9 Natural Stress Relievers That Actually Work

no stressI used to smoke a pack a day.

If I remember right, that equals about 20 little sticks of stress relief for my enjoyment.

Smoking was marvelous. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I’ll beat you with my clunky laptop if you ever start such a nasty habit.

Since I gave it up over three years ago, I’ve had to find alternative ways to relieve stress. The year I quit, I was a newlywed, officially became a step mom and got a puppy.

I had a bit of stress.

Here are my top 9 ways to relieve stress, in order of effectiveness.

Vigorous exercise. Read it and weep. Running, kick boxing, jumping rope, serious bike riding – I’m not talking about the lolling around types of exercise. I mean the kind where your face is a couple shades of red and sweat beads form. This is the number one way to avoid and beat stress. Not the easiest way, but by far the most effective.

Getting enough sleep. Create a sleepy routine:  about a half-hour before bed, quiet your mind by reading or doing something without electronics. Take 10 minutes to put the day away.

Listening to music. A day without music leaves too much quiet to fill with noisy thoughts like, “Hurry up!” and “You’ll never get all this done!” Let your ideas dance around a little. My favorite Pandora stations for a pick-me-up? Nickel Creek for happiness. Kings of Leon for motivation. Yeah Yeah Yeahs for anger management.

Red wine. It’s like a party in my mouth to sip an old vine zin or pinot noir. Enjoy a glass several hours before bed so it doesn’t interfere with your sleep.

Herbal tea. My favorite splurge is yogi relaxed mind tea – the blend really works. If you need a cheaper option, try Sleepytime by Celestial Seasonings or Sweet Dreams by Bigelow.

Meditation. I used to think you had to be Buddhist to practice meditation, which isn’t the case at all. It’s a wonderful way to quiet the mind and be present with your surroundings. Here are some articles that explain some super easy techniques:

Meditation for beginners – 20 practical tips to help you get past the initial hurdles and integrate meditation over the long term.

How to use mini-meditations to relax and focus – Mini-meditations boost focus and calm your mind throughout the day. There’s no fancy preparation or techniques, and you can do them anywhere in less than a minute.

How to practice walking meditation – Be present and mindful of your experiences while you walk.

Movement and action. I’m guilty of filling my life too full, which leads to stress. Instead of letting my mind race with everything I need to do – I just start doing something. If you keep moving, stuff gets done.

Go somewhere alone. It could be a walk, a coffee shop where you can sit and think, even shopping. Get up from your desk and walk around the building outside. Sometimes it’s necessary to physically separate from the chaos. When I need to work alone, I tell the kids I’m not taking phone calls for the next hour and shut the office door to focus.

Touch. Give your kids a hug, greet friends by slinging your arm over their shoulder, kiss you spouse, snuggle. Turn on the power of touch – not in a creepy way, but a healthy, organic way, like the suggestions above.

Chronic stress can lead you down a dangerous path. It’s been shown to weaken the immune system, strain the heart, damage memory cells and deposit fat at the waist. Unchecked, it becomes an excuse for other bad habits, like drinking too much, eating junk food or smoking those nasty cigarettes.

Put a new pack in your pocket – like these tips – for a natural high that’s just the fix you’ve been craving.

If my writing helps you, please share it with other people. This is the number one way you can support my blog. xoxo Melissa

Photo by David Gaborit

Check out Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk, coming January 2016 from Delacorte Press/Random House. Visit her author site here.


1 Tracy August 24, 2010 at 7:56 am

I’ve found that hanging out with a pet is also a good stress reliever, too!

2 Melissa August 25, 2010 at 10:04 am

Yes! It’s hard to stay stressed with your cheek on a furry animal. I love my dog (and did you ever think I would say that about a dog??)

3 Kim August 24, 2010 at 9:51 am

Thanks for the meditation links. I’m reading “Eat, Pray, Love” and was thinking of trying meditation 🙂
Love ya,

4 Melissa August 25, 2010 at 10:03 am

How is the book? I really want to read it and see the movie. Girls night?

5 Kim August 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Oh the book is good! I’ve heard comments from people that they LOVE the movie but then from other people that say the book is way better…either way I still want to see the movie after I’m done with the book…Maybe we could do an early afternoon run of the movie during the week in Sept so that it’s done just in time for us to pick up the kids from school…just a thought…I did that a couple of times last year when there were movies I really wanted to see.

6 Melissa August 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Good idea! Then we’ll have automatic babysitters. Let’s do it! Email me some dates that work in the upcoming weeks.

7 Robin Lynn Brooks August 24, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Movement and Action and Touch 🙂
For me, instantaneous and works every time!
But I love the idea and how you put it, “Take 10 minutes to put the day away”
I am going to use it, too 🙂

8 Melissa August 25, 2010 at 10:03 am

Hi Robin – Those three are powerful! Thanks for your uplifting comment.

9 Keith Davis August 25, 2010 at 11:57 am

This is my kind of stress relief.
Exercise is a must – no way you can worry or get stressed when you are exercising hard.
Have to disagree with red wine.
Let’s make it … any colour wine and we can agree. LOL

10 Melissa August 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Haha, good one, Keith. And yes, I’ll have to agree with you – but there IS something about red wine that’s really soothing. Thanks for stopping by!

11 Katie August 25, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Melissa, I was a smoker too and quit five years ago. It’s such a relief not to be one anymore. I’m with you on exercise being #1. Also, letting go of being everything to everyone and just being. Lovely reminders. Wish I could join you guys at Eat Love Pray. Can’t wait to see it. Thanks.

12 Melissa August 28, 2010 at 11:07 am

I wish you could join us, too! Quitting smoking was one of the hardest things I ever did … with the best reward. Much love!

13 Frugal Vegan Mom August 26, 2010 at 11:15 am

Great list – I’ve never tried meditation, but would substitute it with yoga. Unfortunately going to a studio can get pricey and you have to fit it in, but I’ve never experienced the same sort of calming benefits from cardio!

14 Melissa August 28, 2010 at 11:08 am

Yoga is awesome. In fact, I think I will make time for yoga today! Thanks for the inspiration.

15 Stephen August 30, 2010 at 10:49 am

Hey Melissa
Some useful tips thanks 🙂

Stress is a real problem in today’s world, but I think it can also become an indulgence a habitual way of being.
I am going to give your ideas a try, thanks again.

16 Melissa September 1, 2010 at 9:59 am

Hi Stephen – Stress has become a way of life, something people resign to “deal with.” Good luck reducing stress. Your sanity will thank you. Take care!

17 Alan Chatfield February 27, 2011 at 8:16 am

This is a great post – one of the biggest problems with stress is that often people don’t realise how stressed they really are – if they acknowledge it at all. Meditation is a great way to give yourself a break from stress.

We recently wrote a very short article on minfulness which is a very useful technique which can also reduce stress – link here in case you’re interested: http://t.co/Jz03BLA

Also – exercise – couldn’t agree more – I started feeling miserable after having to give up a regular weekly football game (I was getting too many injuries) so need to find another outlet somehow…

Anyways, thanks for sharing this great article & take care,

18 Melissa February 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Mindfulness is soooo helpful to relieve stress. Thanks for sharing! Peace to you,

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