Find your zen: 10 techniques for reducing stress and anxiety

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Stress and anxiety can quickly take over.

In fact, for a lot of people, it’s become an all too real fact of life.

But if you’re feeling the pressure, there are plenty of things you can do to find your zen.

In this article, we’ll explore empowering techniques that have been proven to work.

1) Use journaling to release tension and understand yourself better

Think of journaling as the grown-up evolution of your teenage diary.

But rather than swooning over your latest crush, it’s now a tool for releasing your stream of consciousness.

Studies have shown that journaling can help to reduce stress and anxiety.


It allows you to let out the worry you’re feeling. Turns out that just getting it down on paper is therapeutic.

If there’s something in particular that has been impacting your stress levels it can also help you get more clarity.

It helps you to become more self-aware, so you can better understand what’s going on with your emotions and thoughts.

Journaling is like having a conversation with yourself.

But instead of thoughts swirling endlessly around your head, you let them out by putting pen to paper. 

2) Practice meditation and mindfulness

I’ve heard so many people say they just can’t do meditation.

I know what they mean. In a fast-paced stressful world, one of the hardest things to do is nothing.

Sitting quietly and in stillness can feel almost impossible for some people.

But there are so many scientifically proven benefits to starting a meditation practice — and reduced stress and anxiety are just some of them.

Even better, meditation doesn’t have to be so formal.

There are several ways you can try it.

For example, you can follow a guided meditation or listen to calming music, rather than stay in silence.

You don’t even have to remain perfectly still. There are mindful techniques that still offer many of the stress-busting benefits.

It might be:

  • Mindfully walking in nature.
  • Performing a body scan to consciously relax your body.
  • Guided imagery to harness the power of your imagination to create a better vision of life.
  • Consciously focusing on all of your senses.

Anything that gets you into the present and away from needless worry does the trick.

3) Get active

Whether it’s an aggressive sweaty session at the gym or a calming yoga session — what matters most is shaking off those cobwebs.

Negative emotions may start as thoughts in the mind, but they quickly flow into the body.

When you are feeling stressed you’ll no doubt notice it.

Perhaps you can feel the tension in your jaw. Maybe you sense tightness in the muscles. Or maybe a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Your brain is constantly sending signals to your body, which means the body-mind connection runs way deeper than we might think.

We can help relieve emotional frustrations through the power of the physical.

Go for a walk or run, punch and scream into your pillows or dance like a crazy person around your room.

Finding a physical way to let go of your emotions can help shift your energy. That’s why getting some exercise is great for stress relief.

4) Identify your biggest triggers and come up with a plan

When we’re feeling stressed we tend to feel out of control.

Sometimes doing nothing makes us feel worse.

Coming up with a plan of action can help you feel back in the driving seat of your own life.

The first step is taking a look at the biggest causes of your stress and anxiety.

What can you control and what can’t you control?

Let’s face it, there are some things we cannot change and we need to work on accepting them instead.

But other things, we can do something about.

Taking control can feel empowering. Trying to identify some practical solutions to your main stress triggers will probably help.

This might mean bolstering your boundaries and getting better at saying no when you’re taking too much on. 

It might mean making time for self-care when you know you’re feeling the pressure.

It might mean putting some space between you and anyone who really pushes your buttons or feel like a negative influence in your life.

Ask yourself what is adding to my stress and anxiety right now? And what can I do about it?

5) Practice gratitude

When we’re suffering from anxiety, we find ourselves focusing on the bad.

Your mind quickly picks out all the potential pitfalls and problems in life.

These only serve to feed your anxiety and add to your stress as a consequence. The difficulty is that it’s not that easy to stop.

You can feel controlled by anxious thoughts, unable to so anything about them. But rather than fight them, you can practice gratitude.

It serves almost as an antidote.

It encourages you to put your focus back on what is going right for you in life.

I know it can be hard to look for what is right when we are lost in the haze of what is “wrong”. 

If it feels difficult to find anything, just keep looking, no matter how small or insignificant.

Write down at least 5 things you genuinely feel lucky for at this moment.

It could be your health, your children, or just that parking spot you managed to bag so easily this morning.

Taking a few minutes out of your day to be grateful has been scientifically proven to:

  • Help you feel more positive emotions.
  • Improve your health — both physical and psychological.
  • Help you to handle adversity.
  • Improve your relationship with others.

6) Try breathwork

For some people, breathwork can feel easier to “master” than meditation.

Although, to be honest, breathwork is really just a form of mediation.

That’s because it gives you something sensory to focus on, which brings your attention to the present moment.

And the funny thing is that pretty much all of our problems only exist in the future or the past.

There’s very little in the immediate—right this second—”now” that needs our attention.

But the worry we create in our minds makes us feel under threat.

Just like meditation, breathing exercises can help your body to get out of the harmful fight or flight mode that floods the body with the stress hormone cortisol.

Simply breathing in a particular way can trick your body into relaxing and overriding this response.

Want to give it a try?

This Hack Spirit article shares 4 breathing exercises to reduce stress and anxiety.

7) Talk to someone

Talking about how we’re feeling can make a big difference.

That can be to a professional like a therapist or a psychologist. But it can just as easily be a good friend or family member.

It can be a good idea to let someone know what you need from them first. For example, we can have a tendency to offer unsolicited advice.

As well-meaning as it is, it can be frustrating to be on the receiving end of it when that’s not what you were looking for.

Often we just want a sympathetic ear in order to feel heard.

So be sure to let someone know if you want their opinion or just to listen.

Even when you don’t feel like talking, just hanging out with someone can help.

We all need connection. When you’re struggling it’s extra important to ask for help and turn to your support network.

8) Get a good night’s sleep

I know they don’t sound like much, but things like getting enough sleep, and improving your diet, are super important to well-being.

For example, there’s a proven link between sleep and your mental and emotional health.

As highlighted by the Sleep foundation:

“Sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. During sleep, the brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories, and it appears that a lack of sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content. This can influence mood and emotional reactivity and is tied to mental health disorders and their severity.”

Plus studies have shown that cleaner diets (made up of mainly whole, unprocessed foods) can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety.

So this one is a reminder to us all that we shouldn’t neglect the basics.

Sometimes the way towards relieving stress and anxiety isn’t rocket science, it’s common sense too.

9) Help other people

This one should probably come with a disclaimer.

If you are feeling stressed and anxious because you are overstretched, overworked, and over-committed right now, don’t head out the door to volunteer.

But when we feel lost in our own struggles, sometimes one of the quickest ways to snap out of it is to be of service to somebody else.

Research shows that kinder people live longer and healthier lives because of a real physical sensation known as a “helpers high”.

Participants in one study reported benefits like feeling stronger, more energetic, calmer, less depressed, and with increased feelings of self-worth.

You don’t have to give up hours of your time to feel this effect. It can be as simple as doing a little favor for someone.

But shifting your attention away from your own stresses can actually help to take your mind off things, feel more connected and put things in perspective.

10) Get creative

Every single person on this earth is naturally creative.

It is your birthright as a being of the Universe.

Sounds a bit extreme?

Well, it is true.

You are literally made of stardust, as nearly all the elements in the human body were created in a star that once exploded.

Getting creative has a magical power to help you destress and reconnect with yourself.

The form of creativity you choose doesn’t really matter, and you certainly don’t need to be Mozart, it’s about simply allowing a flow of expression.

It can be dancing, writing, painting, music, photography, crafts, baking, or countless other creative pursuits.

But when you play you are allowing yourself to be the creator that life designed you to be.

Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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