Winter is pretty laid back, all things considered. Work mostly moves slowly, at least post-holidays, and evenings are spent in hibernation, confined within the comfort of your own home, lounging on the couch and lazily flipping through the latest Netflix offerings.
Then spring arrives. As the weather warms up, work starts to get a little crazier, errands and obligations start to pile up and all of a sudden you’re forced to spend most of your free time outside the comfort of your own home. It can be jarring and, for some, extremely stressful.
It’s important, amid all the work and social obligations, to make time for your own health and wellbeing. If you’re feeling stressed this spring, either by the sudden onslaught of personal obligations or because of a personal tendency toward anxiety, try a few of the following tips.
Not all of these will work for everyone, but each of them has been tried and tested as effective against stress. Find the one that works for you!
Hit the Gym
Exercise is a potent anti-stressor. Partly, this is owing to the release of endorphins you get when you exercise – those feel-good chemicals the body releases to interact with your brain’s receptors. Partly, exercise is good for mitigating stress because it encourages self-confidence. Partly, hitting the gym lowers stress because it improves your quality of sleep, allowing you to feel better rested and less on-edge throughout the day.
And, finally – perhaps most importantly – regular exercise reduces the stress hormone cortisol, quite literally reducing the way your body and mind interact with daily stressors. It doesn’t take much – even just a half an hour of exercise every other day is enough for you to see appreciable improvements in your ability to chill out!
Go Axe Throwing With Friends
Axe throwing places are all the rage right now. Although the game is pretty simple – you essentially throw axes at a wooden target, competing with friends to see who’s got the best aim – it has a surprisingly deep following. One of the reasons for that is that axe throwing is a fantastic stress reliever.
Axe throwing actually combines three well-known stress relievers. One is exercise – the bit of exercise you get from throwing axes repeatedly releases those aforementioned endorphins and lowers that stress-inducing cortisol. Secondly, axe throwing is a social sport, and studies have shown that conversing and laughing with others is a powerful way to reduce stress. Finally, axe throwing lets you get a little of that pent up aggression out, as you throw the axe at the wooden target.
If you live in or around a big city, chances are there is a BATL near you (a Backyard Axe Throwing League), so give this three-for-one stress reliever a try.
Mix in Aromatherapy
Often written off as simply “flavour of the week” alternative medicine, essential oils, like the kind used in aromatherapy, have actually had their efficacy demonstrated by scientific systematic reviews. They really do work.
Whether it’s a drop of lavender in a home diffuser, an orange blossom candle at the side of a rose-scented bubble bath, or a ylang ylang face steam to start the day – these pleasing scents carry the ability to calm the nerves and cool our stress signals. Plus, they make the house smell pretty good too!
Mindfulness wasn’t really fully understood until recently. But when a Harvard scientist began studying the brains of long-time meditators, he found something truly exceptional. Not only were the meditators far calmer and more compassionate, but their brains had actually physically changed to reflect it. Their amygdalas, the part of the brain responsible for the stress response, was physically smaller in the brains of long-time meditators.
The scientist also found that long-time meditators had sharper memories. The prefrontal cortices – the part of the brain associated with memories and self-resolution – of 50-year-old meditators looked identical to those of 25-year-olds. In short, if you want to reduce stress and stay sharp well into life, it’s time to start meditating!
Find a Four-Legged Companion
This one barely needs explaining, because most of us already know it intuitively. Furry friends, like dogs and cats, have a profound calming effect on people. When you pet a cat, or when a dog rests their head in your lap, it’s hard to feel stressed about other things. This, it turns out, might boil down to science.
According to research, being with a four-legged friend prompts a release of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone most commonly associated with mothers and their newborns. That’s great news for people with pets, but if you don’t have a pet you still have options: you can volunteer for a shift at the local SPCA, or simply take the leap and get a pet!
Spend Time in Nature
Spending time in an oxygen-rich environment like a forest is going to do wonders for your spring stress. Especially since the springtime is when many plants are start to proliferate and bloom. Even a simple stroll through a wooded area will suffice to make you feel a little calmer, a little less on-edge.
Don’t let spring get the best of you. Try one – or all seven – of these stress-relief tips proven to help you chill out, stop and smell the roses!