Stress & Anxiety

Advanced ways to relieve stress

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: May 8, 2019
ways to relieve stress

Last time we discussed ways to relieve stress…

We talked about ways to relieve stress which were pretty conventional such as breathing exercises, meditation, Tai Chi and other similar methods. That information is in the natural stress relief supplements article. There are tons of behavioral techniques in the types of stress article too. This is the ultimate article about relief for all types of stress.

Of all the ways to relieve stress, this article will give you the most creative suggestions. I daresay there will be some things which you haven’t even heard of! A good thing, right? And, of course, since reading about stress can be, well- stressful, I’m going to stay the course with giving you stress-humor breaks. Humor is still one of my favorite ways to relieve stress if that hasn’t “registered” yet. Bookmark this article as it is chock full of info and might take you a couple of sessions to absorb it all. I hope you find it helpful. Here we go!

Music and stress

natural mood enhancers for depression is music

 Music has shown through research to be an effective way to reduce physiological stress (and actually doesn’t require taking any clothes off). By the way, that was a reference to the last stress article where kissing and sex was the last things discussed. (LOL!) Yes, those were indeed great ways to relieve stress! Now, back to music!

One study was conducted by college students during an oral presentation played with Pachelbel’s Canon versus no music in the background. Scientists found that those lovely violins helped reduce anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure in participants who presented their “arguments” with the music.

Music is helpful in various settings that can cause distress, such as a doctor’s visit. In patients, infants to 20-year-olds, headphones playing certain calming tunes (folk, contemporary, classical, and lullaby) may decrease pain and anxiety during medical procedures. Another study found music to play a beneficial role for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.

These patients had better moods, lowered blood pressure, and reduced heart rates when they listened to music or worked with a music therapist. Researchers believe that music can help patients become distracted from pain and even increase tolerance to pain.

Studies behind music therapy are relatively new, but some researchers believe the brain’s response to music can help ease pain, stress, and depression. It might even enhance creativity. Listening to slower musical beats can also alter brainwave speed. The brainwave activity is similar to when we’re in a more meditative or hypnotic state. For some people, listening to slow music is also one of the ways to relieve stress, headache pain, and even symptoms of PMDD.

Music Prompts Numerous Brain Changes Linked to Emotions and Abstract Decision Making

Music can do so much more for your body than simple auditory processing. It triggers activity in the nucleus accumbens, a section of your brain that releases the feel-good chemical dopamine and is involved in forming expectations. At the same time, the amygdala, which is involved in processing emotion, and the prefrontal cortex, which makes possible abstract decision-making, are also activated.

Researchers can see in an MRI how music can affect brain activity in certain regions. As you might suspect, songs that trigger activity in the emotional and intellectual areas of the brain would demand a higher price if researchers were selling tunes for stress relief.

Why You should Workout with Music

ways to relieve stress

 During a workout, many people experience increased motivation. I’ll assume everyone knows the value of exercise for stress reduction. This motivation I’m talking about may manifest as your favorite song coming on during a run that boosts you to run faster or keeps you going even though you’re fatigued, giving you a better workout.

Research shows that listening to music during a workout boosts cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills in people diagnosed with coronary artery disease. (Note coronary artery disease has been linked to a decline in cognitive abilities). Verbal fluency areas double after listening to music compared to workouts with no music.

As mentioned, your workout can become more intense with the addition of music. For instance, in one study when the music’s tempo slowed, the subjects’ exertion level reduced as well. When the tempo was increased, their performance followed suit. Your body is simply following the beat on a more or less subconscious level, but the type and tempo of the music you choose while working out may also influence your conscious motivation.

What Music Is Best?

Find music that makes you feel energized and rearing to go, and add the songs to your workout music list. For that matter, when a song makes you feel relaxed, eases your anxiety or pain levels, or boosts your mood, you’ll know it too, as selecting music is a highly personal – and highly intuitive – process. In other words, find a list of songs that you love!

With technology at the tip of our fingers, you can create music playlists for different parts of your day- working out, cleaning, doing work, or “chilling.” You can even have a playlist preset based on your music history on a software application. You can also listen to music on Internet radio using free services like Pandora, which will create stations for you based on your musical tastes.

Whatever method you choose, making music part of your lifestyle is a simple yet powerful way to enhance your health and your life. More so, music is indeed one of the healthiest ways to relieve stress.

Stress break:

natural way to relieve stress

  How about Massage for Stress?

