9 Field-Tested Strategies to Reduce Stress

Improve your life in five minutes or less.

Oct 15, 2014
Outside Magazine
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canoeing woman with dog in Canada.    Photo: s-eyerkaufer/Thinkstock

Does Exercise Relieve Stress or Cause It?

The short answer? It depends.

You don't need a zen retreat to escape the holiday crush. These simple strategies will help you relax, no matter how short on time you are.

10 Seconds: Laugh

Even just anticipating a chuckle is enough to relieve stress and elevate hormones that combat depression and boost immunity. 

5 Minutes: 
Chew Gum

Chewing two sticks a day for two weeks can fight off anxiety and fatigue and improve mood.

15 Minutes: 

Research has shown that a quarter of an hour of guided meditation performed in the office can kick psychological and physiological markers of stress. You don’t need someone in the flesh to help lead your thoughts; UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center offers free weekly meditation podcasts to download or stream.

30 Minutes: 
Go for a Run

Five days a week at a moderate pace of around ten minutes per mile can boost your mood, concentration, and sleep quality—not to mention your cardiovascular health and muscle tone.

45 Minutes: 
Take a Nap

A 45-to-60-minute daytime snooze boosts your cardiovascular system, bringing spiked blood pressure back down to normal.

90 Minutes: Stretch It Out

Studies have shown that yoga relieves tension in everyone from medical students to flood survivors. Ninety minutes twice a week erases anxiety and replaces it with calm, though sessions half that long can also work. Locate a class near you at YogaFinder or DIY with the Yoga Studio app (iOS; $4).

1 Day: Walk in the Woods

Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term meaning “walking or staying in forests to promote health.” Just a day in the wild, researchers have found, is enough to reduce stress, even in chronic sufferers. 

1 Year: Move to Switzerland

The country topped the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Better Life Index for life satisfaction. A strong sense of community, high life expectancy, and low unemployment make the Swiss life sweet. That and your in-laws probably don’t live there. 

16 Years: 
Get a Dog

A pup will lower your blood pressure and generally improve your psychological well-being. And bringing it to the office can increase job satisfaction.

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