group of people doing yoga in a yoga studio

10 Best Stress Management Activities and How They Help

September 22, 2023

Stress can have a lot of effects on your body, from tense muscles to digestive problems to anxiety and more. It can be difficult to know what to do to relieve stress. That’s why we’ve put together this list of some of the best stress management activities that you can try out to experience relief from the stress you’re feeling.

1. Exercise

woman working out on outdoor steps

If you’re feeling jittery or like your heart is racing, exercise may be a great stress management activity for you. Quick bursts of movement like running in place for 30 seconds or doing a set of jumping jacks or push-ups will briefly get your heart rate up. This will activate neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which can improve your mood and relieve some of that stress and anxiety you’re feeling.

2. Deep Breathing

A tried-and-true stress management activity is focusing on your breathing. After just a minute or two, this activity can be effective in relieving stress. Breathe slowly and deeply from your diaphragm, and try to focus all your attention on the breaths you take. This type of breathing exercise has been shown to have calming effects on both the central nervous system and cardiovascular system. This activity may help improve mood, attention, and levels of cortisol–the stress hormone.

3. Dancing

woman dancing alone at home

Dancing is an excellent activity for stress management. Put on your favorite playlist and just let loose. Not only is dancing good exercise, but it also relieves stress by engaging the mind and triggering positive memories associated with the songs you play. Dancing will take your mind off of the stress you’re feeling and can put you in an overall happier mood. You can dance with others or by yourself in private. Either way, you can feel less stressed and more inspired after a short dance session.

4. Massage

If you feel the effects of stress in your muscles, working out the tension with a massage can be an effective stress management activity. If you can’t get someone else to give you a massage, you can give yourself one. When your skin is massaged, sensory receptors in the skin send signals to the brain to let it know it’s safe to relax. Giving yourself a massage can also make you more aware of where the tension is being held in your body. This means you can then consciously relax those areas when you’re feeling stressed.

5. Puzzles

hand putting together a puzzle

If you are experiencing mental effects of stress instead of physical effects, you can try giving your mind a problem to solve for stress relief. If you feel your mind spinning in circles and focusing on stressors, solving a word puzzle or organizing something can help. Problem-solving tasks like these give your mind a task to focus on, and you’ll likely feel calmer and better able to deal with whatever is causing you stress afterwards.

6. Taking a Bath

A warm bath is a great stress management tool. Not only is a warm bath soothing for tense muscles, but it also changes your body temperature, which causes your sensory system to basically reboot. You’re essentially turning it off and starting it again with calming sensory stimulation. Adding other sensory stimulators like calming music and fragrant essential oils or soaps can also add to the calming effects of a bath.

7. Using Your Hands

close up of hands knitting

Focusing on your senses is great for stress management. The sense of touch is especially helpful in bringing you back to the moment and getting you out of your own head. Do something mindlessly tactile like popping bubble wrap or sorting change. Or, do an activity that requires more focused hand movements like knitting or coloring. These repetitive tasks can be meditative and calming while also giving your mind something to focus on.

8. Baking

There are so many stress relief elements involved when you bake. This activity can be a great sensory experience by forming the dough with your hands as well as providing both a delicious smell and taste, thus stimulating many of your senses with one task. Baking is also an activity that requires focus and planning, which activates your mind. It can be an excellent way to distract your mind from the stress you’re feeling while doing something enjoyable.

9. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

woman lying on yoga mat

Progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR, has been found to help reduce anxiety and encourage calm breathing. This stress management activity involves lying down and relaxing, then tightening, holding, and releasing each muscle in your body one at a time. Start with your toes and move up to the top of your head, tightening and releasing each muscle as you go. Make sure you do this slowly and methodically, and don’t forget your facial muscles, too.

10. Cleaning

Cleaning has a lot of stress reducing benefits because it’s a project that doesn’t require too much planning but still requires some focus and physical activity. Tasks like wiping down your countertops, washing dishes, or vacuuming between your couch cushions can give you a sense of achievement to lift your mood. Being mindful and gently focusing on the task at hand can boost the stress relief effects of cleaning.

More Ways to Combat the Effects of Stress

These are some of the best and easiest activities you can try out for stress management. If you tend to feel the effects of stress in your gut, you may experience digestive health issues. Too much stress acts like a toxin to your gut and body, so it may help to try these ways to rejuvenate and detox your body naturally combined with some of the above stress management techniques for optimal relief.

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