With a busy and full life, stress is somewhat inevitable. Thankfully, with the right tools, you can find many different ways to reduce stress, whether you have 15 minutes to spare or are working toward more long-term goals. It comes down to making small changes for your physical, emotional, and mental health. But don't take our word for it. We tapped a registered dietitian, a licensed clinical psychologist, and an acupuncturist to find a myriad of ways to reduce stress stemming from every self-care discipline.
Registered dietitian and CEO of The Better Nutrition Program Ashley Koff suggests turning specific foods to turn off the body's stress response. According to her, you'll want to load up on foods packed with magnesium like cashews, almonds, and dark leafy greens.
Melanie Greenberg, PhD, author of The Stress-Proof Brain, recommends directing your energy to parts of a stressful situation that you can control and developing mindfulness practices that work best for you.
Finally, acupuncturist, herbalist, and founder of Vie Healing Mona Dan finds that acupuncture can help both the body and the mind relax thanks to its effect on the nervous system. Ahead, each wellness expert explains how to reduce stress no matter how much time you have.
If you have 15 minutes…
The nutritional method: Koff recommends taking a few deep breaths, then sipping on a smoothie filled with stress-relieving ingredients filled with magnesium. She suggests mixing Califia Farms strawberry dairy-free probiotic yogurt with a 1/4 cup of frozen cauliflower, half of a banana, and two tablespoons of cacao or dark chocolate powder for a stress-reducing elixir.
The mental method: Greenberg advises you do a quick meditation practice. This can be anything from mindful breathing to paying attention to your senses or doing a full-body scan to notice points of stress and soften them.
The physical method: If you have a few minutes to spare, Dan suggests trying out ear seeding, an acupuncture practice you can do at home if you purchase a kit. It involves sticking tiny seeds of the Vaccaria plant onto specific places on your ear to relieve stress.
If you have a few hours…
The nutritional method: Koff explains that the goal of healthy eating is to have a nutrient-balanced serving of food every three hours with water and healthy snacks in between. Maintaining a diet like this can help reduce stress. She suggests snacking on non-starchy vegetables like celery, cucumber, and jicama when you have time between meals.
The mental method: According to Greenberg, the best way to spend a few free hours when you're feeling stressed out is to do something fun, relaxing, or creative. "Read a book, see a movie, go out for lunch or dinner, explore a new place, paint, or make your house homier," she says.
The physical method: Dan suggests having an acupuncture treatment if you have the time. "We hold our emotions in our blood, and with acupuncture, we are stimulating the movement of blood to get emotions moved so they can be processed," Dan explains.
If you have a whole day…
The nutritional method: "Plan your day to include magnesium, workouts, and taking care of your digestion," Koff says. She suggests starting your day with a bowl of nuts and seeds high in magnesium sprinkled over yogurt. Mid-morning, enjoy a green tea and a sweet potato topped with avocado and hemp seeds, and for lunch, grill veggies and serve with chicken or beans. Then, have a snack of dark chocolate and cashew butter before eating a dinner of turkey burgers without the bun, topped with sautéed onions and mushrooms and served with a side salad.
The mental method: Try spending part of your day accomplishing things that will reduce your workload and improve your organization. By eliminating things that cause you stress, you'll feel calmer, according to Greenberg. You could also plan a fun day trip with a friend or significant other to get your mind off what's causing you stress. "Drive to the beach, go to an art gallery or play, hike, or attend a yoga retreat," she says.
The physical method: Dan advises you to start your day with warming foods and a gentle workout. She also suggests drinking warm tea throughout the day and finding time for acupuncture or another ritual you enjoy, whether that's an Epsom salt bath or jade rolling.
If you're working on long-term goals…
The nutritional method: "Focus on sleep, overall better nutrition, and finding ways to reduce stress," says Koff. For her, that includes having two food sources of magnesium (green leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and legumes) and one food source of B12 bacteria (yogurt, kefir, and kimchi) each day.
The mental method: The most important thing you can do for long-term stress relief is to learn to prioritize and reduce time-wasting activities, according to Greenberg. You can also work on saying no when necessary, resting, being aware of your stress and thinking patterns, and developing regular meditation, yoga, or exercise practices.
The physical method: Dan recommends incorporating acupuncture into your weekly schedule to truly reap the benefits of the stress-relieving practice. "Acupuncture is a unique stimulation to the nervous system that resets the interaction between parasympathetic (processing) and sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight)," she explains. Essentially, this process relaxes the body and mind because so much turns off internally when you go into fight-or-flight mode. Think of it as a workout for your nervous system that you can do a few times a week.