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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

How to Relieve Stress: 9 Quick Relaxation Techniques

How to Relieve Stress: 9 Quick Relaxation Techniques

According to The American Institute of Stress, finding one single definition of stress is difficult, since everyone experiences it in their own way.

We can reference the age-old Epictetus quote that says, “people are disturbed not by a thing, but by their perception of a thing.” If we subscribe to this ideology, we can see how the statistics for stress are on the rise, with the latest numbers averaging 70% of the United States population experiencing symptoms of stress. Not only that, but these symptoms have turned to physical manifestations in the body in the form of disease, as well as mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.[1]

In our fast-paced world, finding stress is easy. With too much going on, and too many tasks to handle, stress is the simple by-product of having too much on our plate, with not enough hours in the day.

The leading causes of stress have become work/career, money, and the future of the world (whether politically or socially within local communities). Stress at work has become the unfortunate driving force, with an estimated 80% of workers reporting a stressful work environment.[2]

When we’re feeling stressed, there are a number of physiological changes that our body undergoes: headaches, fatigue, aches, pains, digestion problems, insomnia, increased blood pressure, clenching of jaw, tightness in the muscles, and many more. Likewise, we develop emotional and mental symptoms, as well, such as agitation, low energy, racing thoughts, anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.[3]

Thankfully, with a plethora of external research on the subject, stress management has become a priority in balancing work, life, and anything in-between. Major global economies, corporations, and organizations have shifted their approach to how we view stress, therefore creating more holistic work-life environments that aid in stress relief.

So how can you relieve stress with a few simple techniques?

1. Find Time to Exercise During Your Day

Exercising doesn’t have to take up hours of your time. We may not all be able to make it out to the gym or to a class for a couple of hours every day, but finding moments in your day in which to prioritize movement is a great way to begin the habit.

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Write in a time on your calendar to take a cardio class at your local gym at least once per week, and commit to that time. Drive straight from work if you have to, therefore eliminating the temptation to stay home.

Take a walk during your lunch hour, instead of just working through lunch. Set up alarms and reminders on your phone to keep you accountable.

Here’re more ways to help you: 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise

2. Stay Hydrated with Healthy Fluids

We may need a couple of cups of coffee to get us started in the morning, but that addiction has its ups and downs. Did you know that large amounts of coffee during the day elevate your cortisol levels, much in the same way that stress does?[4]

Choosing to cut your day’s fluids with water, herbal tea, or sugar-free smoothies or juices is a good way of balancing the energy you get from food.

3. Leave Your Work at Work

So often, we take our projects and tasks home with us after a long day’s work. When those to-do lists cross the threshold of our home, we begin to lose the boundaries between being an employee and being a human being with a family, friends, and a social life.

Keeping those boundaries clear, and leaving work at work is a key technique in being able to enjoy the rest of your day, every day, to do the things that bring you joy, thereby reducing stress and leaving it at the door.

4. Make Time for Fun

Whether it’s going out with friends to a movie once per month, or catching a game or a concert, having fun is something we often put off on the back burner.

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How many times have you run into an old friend and suggested you meet up, and then never follow through? We’re all guilty of it.

Life gets in the way; but just like we can plan our entire work day, we can also plan time for unwinding and enjoying the simpler things.

5. Meditate

Meditation is a fast-growing practice, and for right reason. Not only does it lower cortisol levels, which feed stress; it also promotes deep relaxation and rest.

You can meditate in the morning before your day begins, to set the tone for how you’d like to approach your day’s tasks; or you can meditate at night before bed, to ease your way into a restful sleep and detach from the day’s events.

No matter when you decide to practice, initiating it is the first step. If finding and going to a local meditation class isn’t accessible for you, tune into the many free guided meditation apps on your phone, such as Insight Timer, Headspace, or Calm.[5]

You can also take a look at this guide: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

6. Carve out Time for Self-Care

This could be your perfect time to treat yourself. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive nor complex. It could be something as simple as taking a nice bubble bath at the end of a long day, or treating yourself to a picnic during the weekend. As long as it’s making time for yourself, it’s self-care!

