Stress can be both a good thing and a bad thing, depending on course of its duration. In the short term, stress signals the adrenal glands to release hormones to face the threat, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which help protect the body against harm.
However, when stress levels continuously remain high for over a long term basis, the same defense mechanisms that prove helpful in the event of acute stress end up wreaking havoc on the body. The immune system becomes compromised, blood pressure problems arise, the cardiovascular system becomes impaired, sleep is negatively impacted, the brain is effected and cognitive dysfunction among other brain related issues like anxiety from an overactive amygdala arise, and various other health problems. In short, chronic stress basically diminishes your quality of life in virtually every aspect possible.
Learning to manage stress is essential for you to have an optimal quality of life. Thankfully, there are methods that can help you achieve that. The following techniques for combatting stress are but a few ways to lower stress levels and simultaneously positively effect various aspects of your life:
4 Stress Relieving Methods With Numerous Benefits
Exercise, which reduces levels of the stress hormone, improves areas of the brain related to cognitive function. Lowering cortisol levels via exercise significantly aids in cognitive functions such as problem solving and concentration by activating the prefrontal cortex and other stress related regions of the brain. The director of the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, Ronald Petersen MD, found it only takes being physically active for 20 to 30 minutes a day to reap the benefits of exercise. 
Exercising also helps clear the mind, especially when it’s outdoors in the form of something you find meditative where you can “zone” out, such as running or doing yoga. Exercising in the vast openness of nature shifts you into a state of stillness in which heart based perception and consciousness are easily accessible. When you drop into this state, it helps you realize many of the problems you are stressing over aren’t nearly as significant as you previously thought. This realization frees space in the brain for creativity and inspiration. Also, exercising in nature and shifting in a state of stillness like this helps you feel more grounded and connected to both your body and the Earth.
Meditating for 20-30 minutes a day decreases overactivity in the amygdala —the area in the brain where fear and anxiety originate when overactive—. This has a direct, drastic effect in reducing feeling of stress and anxiousness. Furthermore, meditation increases the expression of genes in areas related to energy, cognition, metabolism and the rate at which cells age; it does so by reducing cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Music has a powerful effect on the brain, and promotes the release of calming hormones. Both hemispheres of the brain – the left brain and the right — become activated and work in synergy. Engaging the whole brain helps a person to assess life situations from a more logical standpoint and perspective.
When you train both hemispheres of the brain to work together, you are less likely to respond to events in your life in ways that are out of proportion to what is actually happening. In short, you become more accustomed to approaching life in a more stable manner, letting a synergetic blend of logic and feeling guide you rather than inner turmoil that promotes unnecessary drama and/or obstacles.
To achieve this, don’t focus on listening to music that is “supposed” to make you feel good. Instead, listen to whatever type of music you KNOW makes you feel good and transmutes you into a state of heightened awareness.
Engaging in an activity you find humorous –whether it is a funny TV show, a conversation, a book, or any virtually any form of entertainment or activity that makes you genuinely laugh – significantly deactivates stress hormones. Laughter also diminishes pain, increases blood flow, relaxes muscles, enhances creativity, improves memory, raises blood oxygen levels, lowers high blood pressure, and more.
Of course, these are only a few of numerous tips and methods fore relieving stress and promoting a more positive lifestyle. Ultimately, choose the techniques that make the air around you less dense, your day to day worries a little more trivial, and going through life overall more effortless. Over time, each “little” bit of stress and tension that you release will accumulate so you find yourself with much more space for creativity and positivity than you previously had.
It is okay to feel stressed, to accept it in this moment —in fact, stress is good and necessary, so long as it is used as a motivator to take action and strategize how to deal with the stressor rather than simply dwelling on it and not acting. What matters most is to not give up and accept any current stressful circumstances as forever. They are only temporary.
As author David Mitchell so eloquently states in Cloud Atlas, “you are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. you’re defective, it just means you’re human.” Accept where you’re currently at in life, but also accept and acknowledge that where you are at now does not have to be where you’re at forever. The best part? Ensuring that statement is true is entirely up to you —and that is not stressful. That is empowering.
1. “Calm Your Mind,” Neurology Now Magazine (April/May 2015)
3. “The Power of Music,” The Best of Law of Attraction Magazine