The shortening days and start of a new school year are just a few of the changes that come with the beginning of fall. While some enjoy the crisp air, the dropping temperatures, rain, and added responsibilities (plus upcoming holidays) can also lead to added stress.
Here are 10 tips to help you ward off these stressors and sail through the remainder of the year with a calm mind.
1. Exercise, even if it’s only for a few minutes
Many people know that exercise can help reduce stress but find it difficult to make the time or stay motivated to exercise regularly. The good news is you don’t need to go all-out to benefit.
Even a brief ten-minute walk may be enough to set your body on the path towards relaxation as it starts to release endorphins. If you can manage to incorporate regular exercise into your routine, you may see additional physical, mental, and emotional benefits.
2. Practice deep breathing
You may have been told to take a deep breath when you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious. There’s science behind this common advice, as deep breathing techniques have been shown to slow people’s heartbeats, stabilize blood pressure, and offer long-term benefits that may lead to less stress and anxiety.
Meditation dates back thousands of years and is known to provide a variety of benefits, including stress relief. You don’t need any external props or tools to meditate, although ideally, you can find a quiet place for your practice.
If you’re not sure how to start, you could look for one of the many free guided meditations online. There are also several apps that have courses and guided meditations specifically designed to address stress.
4. Do a body scan
A body scan is a meditation technique that can be incorporated into a more substantial meditation practice or done on its own. Start by taking a seat or lying down and turn your focus to one part of your body.
Perhaps you start with your left foot, noticing if it feels hot, cold, sore, relaxed, achy, or some other sensation. Tune in to the feeling and then slowly move from one part to the next until you’ve covered your entire body. The intent isn’t necessarily to relax each body part, simply to observe how it feels right now.
A full scan can take 10 to 15 minutes, or longer, and regularly doing scans has been shown to help improve relaxation and lessen insomnia and chronic pain.
5. Tense then release each muscle
If you’re looking for a more active way to release tension, combine a body scan with tensing, holding, and then releasing each muscle group. You can start with the top of your body by arching your eyebrows and wrinkling your forehead. Try to clench for about 20 seconds before releasing, take time to notice how the release feels, and then move on to the next muscle group.
6. Recite a prayer or mantra
Repeating a word or short phrase (i.e., a mantra) is another form of calming meditation. If meditation seems to “out there” for you, you could replace a traditional mantra with a word or phrase of your choosing. It could be something empowering, a current focus of yours, or a religious verse.
The repetition can be a tool which allows you to let go of other distractions and stressors. When you finish, you may find you return to your usual day with a new perspective and a calmer mind.
7. Reexamine your sleep schedule
A lack of sleep can cause stress. Unfortunately, you can get caught in a bad cycle as stress can also make it difficult to fall asleep. Good sleep habits, such as keeping a regular sleep schedule, could, therefore, be important to reducing stress.
While many people may not be able to get as much sleep as they’d like, there are a few simple changes that could help. For example, avoiding stimulants (such as caffeine or alcohol) in the evening, limiting light and screen exposure at night, and having a pre-bed routine could help you fall asleep quicker and lead to higher-quality sleep.
8. Talk to a friend
A quick phone call or lunch date with a trusted friend could help you get a reprieve from your stressors. You may get a new perspective on your situation or suggestions for how to approach a particularly tricky problem. You may not come away with a grand insight, but you’ll hopefully have a little fun—which is de-stressing on its own.
9. Listen to relaxing music
The right tune can alter your frame of mind and help put you in a happier place. There are playlists of calming music online, and songs that are created to help people de-stress. However, any song that evokes joy in you could do the trick.
10. Start a hobby
Whether it’s a sport, craft, reading, or something else entirely, getting engrossed in a new hobby could help you escape whatever’s causing stress—even if only for a few hours. Plus, learning and practicing new skills can make you feel accomplished, which may give you confidence to tackle other situations without stressing.