With all the responsibilities and daily duties life throws at you, it’s no surprise how quickly stress can build up. Taking some ‘me time’ as a stress buster has never been more important, it needn’t be difficult when you’re on a tight budget. So, to help you relax without spending money, here are eight free ways to reduce stress levels.
Meditation doesn’t have to involve sitting on a beach with a picturesque view while trying to be ‘zen’. Instead it can be as simple as just sitting in your living room for 10 minutes. Meditation is an effective way of reducing stress and is surprisingly easy to achieve by yourself. It also has the added benefit of being completely free. All it involves is clearing your mind and listening to your own breathing, which will consequently help you relax. For more information about the benefits of meditation, check advice from the Chopra Center.
Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position and closing your eyes. Try to breathe as naturally as possible, but focus your attention on your breath and how your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and stomach move each time you inhale. Try to maintain this for around 2-3 minutes at first and then build it up to around 10 minutes a day if you feel yourself getting stressed.
2. Breathing Techniques
While focusing on your breathing can help get you to a meditative state, it’s also a useful tool if you feel yourself getting frazzled or anxious when you’re at work or sitting on the bus. When we’re stressed, we often tend to take shallow breaths, which deprive the body of oxygen, whereas taking slow, steady breaths is great for relaxation, helping you feel like yourself again.
Well-being coach Naomi Martell-Bundock also recommends that you ‘Stand up and breathe deeply into your tummy ten times. Imagine you are filling up a balloon as you breathe in through your nose, and deflating it as you breathe out through your mouth. It helps to put your hand gently over your tummy button and feel as your tummy pushes it out and then brings it back in as you breathe the air out.’
A bizarre tip to try is blowing on your thumb. As odd as this sounds, breathing on your thumb can stimulate your Vagus nerve. This then leads to a slower heart rate, which can be helpful if you’re feeling jumpy or anxious. Find out more about this breathing technique here.
You know how they say punching something will make you feel better? Now, we’re not recommending you go out and start a street brawl, but directing your energy into some form of exercise will definitely improve your mood. Whether that’s going toe to toe with a punching bag or taking to the streets for a long walk or run, or taking a class.
Exercise helps to release endorphins also known as ‘feel good’ hormones while using up some of the hormones you release while stressed. To give exercise a go, you don’t have to pay for a costly gym membership. Simply go for a jog around your area and get some fresh air or try a home workout in your living room.
4. Practise Mindfulness
Mindfulness may sound like a bit of a mouthful or even seem like a waste of your time. However, it is one of the big trends in wellness at the moment, due to its effectiveness in helping combat stress and anxiety, among other mental health issues. The premise of mindfulness is to be completely aware of the present moment, without contemplating the future or thinking about the past. It is also, again, completely free.
To practise mindfulness, go about your day to day activities and simply be aware of your senses by taking in the little details you might usually bypass. Note the colours of any plants, or take in the various smells or sounds in the atmosphere. If you feel your mind start to drift, just take it back to the present moment. Although this technique may be a bit difficult to get used to at first, in the long term it will help you to live in the present and block any doubts or worries out.
5. Get More Sleep
This can be a difficult one with everyone’s various commitments and long working hours. However, an adequate amount of sleep is very important. To reduce stress, the National Sleep Foundation suggests to get a good night’s sleep of around 7-9-hours. This helps provide energy to the brain and supports your performance and productivity the next day. If you’re struggling to drift off, the National Sleep Foundation also recommends sticking to a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends and turning off electronics before bed. This is particularly important for devices that emit blue light including TVs, mobile phones and laptops.
Similar to meditation, yoga is a handy and free way to reduce stress levels according to yoga teacher Paul Fox. He states: ‘Hatha yoga includes certain postures and breathing practices to transform the mind into a more settled state’. A few of the recommended poses include the cat pose, which involves resting on your knees and the palms of your hands while arching your back repeatedly. Another relaxing pose is the extended child’s pose, where you also rest on your knees and hands but lengthen your arms forwards and sink your hips backwards, creating length in your spine.
While yoga classes are available in many gyms and local community centres, these inevitably cost money. The good news is there are thousands of yoga tutorials available online for free that you can do any time from the comfort of your sitting room.
7. Listen to Music
A certain song can transform your mood completely or take you back to a particular memory. So try listening to songs you used to enjoy or discovering new calming music. WebMD states that listening to soothing music can actually lower your blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. If you’re wondering which genre is best, Psych Central recommends slow and quiet classical music for a relaxing effect.
8. Avoid Caffeine
Last but not least on our list of free ways to reduce stress levels is to avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. This is again recommended by the National Sleep Foundation, as excessive coffee drinking can increase levels of cortisol, one of the body’s stress hormones. And although nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation, smoking actually increases anxiety in the long run, as does alcohol, which can contribute to feelings of depression.
If you’re looking for a nightcap, choose a chamomile tea instead. Chamomile can help calm the mind, but if you’re not a fan, even normal tea can help fight stress. It does however contain caffeine, so try to avoid to nearer to bedtime.
How do you eliminate stress in your life? Let us know in the comments.