15 Fun Stress-Relieving Activities
Stress is an unavoidable reality of life. In this article, we walk you through the differences between good and bad stress and offer you 15 fun stress-relieving activities that you can do to help you relax and unwind so that you can live your happiest, healthiest life.
Fun stress-relieving activities are essential to helping reduce stress. Stress is a common part of everyday life with around 70% of adults in the United States reporting that they feel daily stress or anxiety. (1)
Good stress is your body’s way of preparing you to meet a challenge and has a number of significant benefits. According to Jonathan C. Smith, PhD, a professor of psychology at Roosevelt University, founding director of the university’s Mindful Initiative, and a prolific author of books on relaxation practices: “Experiencing short periods of stress is just fine, in fact, it’s even healthy.” Interestingly, “Living a stress-free life is unhealthy and dangerous. We need a little bit of challenge to keep us alive.” (2)
However, different types of stress, including long-term stress, are known as “bad stress.” This bad stress damages your body and often leads to illness or negative health impacts. Bad stress may be caused by pollution, EMFs, or internal stress experienced for a prolonged period of time.
What Does Bad Stress Do to My Body?
Oxidative stress is involved in many pathological processed and may play a role in the development of:
- Chronic inflammation: This includes and is not limited to diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Neurodegenerative diseases: This includes Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Oxidative stress may modify [essential proteins in our bodies, such as amyloid-beta peptides] in a way that contributes to the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain. This is a key marker of Alzheimer’s disease. (3)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Muscular degeneration
- Faster aging
- Chronic kidney disease
- High blood pressure
15 Simple Ways to Reduce Stress
Exercise is well-known as one of the best ways to reduce stress. One research study found that individuals who participated in yoga were significantly less tense, anxious, fatigued, confused, stressed, depressed, and angry after participating in a class. (4) Another study also found exercise to reduce mortality in patients with coronary artery disease. (5)
2. Take Supplements
Supplements that have been shown to help reduce stress include rhodiola rosea, melatonin, glycine, ashwagandha, L-theanine, and B complex vitamins. (6)
3. Listen to Calming Music
Listening to your favorite music can be a great way to lift your mood and decrease stress. One study found music helps reduce anxiety and distress and improves physiological functioning in medical patients. (7)
Those who practice meditation regularly tend to experience a significant decrease in anxiety. (8) Long-term meditation has also been shown to produce changes in thought processes including decreased anxiety and increased hope. (9)
5. Light a Candle
Candles that use essential oils with calming scents are a great way to practice aromatherapy. Aromatherapy helps to reduce stress and improve sleep. Some great scents include lavender, rose, chamomile, sandalwood, and geranium. (10) (11) (12)
6. Write it Out
Writing can be very therapeutic. Try writing down a list of things you are grateful for. Another method you can use is to write down all your feelings of anxiety and stress and then tear up or burn the piece of paper. (1)
7. Reduce Caffeine
Ditch the energy drinks and decrease your coffee usage. Drinking drinks high in caffeine has been shown to cause jitters and anxiety. Help decrease these symptoms by reducing your usage. (1)
8. Spend Time in Nature
Nature is a grounding, therapeutic force. According to Frontiers in Psychology, spending just 20 minutes in nature can help lower stress hormone levels. Take time out of your day to take a walk, go on a hike, or even to just sit and enjoy nature. (13)
9. See Family and Friends
Taking time to be with supportive family and friends who leave you feeling happy and uplifted is a great way to reduce stress. One study found that “the strength of a person’s social circle—as measured by inbound and outbound cell phone activity—was a better predictor of self-reported stress, happiness and well-being levels than fitness tracker data on physical activity, heart rate and sleep.” So take a moment to see or call the people you love to help strengthen your relationships and reduce your feelings of stress. (14)
10. Try Art Therapy
Art therapy is an effective way to deal with stress. Art is able to help enhance your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It can be as simple as doing pen or pencil art, or if you have more time and money to buy charcoal, watercolors, or oil paints. (15)
Laugh hard and laugh often. Laughing is known to stimulate your heart, lungs, and other muscles. It also increases your endorphins and causes you to increase your oxygen intake, which helps soothe tension and release stress. The long-term effects of laughing include improving the immune system, relieving pain, increasing personal satisfaction, and helping you feel happier. (16)
12. Learn to Say No
One can relieve a lot of internal stress by simply saying “no.” “No” is a complete sentence. It can protect you from feeling overbooked and overwhelmed, it protects your mental and physical limits, and it helps prevent people-pleasing, which is draining and exhausting. (17)
13. Avoid Procrastination
Staying on top of deadlines and responsibilities is a logical way to reduce stress. Being late for a deadline is unnecessary and anxiety inducing. So reduce stress and stay on top of it. One way you can do this is by using the calendar on your phone or investing in a personal planner.
14. Spend Time With Your Pet
Pets can be beloved, valued members of the family who bring a lot of joy and happiness. Pets have also been shown to help reduce blood pressure and help create a sense of calm. So give your pet some love and start reducing your stress. (18)
15. Try Breathing Exercises
Pay attention to your breathing. Breathing has the capacity to decrease your heart rate, which in turn helps calm your body and your mind. There are many breathing exercises you can try; one exercise, known as box breathing, includes breathing in for a count of 4, holding for 4, breathing out for 4, and then holding for 4, and then the cycle is over. As you practice box breathing, you can slowly increase the time depending on what you are most comfortable with. (19) (20)
Experiencing stress is unavoidable, but how you handle it is totally within your control. So next time you feel those tell-tale signs — a fast beating heart, stilted breathing, sweating, or the fight-or-flight feeling — take a moment to use one of these fun stress-relieving activities to help calm your body and mind and to help you regain control over your situational experiences.