There are over 100 types of massages that can make you feel amazing, but is it really worth the money? It may well be. Studies suggest massage therapy can be beneficial not only in reducing physical pain but also for improving mood and fighting stress. I’m all for it in case you’re wondering. If I could afford it and had the time, I would get two per day!

Massage Away the Stress

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Each massage therapy technique focuses on manipulating the body’s muscles and soft tissues to relieve pain or decrease stress. Each one has different strategies ranging from deep tissue (often called Swedish) massage to trigger point therapy, where the therapist applies pressure to a specific point on the body to relieve pain. This happens to be very useful as a natural treatment for fibromyalgia.

There is a large list of ailments that massage can help. One recent study found that massage therapy can decrease pain, promote muscle relaxation, and improve both mood and sleep quality. It is a great form of muscle soreness relief and can reduce inflammation too.

Another study found after subjects had been massaged, the levels of cortisol (and by now I don’t need to tell you what that is) in their saliva decreased. You recall that high cortisol means high stress at least, right? One similar study also found massage therapy’s pleasurable qualities can lead to recipients reporting a better body image, especially for women. Note the stress and weight gain connection is quite strong, and massage is one of the ways to reduce stress-eating, with PharmaGaba tabs being our AWS annual consultation member’s favorite on-the-go way to nuke it.

Kids aren’t a source of stress, are they? ;-)

kids sure teach you what is adrenal fatigue

Yoga can decrease stress, and get you fit and healthy!

Yoga is a great technique when life seems to give us more than we can handle. It’s great even just to relieve daily stressors that we all experience. Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines physical poses, controlled breathing, and meditation or relaxation. Yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate. More importantly, almost anyone can do it.

Understanding yoga

Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines that may help you achieve peacefulness of body and mind. It promotes relaxation, which in return can relieve stress and anxiety. It comes in various forms and intensities. Hatha yoga, in particular, may be a good choice for stress management. Hatha is one of the most common styles of yoga, and beginners may like its’ slower pace and easier movements. Though, most people can benefit from any style of yoga.  It’s all about your personal preferences.

The main components of most general yoga classes and hatha yoga are as follows:

Poses. Yoga poses are a series of movements designed to promote strength and flexibility. These poses can range from lying on the floor while completely relaxed to difficult postures that may have you stretching your physical limits.

Breathing. In yoga, controlling your breathing is an important part of the whole experience. It helps you control your body and quiet your mind.

Meditation or relaxation. You can incorporate meditation or relaxation in yoga as it can promote mindfulness and awareness.

The health benefits of yoga

 great relief for sore muscles

Reduced Stress Levels. There are a large amount of studies that have shown the impact yoga can have in reducing stress and anxiety. It can also enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being.

Improved fitness. Practicing yoga over time can improve your strength, balance, flexibility, and range of motion.

Management of chronic conditions. The risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure can be reduced with yoga. Yoga might also help alleviate chronic conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety, and insomnia.

 Religion and stress relief

It has been demonstrated that temporary thoughts of death make people more religious. Some authorities joke that religion can sometimes act like Prozac.

There is a prevalent belief that if religion is an important part of someones’ life, they can experience lower levels of anxiety. When surveyed about why people were members of a certain large church, anxiety relief was mentioned over 75% of the time.

Holistic Aromatherapy

Holistic Aromatherapy is commonly used in spas, at home, or even in bath and body products. The combination of the smell of essential oils, the absorption of the oils into the skin, and a tissue massage can help chase away even the most stubborn muscle tension and stress from the body. It is believed that it can reduce stress, boost the body’s immunity, and ward off illness and infections.

Essentials oils can help manage stress, anxiety, and promote positive feelings. Their healing power is unstoppable. Firt, it’s best to understand a few simple methods. Now, none of this has been conclusively scientifically proven, but there are enough people and practitioners who report relief, so it’s certainly worth including in this article. As an aside, there are aromatherapy blends which show to lower cortisol levels and are often an integral part of adrenal fatigue supplements and overall treatment. I’m personally a huge fan of good aromatherapy and use our S formula blend constantly.

Here are five methods that can help you fully harness the power of essential oils and a guide to some favorites:

aromatherapy to relieve stress

Sniff away:

When you are feeling stressed or less focused, take a long and steady whiff of a relaxing essential oil like lavender to help. Lavender is my personal favorite, and our stress blend has a lot of this and other lovely smells. This can nip stages of adrenal fatigue 1 and 2 right in the bud.

