“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Natural Ways To Relax To Reduce Stress And Anxiety

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: August 27, 2019


natural ways to relax to reduce stress and anxiety

Behaving anxiously (anxiety) activates the fight or flight response (also known as the stress response).[1] The stress response causes a number of physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that prepare the body to deal with a threat.[2] These changes stress the body. A body that’s stressed will experience symptoms of stress.

Anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress. We call them anxiety symptoms because anxious behavior is the main source of the stress that causes the body to become stressed and symptomatic.

When a person behaves anxiously too often, the body can become chronically stressed,[3] which we call stress-response hyperstimulation since stress hormones are stimulants. Chronic stress (stress-response hyperstimulation) can cause the body to exhibit chronic symptoms.[4]

To eliminate chronic symptoms, we want to eliminate chronic stress. As chronic stress diminishes, symptoms of chronic stress subside.

Anxiety

Anxiety is caused by apprehensive behavior – the anxious ways we think and act. For more information, visit our “anxiety symptoms” or “Anxiety 101” articles.

To reduce anxiety, we want to reduce apprehensive behavior. Distraction onto pleasant experiences can reduce apprehensive behavior. Anything we do that distracts us away from behaving apprehensively will reduce anxiety and the stress it causes.

Natural Ways To Relax And Reduce Stress And Anxiety

There are many natural ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Here are some of the most common:

Have a massage

A massage can be especially relaxing. If you don’t want to get a professional massage, ask a loved one for a massage.

After you get your massage, you might want to reciprocate as giving a massage can also be relaxing. Massage has been proven to reduce anxiety and stress.[5]

Leisurely walk

Leisurely walks are great ways to relax. Not only is the walking experience relaxing itself, but it will also increase oxygen, increase feel-good endorphins, and burn off excess stress hormones, which can dramatically reduce the body’s stress and stimulation.

If you are working up a sweat and breathing hard, you’re walking too briskly. Brisk exercise stresses the body, so you want to keep your walks relaxing and not taxing.

Leisurely bike ride

Just as a leisurely walk can be relaxing, so can a leisurely bike ride. A leisurely bike ride increases oxygen, can increase feel-good endorphins, and burn off excess stress hormones, all of which can reduce stress and relax the body.

Take your time and enjoy the ride. Be sure to breathe in all that fresh air because it’s good for both physical and mental health.

A stroll in the country

Spending time in nature is a proven stress reducer.[6] Adding the benefits of a leisurely walk in nature can significantly reduce stress and stimulation.

Spend time in the park

Just as spending time in the country can be beneficial, so can spending time in the park. If leisurely walking isn’t your thing, sit on a park bench or on the grass. Whichever way you spend time in nature will reduce stress.

Meditation

Deep relaxation, such as meditation, is an effective way to reduce stress.[7] Meditation also strengthens the executive decision-making parts of the brain necessary for containing anxious thinking.

Relaxed diaphragmatic breathing

Breathing from the diaphragm produces many benefits, including stimulating the vagus nerve, which signals the release of the body’s natural tranquilizing effect.[8]

We don’t recommend deep breathing as it can cause hyperventilation, which can cause symptoms similar to anxiety, as well as cause involuntary panic attacks. Relaxed diaphragmatic breathing prevents that possibility but produces a similar calming effect.

Have a catnap

Catnaps can be relaxing and improve mood, cognitive function, and memory. Catnaps can also rejuvenate the body if sleep is disrupted or cut short during the night.[9]

Lounge in your backyard

If your backyard is relaxing, lounging in it on a lawn chair, hammock, or blanket can be especially relaxing.

Spend time cuddling with a loved one

Cuddling with a loved one can also be especially relaxing. It can also increase intimacy time so necessary for quality relationships.

Leisurely gardening

If you enjoy spending time in the garden, gardening can be especially relaxing. If you don’t enjoy gardening yourself but enjoy the sights and smells of a flower garden, grab a chair and enjoy it without doing the work.

Scalp massage

Many people find scalp massage relaxing. If you do, go get a scalp massage. If you don’t want to pay for one, massage your own scalp as it can still be enjoyable and incredibly relaxing.

Foot massage

Many people also find having a foot massage relaxing. If you don’t want to pay for one, ask a loved one or do it yourself. No matter how you get one, a foot massage is another easy and effective way to reduce stress, reduce anxiety, and increase pleasure.

