When life is stressful, how can you combat it? You don't have to drop money to get a massage or go to a spa to relax -- here are some easy ways to reduce stress at home.
Settling down to read a book can have a great effect when it comes to reducing stress levels. According to a 2009 study by the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, reading a book works better and faster than other common methods of relaxation -- reducing stress levels by 68 percent. Reading quiets the mind, promotes focus and provides escapism from whatever in your life that's troubling you.
Yoga is a mind-body exercise that combines controlled breathing, physical exercise, and meditation to promote a sense of relaxation. According to the Mayo Clinic, numerous studies have linked practicing yoga to relaxation by reducing stress and promoting a greater sense of well-being. On top of being a relaxing exercise, it's also good for your body -- the practice promotes strength and flexibility and can lead to better physical health as well as mental health.
Studies have been conducted on music's effects on hospital patients and those with mental illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorder, and listening to music has long been connected to health benefits.
"There's just something about music -- particularly live music -- that excites and activates the body," Joanne Loewy, co-editor of the journal Music and Medicine told the American Psychological Association. "Music very much has a way of enhancing quality of life and can, in addition, promote recovery."
Meditation is one of the simplest and fastest ways to reduce high-stress levels. The secret of meditation is not to keep your mind clear like many people think, but to focus on your controlled breathing -- if your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. Meditation has many emotional benefits including increasing self-awareness, focusing on the present, promoting mindfulness, reducing negative emotions and enhancing creativity, imagination, patience, and tolerance.
If the weather is nice, get outside and take a walk. The fresh air and sunlight can boost your mood, give you a surge of energy and creativity and reduce stress, according to Psychology Today. You can go on a stroll around the block or wander through a park or garden -- just being in nature can help you de-stress.
When it comes to reducing stress, animals are a great source of calm for humans. According to Time, people who have pets tend to have lower blood pressure, heart rate and risk of heart-disease than people who don't have pets. Some pets, such as dogs, require their owners to be more physical through walking and play. Other more sedentary pets help with stress levels as well -- when you pet an animal, your body can produce oxytocin and promote calmness.
Though stress balls are not ideal for long-term stress relief, they can help you during the worst of your stress and anxiety. By clenching and releasing the ball, you feel less tense because you are releasing the stressful energy. The repetition of squeezing and releasing is also beneficial for reducing stress.
Coloring books have been popular over recent years, particularly intricate adult coloring books that began circulating in 2012 and 2013. The process is similar to meditation -- you can shut your thoughts out and focus on one task (coloring), allowing your anxieties to leave your mind.
"Coloring definitely has therapeutic potential to reduce anxiety, create focus or bring [about] more mindfulness," art therapist Marygrace Berberian told CNN.
No, it's not your imagination -- frequent social media use might be making you feel more stressed out, anxious or depressed, according to PsychCentral. Everyone puts their best foot forward on their social media profiles and tend to present the polished, filtered versions of their lives. One study found that social media, especially Facebook, can lower someone's self-esteem because the platform makes you compare yourself to other peoples' posts. To reduce the negative symptoms social media can produce, try going without your phone to help yourself relax.