How to reduce stress

Virus pandemic. Economic collapse. Political turmoil. Hurricanes. It seems like every day there is more bad news to hear about. Combine that with the normal stress of work and chores and it is easy to see why so many people are stressed out. All of that stress is bad for your physical and emotional health. Fortunately, there are a few simple actions you can take to dramatically reduce your stress levels.

Step 1: Find the main source of stress and eliminate it

The single most important thing you can do to reduce stress is to just find out what is causing the stress and remove it from your life if possible. If you hate your job, consider looking for a new one. If you are in a bad relationship, then find a way to fix it. Most of the time you will find that most of the stress in your life is caused by one or two sources, and often they can be removed from your life entirely.

Step 2: If you can't remove it, ignore it or take action

Sometimes the things causing stress are beyond our control. This is especially true of problems involving politics, a pandemic, or a natural disaster. If you can't just remove the problem from your life, the next best options are to either ignore it completely or take action. Some problems aren't as big as they appear at first and can be ignored. But sometimes it is better to take action. For example, if a natural disaster caused massive destruction, find a way to help. The act of giving and helping others is an incredibly powerful way to reduce your own stress levels.

Step 3: Enjoy a hobby

Simply enjoying a hobby is a great way to reduce your stress levels. Find something you love to do and make time to do it every day. Don't look for time to do it, make the time. Even a few minutes every day can be a great way to relax.

Step 4: Get exercise

Any type of exercise is a good way to lower your stress. It doesn't have to be a hard core iron-pumping powerlifting routine. Even a casual 10-15 minute walk every day after work can be a fantastic way to lower your stress and improve your mental and physical wellbeing.

Step 5: Meditate

Meditation has a bad reputation. Many people think meditation involves sacred rituals and mystical chants. The truth is that meditation is just a deep state of relaxation. Some people will try to make it sound more complicated than it really is, but you can achieve basic state of meditation by finding a quiet place, sitting or standing in a comfortable position, and focusing on your breath. Any time your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to your breath. That's it. That's basic meditation, and research has shown it to be an incredibly powerful way to reduce stress and improve mental health.

Step 6: Turn off the news

Let's face it. The news these days is really depressing. The news industry-- especially in the United States-- feeds off of emotions and drama. They thrive by getting people worked up about stories and dramatizing them. You certainly do need to be an informed citizen, but spending all day immersed in non-stop news is really bad for your stress levels. And when you do consume news, find news sources that don't add drama to it. Personally I find PBS News and the BBC to be especially good in this regard.

Step 7: Ditch social media

There is a growing amount of research to show that social media is disasterous for your emotional and mental health. People on social media only show the "highlight reels" of their lives, often leaving other people feeling inadequate. Combine that with the non-stop news and politics on social media, and you end up with an environment that is just plain toxic. Removing social media from your life or minimizing it can be one of the most powerful ways to reduce stress in your life.