A Science-Based Guide to Stress Relief

Pami Parker

How do we control, reduce, cope with, and relieve stress? Here are some tips.

Stressful experiences activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. We may at first feel energized because the HPA axis stimulates the production of cortisol and other energizing hormones—it gives us the energy we need to get away from the stressor (which used to be things like predators). But if we experience stress too frequently, our HPA axis can start to get dysfunctional, leading us to feel "wired but tired."  

That's because, in our modern world, we often experience more ongoing stress than our body is really designed to handle. As a result, we can end up mentally and physically ill. And we may even need to detox our stress to get our bodies working properly again.

Stress Relief Techniques

Given just how harmful stress can be on the body, finding ways to relieve stress is essential. In this article, we'll talk about some of the science-based stress relief strategies you can try.

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1. Get good sleep.

Not getting enough sleep contributes to greater HPA axis activation. So to relieve stress, it can be really helpful to get more (and better) sleep. Be sure to block out blue light (from TVs, phones, and computers) 30 minutes before bed. You may also want to consider getting a red-light bulb (which research suggests may improve sleep) for your bedside lamp.

2. Exercise lightly.

We all know that exercise is good for us. But exercise also increases the demand for energy and cortisol, so if we desire to relieve stress, we may benefit more from lower-intensity exercises, like walking, swimming, or yoga.

3. Try Meditation.

Studies show that mediation can decrease cortisol in the context of stressful situations. Plus, meditation has been shown to help reduce depression and anxiety across several studies. So, it may be helpful to try meditation for stress relief and see if it's a good fit for you.

4. Develop a Challenge Mindset

When we view situations as threatening, it can make us feel more stressed. If we instead view our difficult situations as a challenge (and not a threat), we can feel less stressed and more capable of handling the situation. So, try to shift your mindset and think about how you have the skills to handle the stressors that come your way.

More Stress Relief Techniques

In Sum

In our modern world, most of us need some stress relief. By learning to use these science-based stress-relief techniques, hopefully we can start improving our mental and physical health.

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