stress management activities in meditation

9 Fun Stress Management Activities & How They Help Our Brains Over Time

Stress is a natural reaction to pressure or a threat. However, being stressed for a long time negatively affects our mental health. If left unmanaged, stress can manifest in symptoms ranging from temporary stomach aches to chronic headaches. It can leave us vulnerable to diseases in extreme cases. One way to alleviate some of its detrimental effects is through stress management. This article will discuss the best stress management activities, their advantages, and some tips on incorporating them into your daily routine for optimal living.

Why Do We Experience Stress?

What are some reasons we experience stress? Our body is hard-wired to react to different stimuli to protect us. As we go through our day, we typically encounter things or experience events that our mind perceives as threatening. A stressful event could be a simple scenario like being stuck in traffic. We get stressed over it because it puts us at risk of being late, which signals our survival instincts to kick in and spikes cortisol levels. The hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of the brain, goes into overdrive and sets off the alarm systems in the body. On the surface, being stuck in traffic might seem minor. But the motivators and triggers that put us under duress are deeply primal. The same is true when faced with more complicated, highly stressful situations like being involved in a public scandal, having a heavy workload, or receiving bad news. Your body reacts to these situations, no matter how big or small, as threatening. As a result, you may feel like you are constantly getting attacked with no way out. Your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, and a surge of stress hormones goes into the bloodstream to try and deal with the perceived stressor. Many things can cause stress. It is almost impossible to walk through life without experiencing this human emotion. The silver lining is that you can regain control over this emotion and prevent stress from taking over your life.

The Effects of Stress On Our Lives

Stress can manifest in various ways. It is often a catalyst for the development of mental illnesses. For people who are already susceptible to mental health problems, stress can trigger or, worse, exacerbate their existing issues. Examples range from anxiety to memory and concentration impairment. Physically, stress can lead to different diseases. Chronic stress exhausts our body’s hormones and organs and leads us to form habits that may be detrimental to our overall health. For example, stress can keep us up at night, induce us to eat unhealthy food, or prevent us from being physically active.

Stress Management Activities: A Way To Fight Back

Remember that the natural stress response is essential for our survival. It is a healthy response if you manage it properly and promptly. This section will tackle several ways to manage stress and prevent it from usurping your happiness. You deserve a breather to help manage stress and mitigate its effects. The following stress management activities are a form of self-care, and we highly recommend incorporating them into your weekly or daily routines.

1. Find a hobby you love.

Hobbies help us unwind from daily stresses by giving us something fun to look forward to after a day of working or studying. They provide an opportunity to spend time with friends and family and give a sense of fulfillment and achievement. There are a lot of hobbies that you can try. Find something you are passionate about or interested in outside work or school. Hobbies include painting, playing video games, reading books, creating videos, and more. Getting deep into a hobby also leads you to discover your passion or life purpose, so keep pursuing whatever interests you!

2. Try a new sport.

Research has shown that sports participation can help reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem among children and adults. During training, blood flow increases throughout the body, which helps release endorphins — natural chemicals produced by the brain that make us feel energetic — while reducing anxiety-inducing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. It doesn’t even have to be something new. You can return to or continue playing a familiar sport. Routine and athletic discipline can refocus our minds on the game rather than fixating on a stressful situation. It is an excellent way to develop mindfulness, which we will discuss in the next section.

3. Try mindfulness or meditation.

Mindfulness has recently become popular thanks to its ability to reduce stress and improve mental health. Mindfulness-based activities include meditation, yoga, and tai chi. There are resources available online if you don’t have access to in-person classes. If meditation sounds too intimidating or complicated, you can try simple breathing exercises to start. Slow breathing has proven effective at calming the central nervous and cardiovascular systems. Strong meditation practices can significantly improve attention, mood, and cortisol levels in the long term.

4. Exercise daily.

yoga stress management activities In conjunction with item three, try exercising first if you need more time to commit to a full-on sport. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress because it releases endorphins that help improve mood. It also helps us sleep better at night and boosts our energy during the day. Everyone needs to exercise regularly to avoid health issues that tend to onset later in life. Getting a quick burst of movement helps regulate your heart rate. Whether you can only do ten pushups or 25 jumping jacks, a surge of activity gets your heart moving and healthy neurotransmitters (like dopamine and serotonin) firing. So, go and stretch it!

5. Treat yourself to coffee and conversation with a friend.

Social connection is essential for mental health and well-being, especially during stressful times. People with strong social relationships typically experience less depression and anxiety. The more we let our emotions out in a safe space, such as with trusted loved ones, the more we feel at ease. Sharing our worries is also a great way to gain a new perspective on a problem bugging you. It is relieving to get validation from people that genuinely care about you. But if you do not feel ready to do this, you can also try going on online advice forums that allow for anonymity. This way, you’ll feel safe without being too overwhelmed with pressure.

6. Get involved!

Connect with an organization or do charity work that allows you to help others in need. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or animal shelter has been shown to boost self-esteem and reduce anxiety. Being a part of a community, online or offline, is helpful as you feel connected to people with the same interests. Similar to the effects of other stress management activities, it also redirects your mind to causes more significant than your worries.

7. Play a board game with family or friends.

games as stress management activities Playing games is one of the best ways to de-stress after a long day. Games require a light-hearted focus, allowing for simultaneous quick-witted banter and mindfulness. It also helps improve communication, an essential part of building healthy relationships. Try hosting game nights with friends or family. Let your inner child out when playing with people you love the most or even with strangers!

8. Sing along to your favorite song.

Singing triggers positive feelings and emotions that reduce stress. You don’t have to belt out high notes like Beyoncé to feel good about yourself. You can also take it up a notch and go to karaoke with friends. Singing along makes for a good bonding experience. Choose songs that match your mood and sing your heart out!

9. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)

EFT is a self-help technique that involves tapping your fingertips on specific body parts to create a balance in your energy system. Tapping stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which signals multiple systems in our body to relax and stay calm. EFT is a method approved by the VA for veterans and special forces for trauma debriefing. It can also help address the root of your stress by increasing positive emotions. As positivity increases, our unconscious mind decreases our anxiety response. Please consult with your health practitioner to ensure all the activities we suggested are safe for you. You can also seek out professional advice when it comes to dealing with stress. Stress is a natural part of life and can even help us grow by motivating us to change our lives. But when the stress becomes overwhelming, mental and physical health can suffer. It’s essential to make time for healthy activities. Explore our blog to learn more about other activities that can help manage stress.