Self-care not only alleviates stress, but also puts you back into the present moment, where you can enjoy the day and yourself without chasing future thoughts.

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Try one of these 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit.

7. Consider Supplements

Even though most of our vitamins and minerals are derived from food, sometimes we need additional supplements to fill in the gaps.

Vitamin C and D are high in increasing our energy, especially in the colder months where the sunshine is low and citrus fruit is not always readily available.

Likewise, Omega-3 fatty acids that you would get from seafood and avocado have been proven to reduce anxiety by up to 20%, and they’re very healthy for your immune system and digestion. [6]

8. Diffuse Essential Oils

Our olfactory system – our sense of smell – plays a key role in how we can relieve stress. Think back on your favorite smell and how you feel when you notice it. There’s often a sense of immediate relaxation, as if tension is simply falling away.

Essential oils have long been used in aromatherapy to do just that, and these days, purchasing essential oils and diffusing them at home, in your office, or even in the car has never been easier.

Some popular scents that have proven to relieve stress and anxiety are lavender, sandalwood, jasmine, lemongrass, and rose, among others.

Aside from diffusing, consider topical applications on the inside of your wrists, temples, and soles of the feet, for a long-lasting, all-day effect.[7]

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9. Keep a Journal

Another proven tactic for eliminating stress is to begin a journaling practice. Begin each morning by opening up your journal and doing a Thought Dump. This involves writing down anything that may be on your mind, whether it’s from the night before, or a thought that you woke up with. It’s also helpful to write down any dreams that you may remember.

The idea behind this practice is that once you dump out any thoughts that you may have, you’re clearer to prioritize your day. It’s almost as if you’re creating a new blank slate.

Additionally, writing down your thoughts allows you to process and analyze them from a detached perspective, without them festering and turning into stressful recollections later.

Learn more about journal writing: How to Use a 5 Minute Journal to Invest in Your Happiness

Final Thoughts

With as much as we’re juggling in our everyday routines, stress is the unfortunate stalker lurking in close shadows.

We can give in to the stressful habits and patterns that keep us locked in physical and mental pain; or we can redirect our habits into something more productive, therapeutic, and healing.

Thankfully, with the resources and techniques at our disposal, those habits are much easier to implement than we think.

More to Calm Yourself

Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Daily Life: What is Stress?
[2] Global Organization for Stress: Stress Facts
[3] WebMD: Stress Symptoms
[4] VeryWellMind: Caffeine, Stress, and your Health
[5] Huffpost: The Power of Meditation
[6] Healthline: 16 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety
[7] VeryWellMind: Essential Oils for Stress Relief

More by this author

Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

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Last Updated on October 5, 2020

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

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My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8PM one evening to 12PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

Tips To Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

1. Drink Plenty of Water

Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[2] like a drink that contains sugar and cause you to overeat.

4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

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You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[3].

Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[4].

The influence intermittent fasting weight loss has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type II diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[5].

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This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fa-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

How Much Weight Will I Lose?

The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors. Fasting for 16-20 hours a day can help you safely lose 2-3 pounds of fat every week.

While losing this much weight every week is great, it’s how it makes it happen that’s really cool. Losing weight with intermittent fasting means that you will never have to count calories or plan and prepare several meals a day.

Can I Work out While Fasting?

Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are 3-4 intense strength training workouts weekly. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts.

Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

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Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen. Studies actually show that even after fasting for 3 days, no muscle is lost.

Is Fasting Safe?

As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting style of dieting.

I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when your ability to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to ensure that your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.

I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branch chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

Conclusion

Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly, safely, and pretty much effortlessly.

If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with you lifestyle and give it a go.

More About Intermittent Fasting

Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

Reference

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