Add to your shower:

The blend of the steam of your shower with a couple drops of essential oil at the bottom can be relaxing. It can add a positive effect on your mind and emotions. Just cover the drain with a cloth or your foot for a couple of minutes, and breathe in slowly and peacefully. (Yes, also breathe OUT!)

Carry a sample with you:

Put a few drops of essential oil on a scarf, cotton pad, or even buy a necklace that comes with a diffuser to have on the go. The scent of the oil will help support you throughout the day, and people will comment on how lovely the scent is. This frequent burst of scent can bring calmness and positive energy to your day.

Try a nourishing body oil blend:

Always dilute essential oil as it is extremely potent. The typical blend is 3 teaspoons of carrier oil and 7 – 8 drops of essential oil to coat your entire body. Always test the oil(s) first on a small area of your skin before applying everywhere. Avoid your eyes, mouth, and other mucous membranes. On a personal note, which is also a health note, essential oils are pure scents and won’t make other people have allergic respiratory reactions. It also won’t cause you to absorb the toxins in the vast majority of perfumes and aftershave scents.

Scent your space with a diffuser:

Invest in a great essential oil diffuser and blend water with drops of essential oil. This can add tranquility to your home, office, and bedroom.essential oils to relieve stress

Here is a list of best-selling essential oils and what they are touted to do:

Lavender: soothing; builds solidarity and strength. One of the most studied essential oils

Bergamot: calming; relieves mild anxiety

Marjoram: provides relief from emotional pain and grief

Vetiver: restores a sense of absolute grounding and cools those hot emotions

Rose: the queen of oils to help with all stress issues

Frankincense: relaxing and aromatic

Chamomile: calming, soothing, medicinal

Lemon: gentle and refreshing

Geranium: cheery; helps to improve downward spiraling moods

Cinnamon: its sweetness invites you to love what you do for work

Sure, let’s have another stress break:

dogs are mood enhancers for depression


Napping for stress

Do you find yourself nodding off during an important work meeting, snoring through a boring lecture, or riding the subway to the end of the line after falling asleep on the ride home? Avoid this dilemma by taking a midday nap to help make you feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

What is a power nap?

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Power naps are designed to help you “recharge” when you are feeling fatigue. Studies show that more sleep can lower risk for a variety of health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. Plus, napping has been known to enhance creative thinking, improve memory, and aid with learning. If you have a day that is overwhelming, napping is one of the easy and fairly quick ways to relieve stress.

A power nap should be around 10 to 20 minutes in length. If you go any longer, deeper stages of sleep will begin. When this happens, you can expect a worse state of drowsiness when you awake. Are twenty minutes just not “cutting it?” Make it 90 to allow for a complete REM (rapid eye movement) cycle. Each person varies on what the ideal time to nap may be, but for most, it is usually 2-4pm. Note that if your nap interferes with falling asleep at night, cut back the napping time.

How do you maximize your power nap?

When you take you nap, you need to take away any distractions such as lighting, noise, or anything that can delay your sleep. Recreate a sleep-inducing environment anywhere by making the room as dark as possible using window shades or an eye mask. If you are still having trouble falling asleep, try a nap in a hammock. One study found that napping on a slowly swinging bed (or hammock) puts subjects to sleep faster. It also encourages deeper sleep. Remember to set the alarm, though!

While a nap may always sound like a good idea, it is important to consider some variables. If you oversleep, you may wake up even more tired and even cranky. While at work, try not to take a midday nap on your desk.

Art therapy for stress

Art therapy has become more popular than ever, such as coloring for adults. It has been shown to be very effective and even a viable alternative to taking a prescription pill for anxiety. It’s a little-known way to relieve stress, and you don’t even need to be artistic!

Art is real therapy!

Art therapy can be seen as an alternative therapy for patients. Research indicates art can allow patients to put their words into pictures as well as aid in communication between patient and therapist. The art alone won’t heal the patient, but explaining the meaning of it to their therapist can help solve the problem at hand. There is no judgment in this type of therapy, and you don’t have to be an artist. So, use art to feel relaxed and use it as one of your ways to relieve stress.

Quickie stress break: Hallmark Card:

“I’m so miserable without you, it’s almost like you’re still here.”

