27 Stress Relief Activities to Keep Your Cool
To help you make a conscious effort to regulate your stress levels, we’ve created a list of stress relief activities fit for any scenario. With actionable items (including more than just meditation and breathing techniques), there’s a stress management activity for anyone, anywhere.
In addition to indulging in a few chocolate covered treats, use the collection of activities below to help you lower your blood pressure and send stress packing. Try out a few, make your favorite ones part of your routine and keep the others up your sleeve for the tensest situations.
Here’s to keeping your cool!
Stress Relief Activities You Can Do at Home
You may not be able to zen out at your desk or practice yoga on your commute, but you can in the comfort of your own living room. We’ve included stress relief activities you can do with your partner or kids that may help cheer them up too!
Browse through some of the best relaxation techniques to try out at home. Don’t be afraid to let it all out (and even look a little silly). It’s worth it if it makes you smile!
- Laugh, even if it’s forced. It’s true what they say: laughter is the best medicine. A good chuckle stimulates circulation and soothes tension in your body. Laughter is also known to reduce levels of stress hormones including cortisol, epinephrine and dopamine. So, it’s scientific! Tell a joke, make a funny face or fake laugh until it turns into uncontrollable laughter. We dare you to try it!
- Meditate for 10 minutes. Simple meditation doesn’t take long at all and can help you control stress, improve relaxation and decrease anxiety. You’ve definitely heard this stress relief tip before, but following these simple instructions will make it seem less intimidating. Whether sitting or standing, close your eyes and simply focus on your breath. Think about the act of filling and depleting your lungs with air and try not to let your attention stray. After 10 minutes of deep focus, you might be surprised at the benefits you’ll feel from setting an intention and creating a place to quiet your mind.
- Treat yourself to some dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has been found to decrease the stress-related hormone, glucocorticoid. So stock up on cookies, cake truffles and all your favorite sweets.
- Dance like nobody’s watching. You might not be home alone, but convince your family to join in on the fun too! Challenge your kids or significant other to a dance off and create routines that can be performed right in your living room. If you’d like to do something a little less formal, put on your favorite song and just start moving and grooving. Once those endorphins kick in, you’ll be feeling better in no time, when the body feels good the mind does too.
- Give someone a big bear hug. Human contact is an automatic stress relief, so give your loved ones a big bear hug. A warm embrace has been related to the release of oxytocin, often called “the bonding hormone,” so not only will you feel better, but the ones you’re hugging will too. It’s time for hugs all around.
- Look through happy photos. Looking at images of loved ones and happier times is proven to help reduce stress and decrease anxiety. The snapshots serve as a simple reminder that we’re loved and cared for, which in turn makes us feel safe. The next time you’re feeling stressed, whip out the old photo albums. You can also set up an at-home photo booth with your family to capture moments that’ll keep you smiling even when life gets rough.
- Pucker up. Kissing causes your brain to release stress-relieving endorphins, which in turn create a quick and natural mood boosting elixir just for the two of you. Share a kiss (or two) with your partner because it’ll make you feel warm and fuzzy.
- Create a “gratitude sandwich.” This isn’t a typical sandwich you’d have for lunch, but it’s definitely a great one to start serving up. Sandwich one thing that is going wrong between two things that you are grateful for. Write them down or say them allowed to really focus in on the good things in your life. In a world where most of us spend too much time in our own minds with negative thoughts, it’s important to challenge these and get on the road to feeling better. Who’s ready for a sub?
- Smell your partner’s shirt. It might sound weird or even creepy at first, but research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, proves that the scent of a romantic partner has been found to help lower stress levels. Try wearing your partner’s shirt to bed. Or if you’re in a long distance relationship, swap shirts the next time you see one another.
- Get 8-10 hours of sleep. Only 20 percent of adults say the quality of their sleep is very good or excellent. On top of that, being stressed out makes it more difficult to get the proper amount of rest. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important! Being well rested improves your stress levels as well as your mental and physical health. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, try taking a warm bath before bed, meditating or doing some deep breathing exercises.
Outdoor Stress Relief Activities
There’s something rejuvenating about the great outdoors, so if you’re feeling stressed, you might as well get out there. It’s not only calming to be outside in nature, but it’s scientifically proven to help you reduce stress! With vitamin D, fresh air and nature’s beauty for you to take in, you’ll be waving goodbye to your worries in no time at all.
The stress relief activities below will entice you to get out into nature and boost your mental and physical well-being. Whether you’re looking for something active or for entertainment, the ideas below will help you get started!
- Go for a 10 minute walk. Make it a point to take a ten minute break and walk around the block. Set a timer on your phone sometime during the day as a friendly reminder. Sunshine and nature will naturally boost vitamin D and increase levels of serotonin in the body.
- Take a trip to the dog park. Pets have healing powers, literally! Petting animals is proven to increase the release of feel-good endorphins and reduce your heart rate. A study also found that conducting difficult tasks becomes less stressful when a pet is present.
