Stress is very common and it can result from a number of things: work, school, home, and even certain thoughts which can produce physical and emotional tension. Stress can be a good thing, as it’s our body’s response to change, but too much stress can cause mental and physical health problems. Fortunately, there are many things that can be done to relieve stress.
Exercise is a well-known stress management tool, but many people are intimidated by it. Luckily, there are different types of exercise for just about anyone, and all are beneficial for reducing stress levels.
Aerobics and Cardiovascular Exercises
Aerobic/cardio exercises are exercises that increase the heart rate. These can be low intensity, or high intensity. Examples include walking, cycling, or even swimming, but also running and jumping. The obvious benefit of exercising is that it helps you lose weight, but at the same time, exercising reduces several other health risks and can help manage chronic conditions. In addition to keeping stress levels down, regular exercise boosts your mood, strengthens your heart and other muscles, improves lung function, and helps control blood sugar levels.
Yoga and Meditation
Originating from ancient India, yoga is the practice of meditation and breathing along with specific body postures to bring harmony between the body and mind. Simple breathing exercises alone are great for stress relief, but combined with other yoga practices, it has even more benefits. Yoga itself improves your flexibility and strength, which is good for chronic pain, such as arthritis; the deep breathing exercises helps you to relax and get a better night’s sleep; and it’s a light form of exercise that aids in weight loss and improves circulatory health.
When it comes to relieving stress, movement isn’t the only thing that can relax you. Sometimes enjoying your favorite hobby has the same effect on your stress levels. Leisure activities, in combination with moderate exercise, both have positive effects on your health in the long run.
While being active has the biggest impact on your physical health, being creative has a bigger impact on your mental health. Painting, drawing, and other forms of art help you relax and unwind as an emotional release that is beneficial for people of all ages. According to the American Art Therapy Association, active art making and the creative process reduces distress, fosters self-esteem and self-awareness, and promotes insight. If you feel that you’re not creative enough, no worries. Just the act of creating art reduces stress, and even looking at art (such as visiting an art gallery) can reduce the production of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Gardening is another creative outlet that reduces stress. Just being outdoors can lower stress levels, as you’re exposed to sunlight and nature. Even the sounds of nature are known to promote relaxation and meditation. Gardening is also a peaceful activity that you can enjoy alone or with others. Even if you don’t have the space for an outdoor garden, you can start an indoor garden— which provides even more benefits by cleansing the air indoors and having plants inside can help brighten up your workspace.
Fishing can double as both exercise and a leisure activity. You get a lot of the same health benefits as you would with doing low and high intensity cardio, and you get the same benefits of being outdoors as you would with gardening. Fishing helps to improve your focus and patience, while also increasing your self esteem. Another surprising benefit of fishing is that it allows you to eat healthy. Many fish, such as trout, salmon, and tuna are full of omega 3 fatty acids that improve heart health and brain function. Knowing when and how to fish for the right fish will also help you be more successful in this activity.
It’s important to keep in mind that being active isn’t necessarily better than leisure activities and vice versa. Both are very important to your physical and mental well-being, and both are very good at reducing stress levels. A healthy balance of both allows you to live a healthy lifestyle.