Since everyone experiences stress in a unique way (and has different triggers), there’s no simple or straightforward way to eliminate stress. The best strategy is to identify the stress-triggers in your life, take tangible steps to reduce them, and find methods for stress-relief and decompression that work.
Too often, people alleviate stress with medications that only create more problems. Others are told to think their way out of stress and focus on being positive and confident, which is a lot easier said than done.
As a result, many overlook simple, concrete diet and lifestyle steps that are proven to alleviate stress. Putting yourself in the right environment with the right inputs and taking daily actions that release the tension built up in your body can be more effective than any medication.
So, in this article, we’ve compiled a list of natural stress relief techniques backed up with hard evidence that you can easily slide into your daily routine.
50 Tips to Alleviate Stress Naturally
#1: Meditate Daily
There’s a reason the practice of meditation stretches back thousands of years, and you don’t need to be a yogi to get the benefits. Studies show that just 10 to 15 minutes of daily meditation can reduce anxiety and even decrease the inflammatory response associated with stress.
Just sit upright on the floor with your legs crossed, straighten your back, and keep your mind as clear as possible. Learning how to relax your mind takes some practice, but if you keep at it daily you’ll get better and your meditation will grow more effective.
#2 Run or Lift Weights
People aren’t meant to sit in a chair all day, and if you aren’t active in your daily life then tension will build up in your body over time. Exercising is perhaps the best way to relieve this tension. Countless studies show that both running and weight lifting reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
If you’re not in the best shape, then ease into it. Start with 10-15 minutes of running every other day, or 30 minutes of light weightlifting, and stick with it! It won’t be fun at first, but your body will become more efficient at fighting stress as you get better at exercising.
#3: Eat Fruits, Vegetables, and Healthy Fats
Processed foods and sugary snacks cause stress by spiking your hormones. On the other hand, consistently eating fruits and vegetables calms your mind and helps your body function properly. Healthy fats, in particular Omega-3 fats, are potent anti-inflammatories that decrease stress. To start, add a serving of fruit, vegetables, and Omega-3 fats into your daily diet.
#4: Take CBD
The CBD industry has exploded in the last few years, in part because of the large body of evidence supporting its stress and anxiety-fighting capabilities. CBD is a whole-food supplement typically made from the hemp plant, but it has no psychoactive properties and minimal/zero THC. You can take a few drops of CBD tincture or eat CBD gummies and you will start experiencing stress relief within an hour.
#5: Use Essential Oils
Like meditation, essential oils and scented candles are calming rituals that humans have used for thousands of years. The science is catching up too: studies show that applying essential oils like lavender to your skin can calm the nervous system and reduce stress levels.
#6: Reduce Caffeine Intake
We all love our cup of morning joe, but unfortunately caffeine intake is a major cause of stress. Caffeine spikes cortisol, AKA the “stress hormone,” so the less caffeine you consume, the lower your cortisol levels will be.
#7: Spend Time with Immediate Family
Spending time with your immediate family, your closest loved ones, is as natural to humans as staying active and eating whole foods — and it can have just as powerful an effect on your health. A recent study found that people who spend a substantial amount of time with their immediate family have significantly lower stress levels than those who don’t.
#8: Try Bikram Yoga
There is a large body of evidence supporting the health benefits of yoga in general, but Bikram yoga in particular is probably the most powerful stress-fighting form of yoga. Setting aside the fact that this branch of yoga is tarnished by its namesake’s unsavory behavior, the benefits are undeniable.
#9: Get Enough Sleep
One of the most common causes of heightened stress and cortisol levels (along with a host of other health problems) is lack of sleep. 35% of Americans don’t get enough sleep, and 50% of adults experience insomnia at some point in their lives. So if you’re one of those folks, try to carve out an extra hour or two of sleep time each night.
#10: Take Ashwagandha and Rhodiola
Ashwagandha and Rhodiola are two plants that have been prized for centuries by native cultures for their calming and stress relieving properties. These claims now have scientific backing. In one study, consumption of Ashwagandha resulted in a 44% decrease in stress levels while the placebo group only saw a 5% reduction. Rhodiola was shown in a double-blind study to reduce stress and increase alertness.
#11: Try Deep Breathing
If yoga sounds too burdensome and you don’t feel like buying a mat and finding a yoga studio, a simpler starting point is deep breathing. Deep breathing is similar to meditation, but less focused on your mental state and more about, well, breathing. There are a number of prominent studies indicating that practiced deep breathing can relieve stress.
#12: Reduce Screen Time
The average American spends 4.5 hours each day in front of screens, a practice which takes time away from other important stress-relieving activities (like, you know, talking to people and being outdoors). Blue light from digital screens also disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythms, which damages sleep quality and spikes stress.
Avoid using your phone, tablet, computer or TV in the middle of the night, or get glasses or screen covers that block the blue light that disrupts circadian rhythms.