 Gratitude journaling for stress relief:

Daily obligations, stressors, and events can cause a repetition of negative thoughts and behavior. In return, this can increase stress and unhappiness. This cycle can lead to other ailments, as well, including constant fatigue and even depression. I like to ways of treating depression naturally, and this is a great start. Finding ways to focus on the positive can help re-program your thoughts and break this cycle.

Try keeping a gratitude journal to retrain your thoughts by focusing on the positive things in your life. Research shows this can provide various benefits in regards to improving your mood and behavior, increasing motivation towards your goals, and even leading to bursts of physical activity.

Here are some guidelines to follows when creating your gratitude journal:

Choose Your Journal

great way to relieve stress

Your journal should reflect you. Design one showing your likes, your wants, and things that help you become more connected. This can include things like handwriting versus typing on your computer, using a particular format or decorating it.

You can even:

Write inspirational quotes or mantras in the margins.

Notate special anniversaries and write about why you are grateful for those events and people.

Attach or paste photos that make you happy on the cover or random pages.

Draw photos that depict your positive feelings about the things you are grateful for. All of these positive things are natural mood enhancers.

Be Consistent

Once a day, preferably at the same time, try to write in your gratitude journal. On stressful days, you may prefer to write at the end of the day. Others prefer to write in the morning to start their day off on a good note. It is up to you when you write, but try to do it at a similar time each day so you can create a habit quickly.

Write at Least 3 to 5 Things

Create a goal on how many things you would like to write down each day for which you are grateful. Make it obtainable, but no less than three to five. You can write your entries in a list or small paragraphs, explaining why it is you are grateful for each. The key is to get in the habit of becoming aware of all things in your life for which you have to be grateful. It may be hard to come up with three items in the beginning, but once you form a habit, it will be easy to see the positive in all the things you do.

Write in Detail

It may be hard to find things that you are grateful for each day, but it is important to be more specific and focus on exactly why you are grateful. For example, instead of saying, “I’m grateful for my husband,” you could write:

I’m lucky to have a husband who picks up my laundry. (I saw an example that said his laundry, but since I feel all husbands need to pick up their laundry and it would be nice if husbands picked up our laundry, I took license! )

I’m happy to have such an affectionate husband who tells me that he loves me so often.

I’m grateful to have such a handsome husband, to whom I am still attracted.

Or, instead of writing, “I’m grateful for my job,” you could write:

I’m grateful to have a job that lets me have a flexible schedule to work around child care.

I’m lucky to have a job right now even though many of my friends are unemployed.

I really like the people I work with every day.

Focus on specific, positive things and the things you have to be grateful for will come more into focus.

Turn Negatives into Positives

Each day, instead of dwelling on negative things that have happened, focus on the positive. By switching your thoughts around to positive before they become negative, you will start to form a habit. A healthier, much more positive, habit. These are examples that may put it into perspective:

I don’t feel well and I’m worried about my health condition, but I’m grateful for the insight it has given me into how much I want to get out of life.

I’m upset that relationship didn’t work out, but now I have time to focus on myself and figure out what I really want and need in a partner.

My husband is still unemployed, but I’m grateful that we were able to pay the rent this month.

In the beginning, this can seem unnatural and even difficult to do. However, keeping a gratitude journal will help you become more optimistic toward life with a greater sense of your life. Many individuals find a gratitude journal is a great way to relieve stress and feel happier as well.

Chewing Gum May Help Reduce Stress

chew gum to relieve stress

Study presented at the 2008 10th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine


A study on the impact of chewing gum on cortisol and mood levels during stress was presented during the 2008 10th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine. The findings suggest that chewing gum can indeed help relieve anxiety, improve alertness and reduce stress among individuals in a laboratory setting. The participants were studied as they performed a battery of multi-tasking activities while chewing gum. The use of chewing gum was associated with increased alertness, reduced anxiety and stress, and improvement in overall performance on multi-tasking activities.


Andrew Scholey, Ph.D., professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia, led the research study and can discuss the effect of chewing gum on stress relief, focus and concentration.


On August 30, 2012, this study was presented orally at the Rissho University in Tokyo, Japan at the 10th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine.

Study Details:

The study had a total of 40 participants that chewed (or didn’t chew) gum. Results were assessed on Defined Intensity Stressor Simulation (DISS), a multi-tasking platform which reliably induces stress and also includes performance measures while chewing and not chewing gum. The participants were measured before and after the DISS for their anxiety, alertness and stress levels.

