If stress feels like it’s your default emotion, you’re not the only one. Gallup’s 2019 Global Emotions Report found that, on average, 35% of the world’s population experiences stress or worry at any point in their day. Notably, the United States is one of the most stressed out nations in the world with Greece, Philippines, Tanzania, Albania, Iran, and Sri Lanka right up there, too.
Being a perpetual ball of stress isn’t just bad for your mental state, but it affects your overall physical health, too. While lifestyle changes – like removing yourself from a toxic relationship or tackling your finances – are key to curbing stress, there are a handful of simple hacks that can help you chill out, too. We asked experts to share their best advice.
1. The Hack: Practice Saying “Thanks, But No Can Do.”
Learning how to say no isn’t easy, but kindly declining non-priority requests can make a world of difference in your stress levels. This is especially true if you’re a people pleaser, and if you’re an introvert who refuels on alone time. “When we are stressed, it’s important to set boundaries to avoid putting even more on our plate,” says Dr. Carin Laue, a clinical psychologist and regular contributor to the gthx gratitude app. Instead of overextending yourself, she says to practice saying, “Unfortunately, I can’t do that right now,” or “Thanks for thinking of me, I really wish I could, but I have to say no.”
2. The Hack: Just Breathe
Breathing might seem like a no-brainer (umm…isn’t it something we do every day all day without thinking?) but mindful breathing techniques can squash stress real fast.
“As adults, 80% of us no longer breathe the way we are intended to. Our breathes are shallow and never fully expand the diaphragm to provide enough oxygen to all our organs. An important organ that lacks that oxygen during high-stress time is the central nervous system, and taking deep breaths will calm the system by sending oxygenated blood,” explains Dr. Cascya Charlot, a Harvard educated medical doctor.
Everyone from military soldiers to yogis practice mindful breathing and it works. The next time you’re feeling stressed, place your hand on your stomach and breathe in through your nose for five seconds, hold for five seconds, then release out of your mouth for another five seconds. Repeat three times.
3. The Hack: Strike a Child’s Pose
You don’t need to be a seasoned yogi to assume the child’s pose, a very grounding and comforting yoga posture that physically forms a protective cocoon over your body that creates a feeling of being held. You can do this any time of the day, too – when you wake up, on your lunch break, or at the end of the day.
Christa Quattrocchi, a registered yoga teacher and holistic wellness expert for Mindbody, says to find a place you feel comfortable making contact with the floor, get into this simple position, and then breathe in and out deeply 10 times. This two-minute video provides a great tutorial on the pose. She adds, “With your head below your heart, you also gain all of the benefits of an inversion, such as increasing circulation, producing endorphins, and relaxing the nervous system.”
4. The Hack: Drink That H20
Water is basically a fix for everything, and that includes your stress levels. “The research on the importance of drinking water is solid,” says Dr. Laue. “The benefits are numerous and include improved digestion, weight loss, healthier skin, brain regulation, a boost in energy, and it can help increase your immunity to fight off illness. Further, and here’s the important part, getting enough water can improve your mood.” Find yourself a pretty reusable water bottle that’s easy to clean and large enough to hydrate you all day long. Then, get into the habit of filling it every morning and setting yourself targets to finish it a different times, like drinking two bottles before lunch. Lots of health and fitness apps also have water consumption trackers if you’re a data-tracking gal.
5. The Hack: Try an Adaptogenic Supplement
“Powerful herbs, like ashwagandha, have been known to help reduce stressors in the body by training the body to adapt via your adrenals,” explains Quattrocchi. “They are widely available in powder form and can be easily added to your coffee or matcha lattes for a sneaky point of entry. You can also opt for a capsule form to take with your other daily vitamins.” Some brands that make adaptogenic supplements include Moon Juice, Gaia Herbs, and Hum Nutrition.
6. The Hack: Sweat it Out with a Friend
This stress-busting hack is two-fold in that in combines exercise with social engagement. Dr. Charlot explains that “exercise lowers your body’s stress hormones – including cortisol – and helps release endorphins which can improve your mood.” Dr. Laue adds that research indicates that engaging in a social, physical activity can significantly boost your mood, as well
“Remind yourself that fun is not a reward; it is a responsibility. Make time to try new things with people you enjoy hanging out with,” urges Dr. Laue. “Try an escape room, a weekend hike, a yoga class, or a self-defense class. Put a fun hang out on your calendar today and notice how it improves your mood.”
Are there any other ways you like to combat stress when it hits you hard? Share your own personal hack with us in the comment section below.