Warm soak in the tub

Many people find soaking in the tub relaxing. Adding Epsom salt, which contains magnesium sulfate, can be calming and helps lower blood pressure.

Some people also find adding scented soaps and mineral oils enjoyable and relaxing.

Indulge your senses such as with aromatherapy and essential oils

Many people find aromatherapy relaxing, especially the scent of lavender and vanilla. Some people also find citrus aromas relaxing and soothing.

You might want to experiment to see what works best for you.

Spend time with your pet

Pets are wonderfully relaxing. Increasing your pet-time can significantly reduce stress.[10]

Laugh

Laughter can be a wonderfully easy way to reduce stress. Not only does laughter distract away from problems and change mood, it also stimulates the vagus nerve, which in turn triggers the body’s natural tranquilizing effect.

Spend time with a good friend

Good friends are great stress reducers. Not only do they make you feel loved and appreciated, but they can also support you through difficult times.

Spending time with a good friend can significantly reduce stress and stimulation.

Spend time alone

If you are an introvert and enjoy being alone, increase your alone time. Doing the things you love is a great way to reduce stress.

Not everyone is an extrovert or wants to be one. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying alone-time. In fact, it’s incredibility healthy.

Express your creative side

Expressing your creative side reduces stress whether it be through art, writing, graphic design, etc.[11] You don’t have to be good at that expression to reap the benefits of reduced stress, stimulation, and anxiety.

Play or listen to music

Playing or listening to music is a great way to reduce stress[12]…and distract away from day-to-day problems. Whatever music you enjoy will reduce stress.

Spend time in the sun

Many people find spending time in the sun relaxing. Spending time in the sun will get you outdoors and can also increase vitamin D, which can have a stress-reducing effect.

Regular light to moderate exercise

Regular exercise increases feel-good endorphins and blood flow/oxygen to the brain. Both beneficial in reducing stress and improving physical and mental health.[13][14]

Treat yourself to a herbal tea or other special drink at your local coffee shop

Sometimes getting out of the house is stress-reducing in itself. Treating yourself to a special drink in a different location can be the very break you need to gear your nervous system down.

Spend time at the beach

If you like spending time at the beach, make it a day trip.

Go fishing

If you like fishing, plan a day to just go fishing.

Practice gratitude

Being grateful reduces stress.[15] Focusing on the things we are thankful for has many health benefits, including increasing self-esteem, empathy, and mental strength, as well as helping to overcome the adverse effects of trauma.[16]

The next time you are feeling stressed, make a list of all the things you are thankful for.

Unplug

Research shows that staying plugged into electronic devices increases stress.[17] Research also shows that socializing with family and friends reduces stress.[18]

To reduce stress, put your device down and spend more time visiting with family and friends.

Pray

If you are spiritually-minded, prayer has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.[19] Spirituality also improves mental and physical health.[20][21][22][23].

Developing your spiritual life could play an important role in reducing stress and anxiety, as well as improving your overall life experience.

There are many other ways to relax and reduce stress and anxiety, including:

  • Take a leisurely boat ride
  • Visit an art gallery
  • Visit a museum
  • Take a drive in the country
  • Bird-watching
  • Go to a non-stimulating movie
  • Watch a non-stimulating tv program or movie
  • Watch a funny movie
  • Photography
  • Go to the pool
  • Have a soak in a not too hot whirlpool
  • Plan a fun but not too taxing day trip
  • Spend time at a spa
  • Volunteer helping people
  • Self-massage
  • Sleep in
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Plan time to do absolutely nothing
  • Go to the zoo
  • Go shopping (if you like shopping and can afford it)
  • Spend time at a nearby lake
  • Have a picnic
  • Have a bonfire
  • Watch a sunrise
  • Watch a sunset
  • Cooking (if you enjoy cooking)
  • Reading
  • Leisurely swimming
  • Eat a healthy diet (avoiding high fat, high sugar, fast, and highly processed foods)
  • Avoid stimulants

Since we are all somewhat unique, different things work for different people. If you find something relaxing that isn’t on our list and you liked our Facebook page or Facebook group, “Anxiety & Mental health Discussion Group”, let us know by leaving a comment and we’ll add it to our list.

If you are having difficulty with stubborn anxiety or its symptoms, you might want to connect with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists to help you identify and successfully the underlying factors that create problems with anxiety.

Wishing you all good physical and mental health!


The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


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REFERENCES:

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