Reduced Stress: Stress levels were reduced in those who chewed gum. Salivary cortisol levels (a physiological stress marker as you recall) in gum chewers were lower than those of non-gum chewers by 16 percent during mild stress and nearly 12 percent in moderate stress.

Relieved Anxiety: Participants who chewed gum reported lower levels of anxiety compared to those that did not chew gum. It was nearly 17 percent lower during mild stress and nearly 10 percent lower in moderate stress.

Increased Alertness: Participants who chewed gum showed an improvement in alertness by almost 19 percent in a mild stress compared to those who did not chew gum.

Improved Performance: Multi-tasking activities were significantly improved overall when participants chewed gum. Both gum-chewers and non-chewers showed improvement from their baseline scores. However, chewing gum improved mean performance scores over non-gum chewers by 67 percent during moderate stress and 109 percent in mild stress.

Why? If you have read anything in my “what are good weight loss programs recommendations” you will recall that stress eating is reduced by raising the brain chemical serotonin. And, guess what? Chewing gum does indeed raise serotonin. Make sure its xylitol sweetened and not a sugary gum. Indeed, gum is a natural appetite suppressant!

Emotional Freedom Technique for stress

 The Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, is the acupressure technique some therapists swear by and therefore recommend to optimize emotional health. I will be perfectly honest and tell you that I am not personally familiar with practitioners or patients but have heard very positive stories from other Physicians.

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                          EFT tapping

EFT is easy to learn and can reportedly offer various benefits:

Less Negative Emotions

Reduce Food Cravings

Reduce or Eliminate Pain

Implement Positive Goals

EFT is a form of light acupressure, using similar energy meridians found in acupuncture to aid in the treatment of physical and emotional ailments. However, it doesn’t use the invasiveness of acupuncture needles. Instead, fingertips are lightly tapped onto specific energy meridians on the head and chest while you think about your particular problem, whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, etc. At the same time, you voice positive affirmations. Affirmations alone are relatively decent ways to relieve stress, too.

A restoration of your mind and body balance is said to happen with the combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmations. This method presumably works to clear the “short-circuit,” the emotional block from your body’s bio-energy system. This is reportedly essential for optimal health and the healing of physical disease, according to practitioners. EFT is becoming more recognized in Western medicine, but there are (of course) people that are wary of the principles that it is based on; electromagnetic energy that flows through the body.

But keep an open mind. Many high-level Psychologists seem to say that EFT works better than any traditional or alternative methods used today. This is the tip of the iceberg to introduce you to the method.

Tapping Locations & Technique

In order to use EFT to its full potential, there are two areas to learn: the tapping locations and technique, and the positive affirmations. These areas, as well as some advanced EFT principles and techniques, are covered in books and articles. It can be self-administered, but I would advise you to seek out a trained professional to help you.

If you are looking to seek out an EFT professional, here is a clinical EFT certified practitioner database for some guidelines on selecting an EFT therapist, and to find a list of EFT practitioners throughout the U.S. and the world. Many of these therapists even offer a free 15-minute phone session in which you can ask them questions to see if you will benefit from this.

This is worth it – take 2 minutes for a hilarious read on this stress break:

laughter to relieve stress

Are You Due for a Digital Detox?

Renew and recharge by getting rid of ALL of your digital distractions for a few hours including your smartphone! Instead of being connected to your phone or computer, a digital detox can help you de-stress and re-charge. To help this process become smoother others have opted for a support system that can help.

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“We call them ‘thrive buddies,'” Arianna Huffington says. “For example, I have a thrive buddy, so if at night I’m tempted to stay on my devices longer, I can call my buddy, or I can email them and communicate with them.

It’s just the very act of communicating with someone about a problem and having their support that makes a difference. But it also creates an environment that makes it more likely that I’m not going to be tempted.

My bedroom is a device-free zone. And I know you have advised not to watch television before you go to sleep. I never watch television before I go to sleep. I only have real, old-fashioned books, by my bed… No Kindles. No screens.”

Way to go Arianna-I advise and do the same.

Odds and ends:

Try self-hypnosis

According to research, self- hypnosis can aid in the reduction of anxiety as well as stress. This is a long topic, and I suggest you google it. There are tons of info and even books “out there.”

Limit your exposure to toxins:

stress detox

Although it can be hard to reduce toxin exposure in today’s world, even a minor effort helps.

Start by clearing out your cupboards from toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides. Replace them with non-toxic alternatives.

You also might consider doing a detox from all of this.

Want one last stress break before we conclude?

humor for stress relief


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