up. 

Know When to Say “No”

Between wanting to be there for others and having FOMO (fear of missing out), saying “no” is easier said than done. However, when you’re taking on more than you can handle, you need to establish boundaries. If not, you’re going to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and eventually hit a wall. 

Boundaries are important in work and in life. If you’re overworking yourself, you may need to take a mental health day. 

You might also need to disconnect from your social circle for a couple days to recharge. If there are people who tend to create drama or cause you too much stress, you may want to consider distancing yourself from them altogether. 

See Your Best Friend (or Man’s Best Friend)

While people who cause drama can increase your stress levels, spending time with your best friend or a close friend circle reduces your cortisol production. 

We tend to be more relaxed when we’re with our best friends, because we don’t have to feel “on.” We usually laugh more, recall happy memories, tell great stories, and have a good time in general. Even if your conversation is about something sad or stressful, like a breakup, having your best friend there can ease the pain and make you feel at home. 

If your best friend is unavailable, your pets are another great resource for stress relief. 

Cuddle

Human touch can have a calming effect on us, especially when we’re cuddling with a loved one. Multiple studies show that positive physical contact can help relieve feelings of stress  and loneliness. 

In our guide to sexual health, we also highlighted how sexual contact can reduce stress and make you feel better.

Whether you’re having intercourse or enjoying a cuddle session, positive physical contact helps release oxytocin and lowers your cortisol levels. As a result, you’ll experience lower blood pressure and a reduced heart rate. High blood pressure and an elevated heart rate are two common physical symptoms of stress. 

Try Supplements

Multiple vitamins and minerals can impact your stress response and regulate your mood. If you’re experiencing a nutrient deficiency or imbalance, it could impact your mental health and your ability to deal with stress. 

Several studies show that specific dietary supplements can help you destress. Some supplements that impact stress include:

To better understand what supplements can help you stress, check out our health and wellness services.

How to Destress: Final Thoughts

Life is stressful—especially during these last few years. Don’t feel like you have to shoulder every burden, because the weight of the world will eventually get to you. 

By following these tips on how to destress, you’ll get back to functioning at your best, and be able to help others in need.

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