#13: Use Scented Candles
Scented candles can have a similar effect as essential oils: their aroma naturally calms the mind and can help you decompress after a long day.
#14 Don’t Stay Up Too Late
Even if you are getting enough sleep (7-8 hours each day), staying up and sleeping in too late will still mess up your circadian rhythms, which diminishes your body’s capacity for fighting stress. The closer you can get your sleep schedule to the cycles of the sun and moon, the better.
#15: Spend More Time in Nature
Living in walled-off urban environments surrounded by nothing but metal, concrete, and square buildings takes a toll on human psychology. Like every other living creature, we’re meant to be in contact with nature, and multiple studies attest to how spending time in nature can reduce stress levels. One study even said that just 20 minutes in nature reduces levels of stress hormones.
Regardless of where you live, look for open fields, forests, hills, or anywhere that you can hike that’s away from traffic and urban sprawl.
#16: Get More Sun
This goes hand in hand with the tip above, but sunlight actually offers unique stress-fighting properties itself. Namely, sunlight is one of the best sources for Vitamin D, which plays a critical role in regulating a number of processes in the body, including management of stress. Sunlight even triggers the release of serotonin, which improves mood, calmness, and focus.
#17: Take Up a Hobby
Picking up a hobby can help reduce stress in a number of ways: they give you something to look forward to, spend time on, and enjoy.
#18: Listen to Soothing Music or Nature Sounds
Studies have tied listening to calming music (often classical) with lowered blood pressure and reduced stress levels. Nature sounds have also been found to have similar effects on the human endocrine system.
#19: Hugs and Cuddles
Humans are social creatures, so close human contact is a central and inextricable part of being happy and healthy. Numerous studies back this up: hugs and cuddles decrease blood pressure, reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), and boost serotonin.
#20: Drink Tea
Tea drinking is another ancient practice that has been validated by modern science. New studies have found that tea can reduce stress levels, improve sleep, and induce relaxation. Decaffeinated green tea, in particular, has been shown to have these effects (the removal of caffeine enhances the stress-relieving properties of the tea).
#21: Burn Incense
Incense burning goes back thousands of years, and a new study found that burning frankincense can help alleviate anxiety and depression. This makes incense a simple, cheap, and readily available stress-reliever.
#22: Get a Massage
Massages are one of the most well-attested-to stress-relieving practices out there, with multiple studies showing that they can reduce:
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Perceived stress levels
#23: Visit a museum or gallery
The environments that you place yourself in go a long way towards reducing your stress levels, and there are few places more beautiful, silent, and calming than a museum or gallery. Don’t take our word for it: a recent study found that 63% of UK museum-goers used museum visits to de-stress.
#24: Place Plants and Flowers in Your Living Space
Plants and flowers are a great and simple way to prettify your living spaces, which goes a long way towards reducing stress. But that’s not all: one recent study found that scents from certain plants and flowers (including lemon, lavender, and mango) can reduce stress levels by influencing gene activity and blood chemistry.
#25: Clean Your Bedroom (and Your Whole Home)
As they say, a cluttered room is a cluttered mind, and you likely won’t be surprised to find out that the science backs up this adage: a number of studies show that cluttered homes lead to increased cortisol levels, diminished focus, and poorer sleep.
#26: Redesign Your Commonly Used Spaces
Don’t stop with cleaning and placing flowers/plants in your rooms, though. Redesign all the spaces that you spend time in!
Bland or poorly organized rooms tax our minds in the same way that concrete, metal, and blocky buildings in urban spaces do. So put paintings and photographs on the walls, or move furniture around so there’s more open space.
#27: Take Power-Naps
Studies have documented a number of benefits of taking power naps (brief 20-40 minute periods of sleep), including:
- Reduced stress levels
- Improved alertness
- Improved productivity
If you feel yourself nodding off during the day, just set your phone alarm 30 minutes out, put your head down, and reap the benefits.
#28: Watch Comedies (Try to Laugh More!)
“Laugh more” is easier said than done, but the benefits are no joke. Laughter increases the endorphins released by your brain, relieves your stress response, and even stimulates circulation and muscle relaxation. So instead of going for that intense drama or documentary, throw on a comedy and get some stress-fighting chuckles in.
#29: Go for a Swim
Floating in water certainly feels relaxing, and it turns out that the science backs this up: one study found that swimming was effective in reducing stress levels. Swimming in a lake, river, creek, or even the ocean likely has an even more powerful effect, since you get some connection with nature as well.
#30: Walk as Much as You Can
This tip is closely related to ones about exercising, getting time in nature, and hugs: it’s something that humans are hard-wired to do, so doing it helps you feel better! There’s a ton of scientific evidence supporting this: one study even found that a 10 minute walk is as effective for fighting stress as a 45 minute workout.
#31: Organize Your Time More Efficiently
One of the most common sources of stress is time mismanagement: people always feel like they’re getting behind, missing out on crucial things, and then try to catch up in a frenzy. Scheduling your day and organizing your time more efficiently, then, is a powerful stress-fighting tool.
