There is no magical formula for relieving stress, and even the most reliable stress relievers are only effective for some people. The main reason for the inconsistency is that you have to be in the right place mentally in order for a given antistress activity to work for you. Plus, since everyone has different interests and temperaments, something that takes care of stress for one person might be ineffective for someone else. For instance, some people find running to be highly effective for relieving stress. But if you are not a runner and dread the idea of making yourself do that, then it can actually add to your stress.
While it is difficult to pinpoint a single antistress activity that will work for everyone, at least one of these five should do the trick for you. If you are not sure where to start, try each until you find one that works.
1. Swimming: Unlike running and other very demanding types of exercise, swimming can truly be done at one’s own pace. And aside from being one of the best ways to get a truly full-body workout, swimming is simply enjoyable in ways that more self-punishing types of exercise are not. There is something pleasurable about being in the water, and it is a feeling that is not matched by anything else in the world. For maximum stress relief (and good exercise) try at least two one-hour sessions of swimming per week.
2. Meditation: You do not have to treat meditation as a religious or spiritual activity if you have no feelings about that side of the activity. But even separate from these aspects, meditation is a rewarding activity for the way it helps you quiet your mind and reset your thoughts. When you are in the middle of a stressful day, if you take some time out to meditate, you will then feel better prepared to handle the challenges of your day.
3. Get out in nature: A nice day out in the wilderness—without being plugged into your electrical devices—is the perfect way to get your mind off things so that you can return to your life with a fresh attitude. The beneficial effects can be subtle, but when you go for a hike or a camping trip, it forces you to put your mental energies into simple things like following the path, enjoying the view, and settling on a spot to rest or camp. The mere act of focusing on these things, rather than the usual sources of your stress, is therapeutic.
4. Enjoy art: It does not matter what type of work of art you enjoy. Action movies with lots of car chases and explosions qualify as works of art, as do rock-and-roll albums. What matters is that you allow yourself to be immersed in that work of art so that your real-life sources of stress are pushed to the back of your mind, if not forgotten, for a significant period of time. And not only does this help you forget your stress, but it also helps you expand your horizons and think in new directions, which can help you view your stress from a better perspective.
5. Create art: Even if you are not usually the type of person who will sit down and write a poem, paint a picture, or learn an instrument, every person has the capacity for art, and this perhaps untapped thing inside you holds great power not just to reduce your stress but to improve your mind and make you a more well-rounded person. So whatever you do, set aside a little bit of time every day or a few times a week to make something creative.
By Marc Courtiol