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5 Easy Ways to Calm Down and Reduce Stress Right Now

By Jessica Migala
April 21, 2024
Photo Credit: Jamie Grill Atlas

Everyone experiences some amount of stress every day — and the thing is, a little bit of stress is actually a good thing. Managing small bursts of stress helps us build resilience, and grow stronger. The problem is when we feel stress all the time, without relief. Chronic stress has serious health consequences, from headaches to digestive issues and even heart disease. But with all the demands on our time and all the stressors of modern life, it can be challenging to find ways to calm down that can fit into our day.

Luckily, you don’t have to book a two-week yoga retreat to soothe your stress (though if that’s available to you, go for it). Here are five super-quick, science-backed ways to ease stress that you can build into your everyday life.

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1. Bust a move

Both the music and the movement aspects of dance contribute to the stress relief benefits of dance. Right after dancing, you may feel a surge in energy and a mood boost, research shows. So, go ahead: Turn on your favorite song and pretend your bedroom is the hottest club in town. Or, if you want some guidance, try a dance video game.

2. Watch a cat video

Love cat videos online? (Same.) It may be hard to believe, but real science suggests cats on YouTube create calm. In an Indiana University study, researchers found that people reported more positive emotions and increased energy after watching cat videos.

3. Give or get a hug

If you’ve ever been hugged by a friend or loved one, you know intuitively that it can help you feel calmer, and research bears that out. Plus, it’s a good idea to make hugging a habit: Not only can it help reduce stress after the fact, for women, regular hugs helps manage the stress response in future moments, research shows.

Related: 7 Supplements to Reduce Cortisol, Say Experts

4. Breathe

If your mom told you to take a deep breath when you were wound up as a kid, she was right. Taking shallow breaths when you’re stressed limits the amount of oxygen that circulates to your lower lungs, which can make you feel tense and anxious. Taking a deep enough breath so that your lungs fill and your belly expands can slow your heartbeat and help stabilize your blood pressure. In fact, the Navy SEALs teach a method called Combat Tactical Breathing, in which you breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 4 counts, then exhale for 4 counts (this is also known as “box breathing“).

5. Be kind

Hold the door open for someone. Give a stranger a compliment. Buy coffee for the person in line behind you. Performing random acts of kindness can help reduce stress, according to research from UCLA and Yale. Here are 50 small acts of kindness, for inspo.

Read next: 6 Eating Habits That Might Be Increasing Your Stress

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