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A man overwhelmed by stress with post-it notes all over his body.

6 Fun Stress Relieving Activities

August 22, 2022

Stress is an occasionally unavoidable pitfall of modern life. Learning to (a) recognize it, and (b) employ a few techniques to evade the anxieties of the 21st century can make all the difference. These six techniques are more than just healthy habits; they’re FUN stress relieving activities that you may just come to love and look forward to (we sure do).

A smiley-faced balloon on the streets of a city.

What is a Stressor?

We know what stress feels like in general, but identifying the source of stress isn’t always so straightforward.

So, what is a stressor exactly? Here’s the “stressor” definition in Collins Dictionary: “any stimulus producing mental or physical stress in an organism.” This means that everything is a potential stressor.

By this definition, it doesn’t matter much who you are; we’re each likely to face a whole heck of a lot of stressors each and every day.

What Does Stress Do to the Body?

When we get stressed, the brain releases a hormone called cortisol. In moderate amounts, cortisol serves a positive purpose. Basically, it optimizes your body for fight or flight. Now, much of the time when we get stressed about something, that stress level gradually recedes over time. However, if the source of our stress doesn’t go away, it’s possible to stay on edge almost indefinitely. This heightened level of cortisol can have detrimental effects. Continual stress can lead to some nasty stuff like anxiety, weight gain, depression, heart disease, and more (Mayo Clinic).

What Are Some Examples of Stressors?

Stressors come in many forms, which is part of why we don’t always recognize them. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we’re not even stressed in the first place! Taking care of an ailing loved one could be an example of this: we might feel guilt for experiencing the stress of that effort (even though it’s totally normal) because we “should” be 100% happy to show up for family.

In other situations, we tell ourselves that we actually like the stress —that we need the stress to be our best (for example: a demanding, high-profile job). Failing to recognize that tension for what it is can make it harder to get to the source of our stress and identify what’s causing it.

An example of a stressor can be big or small. Here are a few:

  • Common “Big-Time” Stressors
    • Debt
    • Relationship trouble
    • Toxic work environments
    • Health concerns
    • Looming deadlines
  • Subtler Stressors
    • Getting cut off in traffic
    • A bad night’s sleep
    • Rude customers
    • Future tripping

Stress vs Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are often used synonymously, but Medline Plus explains that anxiety is really a subtype of stress. While stress is the tension that a stressor causes, anxiety is a lingering form of stress that we continue to experience after the actual stressor is gone. In simple terms, a highly stressful experience can lead to anxiety.

The fun stress relieving activities below can help us get our endorphins going, clear our minds, and treat the stress we experience from the existing stressors in our lives. They may also be useful for managing the symptoms of lingering anxieties caused by past stressful experiences.

6 Fun Stress Relieving Activities For Modern Life

A turquoise school bus with the words Never Stress on it.

Halotherapy

Halotherapy (AKA salt room therapy) is unique here in that it’s the only one of these fun stress relieving activities that requires absolutely zero effort! Himalayan halotherapy is as easy as relaxing at the beach. Simply take the sandy shores in your mind’s eye and replace them with a room full of Himalayan salt — that’s the essential vibe of halotherapy. It’s a calming space in which you can read, listen to music, or just sit back and breathe in all the therapeutic dry salt particles!

Meditation

Meditating may not require much physical effort, but the intense focus on one’s own breath is a challenge for everyone on some level. Meditation is a practice that becomes increasingly manageable with time, however. If you allow yourself to commit to it; to sit in the stillness and silence of a quiet room, you’ll find few (if any) de-stressing techniques that are more effective.

Running

Paula Jones smiling and wearing purple sunglasses in her race gear after qualifying for Team USA.

Running is a natural treatment that accomplishes a bunch of things at once. On top of the physical benefits, going for a run releases endorphins (and naturally occurring endocannabinoids (Johns Hopkins)).

A run can also force us to step away from environmental stressors… like that construction project that’s been going on all week next door (did it have to be on the other side of your home office wall?!?).

Running lets us reset our perspective as our brains get a healthy rush.

“Exercise has a dramatic antidepressive effect. It blunts the brain’s response to physical and emotional stress.”

— David Linden, PhD Professor of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University

Swimming

Swimming is one of the best low-impact ways to start exercising again, and it has a LONG list of health benefits. Interestingly, the way we breathe when we swim may have a positive impact on cortisol levels too [1]Insider with research pulled from NLM 1 and NLM 2.

A woman doing backstroke as a fun stress-relieving activity.
Why make things hard on yourself? Explore fun stress relieving activities that make you happy!

Yoga

Beyond even just reducing cortisol levels, one recent study on a group of adult men found that yoga also had a “positive effect on parasympathetic nerve activity, which encourages relaxation” (quotation from Healthline). The results of another study on adult women found that “depression, anxiety, and stress decreased significantly” after 12 yoga sessions over four weeks.

Cycling

According to “Chief De-Stressing Officer” Neil Shah at the Stress Management Society, cycling has been shown to be as effective, if not more so, than meds at treating stress (Bike Radar). Whether you’re a road bike, mountain bike, or motorbike kind of person, there’s something about that wind in your face and the world whizzing by that just does something for a person. And those who stick to the non-motorized bikes, also get a slew of health benefits from one of the most practical and fun stress relieving activities around.

“Mental well-being is the most important cycling benefit for me. I rely on cycling and exercise to relieve any anxiety or stress that I may have built up.”

Lizzie Deignan, Olympic Road Race silver medallist
(BikeBiz)

Need a Space to Learn Stress Relieving Activities?

Knowing how to relieve stress and anxiety is a pretty important part of modern life. When we start to feel stressed, knowing the stress relieving activities that work best for us can make all the difference in the world.

The Tranquility Center offers salt room therapy, a space for meditation/yoga, and several other relaxing, self-serve wellness activities at a low hourly rate. Schedule a time to visit us and explore fun stress relieving activities in a positive space!

References

References
1 Insider with research pulled from NLM 1 and NLM 2

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