#32: Get a Pet
Humans didn’t just start keeping pets around to hunt mice, they’re also some of the most powerful mood-enhancers and stress-reducers out there, and there’s a ton of evidence that proves it. Interacting with animals can:
- Reduce epinephrine and norepinephrine (hormones associated with stress)
- Reduce heart rate
- Increase happiness and energy levels
- Help combat loneliness and alienation
#33: Buy a Stress Ball
Stress often implements itself as a tension in your body; stress balls function as an outlet for built-up energy and can help relieve this tension.
#34: Make Contingency Plans
People often stress out when their plans go awry: you wanted to go to the park but it starts raining, you wanted to see a movie but the theater’s closed, etc. etc. A simple way to reduce this kind of stress is to, any time you’re making big plans, have an alternative plan or an idea to keep yourself occupied.
#35: Play Team Sports
Playing team sports are a great way to kill two (or three) birds with one stone: get physically active, have fun, and interact with others. No surprise, then, that studies have found that playing team sports can improve overall mental health.
#36: Read a Book
Who doesn’t love to escape their troubles by diving into a good book? The good news: it works. One 2009 study found that reading can reduce perceived stress levels by as much as 68%!
#38: Stay Off Social Media
That social media isn’t great for mental health won’t come as a surprise to most of you, and, to back it up, a recent Pew Research study found that social media use correlated with elevated stress levels.
#39: Watch the Sunrise & Sunset
An interesting study from 2012 found that people who experienced “awe” — defined as “the emotion that arises when one encounters something so strikingly vast that it provokes a need to update one’s mental schemas” — had lower stress levels and were more patient than those who didn’t. Watching something beautiful like the sunrise or sunset is perhaps the simplest and most accessible way to derive these benefits.
Yep, kissing is a bonafide, scientifically-proven method of reducing stress for a number of reasons, including:
- Alleviates cortisol
- Stimulates the production of endorphins
- Activates the brain’s reward system (including production of oxytocin)
#41: Reduce Alcohol Consumption
The connection between alcohol and stress is interesting: alcohol provides immediate stress-relief, so moderate amounts of alcohol may be mildly beneficial for stress. However, chronic alcohol consumption is associated with elevated stress response. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, which is another cause of stress (see: tip 46). Moderation, it appears, is the key, so if you are a heavy drinker cutting down will likely be beneficial.
#42: Reduce Marijuana Consumption
The connection between marijuana and stress is actually very similar to alcohol. Moderate amounts reduce stress levels, but long-term chronic marijuana use is associated with elevated stress response and cortisol levels.
#43: Don’t Bring Work Home
Americans are some of the most overworked people in the world, and many struggle to leave their work at the workplace and end up bringing stress home. A simple way to avoid this is to not check your work email while you’re off the clock. Let your coworkers know that your home life is your home life!
#44: Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
When you’re facing down a lengthy, challenging task, it’s often tempting to succumb to stress and worry about doing it right or finishing on time. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you’re stressing hard about something and know someone who could help, ask!
#45: Stop Multitasking
Another consequence of Americans being overworked and always pressed for time is that everyone tries to multitask. Unfortunately, multitasking not only increases stress levels but damages productivity and quality of output. Instead, schedule your day so you can focus on one thing at a time.
#46: Drink More Water
Dehydration is an insidious and very common source of stress. Humans need water to survive, so lack of water results in a stress response: one study found that being just half a liter dehydrated elevates cortisol levels. So sip water throughout the day and stay hydrated.
#47: Go Stargazing
Light pollution means that we are robbed of one of the most spectacularly beautiful and readily available vistas in existence: the one right above us in the night sky. So seek out a spot away from city lights and gaze at the stars to decompress.
#48: Carve Out Private Time
If your schedule is pulling you in a million different ways and you’re always busy, then your stress levels are likely elevated as a result. Scheduling downtime into your day is a simple way to slow down, take a deep breath, and relax.
#49: Stop Smoking
Cigarette smoking causes cortisol levels to soar (not just when you smoke, but at all times of the day). Quitting might seem even more stressful, but if you push through and break your addiction you’ll likely find that your overall stress levels decrease.
#50: Avoid Toxic, Dramatic People
File this under “easier said than done,” but it’s true: surrounding yourself with people who are constantly mired in drama and causing conflict will inevitably cause you stress. Avoid these people like the plague.
Some of the tips on this list are easy to follow through on — like eating CBD gummies — while others require time, effort, and dedication. It might be tempting to just try the simple ones, but these stress management techniques work best together. Exercising won’t be as effective a stress reliever if you eat a poor diet, or if you consume too much caffeine.
And the longer you stick to these techniques, the more effective they become. Once you pick the stress relievers you’re going to try (we recommend all 50!), stick with them for at least a month. They’ll become easier and easier, and your stress will slowly recede.