- Participate in a beach or park clean-up day. Feeling the sunshine on your skin is already boosting your vitamin D intake and reducing stress, but that on top of doing something nice for your community will fill your day with good feelings and less anxiety.
- Have a picnic and pack a slice of watermelon. Gather your friends and family together for a picnic! Consider hosting one outside in your backyard or at a local park or beach. Wherever you do decide to lay out a blanket, be sure to pack a slice of watermelon. This sweet fruit contains lycopene, which is linked to stress relief.
- Try out a new hiking trail nearby. Switch up your normal outdoor routine or walk and try out a few hiking trails near your home. New experiences are linked to feelings of excitement, so don’t be afraid to try out a new trail. When you start to replace negative or worrying thoughts with positive ones, you’ll notice a difference in yourself.
- Try your hand at gardening. Gardening serves as a calming activity that will give you a break from everyday stress. Plus, it helps you to get your daily dose of sunshine. Nurturing something outside of yourself will help distract you from your own negative thoughts and pressing matters that might be causing anxiety. Pick a few flowers to plant, then tend to and watch them bloom before your eyes.
- Attend an outdoor concert. So maybe a hike or walk just isn’t in the cards for you this week; that’s okay. Get your girlfriends together and head to an outdoor concert. Don’t forget to dance a little bit too! The combination of being outdoors and getting your blood flowing all help to make you a happier you!
- Check out a farmer’s market and pick up some avocados and bananas. These two market items are loaded with potassium, a vital mineral for keeping blood pressure low and reducing stress.
Stress Relief Activities You Can Do at Your Desk
Those of us who have held a job know the pressure of work-related stress. In fact, 65% of Americans cited work as a top source of stress (according to the American Psychological Association). With the majority of our days spent at the office, it’s important to know how to cope with everyday stressors. It’s not realistic to think you can lay out a mat and start your flow in the hallway of the office or dance like nobody’s watching, because all of your coworkers are. Instead, try the following relaxation techniques that you can do right at your desk!
Browse through our office-approved stress relief activities!
- Go to your happy place. Sometimes it’s all about visualization and tapping into all of your senses. And by all, we mean all. Start by thinking of a relaxing moment in your life, when everything seemed to be at ease. Where were you? What did you see, smell or feel? Tapping into these specific details is a great way to refocus your attention and overwhelm your body with feelings of ease.
- Try deep breathing. You might be wondering how to relax your mind. It’s all about deep breathing. Concentrate on relaxing your body from your head to your toes as you inhale and exhale. This will increase the supply of oxygen to your brain and lead you into a state of calm.
- Goof off a little. Keep a stash of funny stuff somewhere near your desk or crack a joke in the kitchen. Don’t forget that laughing at yourself is a good way to stay humble and a nice reminder not to take life too seriously.
- Watch a funny video. If goofing off on your own isn’t working out for you, try watching a funny video. Laughter has been shown to reduce the physical effects of stress while boosting creativity and productivity too!
- Diversify your snacks. Having something to look forward to throughout the work day can help to get your mind off of all the things that may be worrying you. The right snack can also give your blood sugar a boost and improve your overall energy. Think dark chocolate, blueberries and yogurt.
- Listen to music. Create a soothing playlist for yourself and put it on whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed. Music has a unique link to our emotions and the power to relax the mind. Pick a slow and soothing soundtrack or try out a white noise playlist. (source)
- Take a moment to gaze out of the window. If there’s absolutely no way you’ll be able to make a trip outside during your day, at least take a moment to gaze out of the window. Getting your mind away from the screen can actually make you more productive. (source)
- Write yourself a positive message. Your desk is bound to be filled with notepads and a container of pens, so grab one and jot down a positive message about yourself. Try “I am the best [insert what you do].” Our brains are constantly running and there’s a high percentage of our thoughts that are negative. Cancel out that negative self talk with something positive.
- Get a desk diffuser. Did you know that scents can have an impact on your stress levels? Grab a desk diffuser and try out lavender essential oils for stress relief.
- Take one thing at a time. This one is easier said than done, but it’s worth the effort. Instead of thinking about all the things on your plate, grab your notepad and make a list of the tasks you’d like to accomplish today. Then, focus on one thing at a time, physically cross items off your list as you accomplish them.
Simple Ways to Beat Stress
As you can see, there are many ways to beat stress. What’s most effective for you may be different than someone else, but to give you a quick reminder of simple and fun stress-busting activities, we’ve created this visual. Add it to your Pinterest board or print it out for a reminder of ways you can decompress when you’re feeling overwhelmed!
If you’re still looking for a few more ideas on how to relieve stress, check out our collection of positive quotes. Don’t forget to cheer up those near and dear to you as you work on yourself too, these simple ways to help someone having a bad day should inspire some ideas.
EurekAlert! | Journal of Personality and Social Psychology | APA | Calvin | NCBI | Psych Central