7 scientifically-proven physical ways to calm your mind when stressed out

Life challenges and unexpected situations are what commonly make us overwhelmed and stressed. When we experience any unusual situations, we may feel a mix of strong emotions that can be really bothersome and uncomfortable.

The way we cope with stress is important for our overall wellness, and because our emotional and physical aspects are inextricably intertwined, we can always follow simple yet research-based ways to relieve mental stress through physical means. 

Taking care of our bodies can make our minds and emotions more peaceful and resilient. In fact, regularly moving our bodies can ward off feelings of stagnation and lethargy that can be associated with stress. Physical activity can keep us alert, focused and energised. 

Signs of stress

Some people may not be able to identify stress even if they are already experiencing its symptoms.

Hence, the first step to relieving stress is to know whether you are actually experiencing it yourself and the reason behind it. Self-awareness is the key before following healthy ways to cope and support your mental wellness. 

The signs of stress are a combination of physical and emotional aspects. The primary ones are the following:

  • Acne and disbelief
  • Headaches, chronic pain, body pains, stomach problems and skin rashes
  • Feelings of fear, shock, anger, sadness, worry, numbness or frustration
  • Changes in appetite, energy, desires, libido and interests
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares, concentrating and making decisions
  • Worsening chronic health problems
  • Deteriorating mental health conditions, like depression [1]
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Scientifically-proven ways to relieve stress

Physical activity is important in relieving stress. The thing is, you don’t necessarily have to do rigorous routines. Realistically, it is hard for us to get up and hit the gym when we are stressed.

Intense moving requires positive emotions like motivation, especially if you are not physically active in your normal day-to-day activities, so how much more when you are stressed, right?

Hence, the following below are the best yet simple scientifically-proven ways you can easily do wherever you are. 

1. Walk for a few minutes

Waking is easy to do and advisable whenever you feel stressed. Generally speaking, walking has physical and mental benefits, such as boosting your mood, facilitating positive effects, reducing anxiety and elevating your creativity. 

A study suggests that brisk walking and meditating can enhance your mood state even just by doing them for only 10 minutes.

This is in comparison with an inactive control group after the research experiment. A single bout of brisk walking or meditation can provide suitable strategies for improving young adults’ moods [2]. 

7 scientifically-proven physical ways to calm your mind when stressed out

In another research, it was found that walking can promote the release of brain chemicals called endorphins, which is basically the body’s happy hormone.

Walking can stimulate relaxation and elevate the overwhelming feeling. Unlike the research mentioned above, this study does not necessarily recommend walking at a fast pace; simply walking or strolling around can ultimately relieve stress [3].

So, it is up to you which is much more suited for you as both can still benefit your mental state.

Using walking as a coping to stress has additional perks. Aside from enhancing your mood and giving you that much-needed dose of sunlight, brisk walking has significant positive effects on your cardiovascular health.

It can regulate your circadian rhythm and build stamina and resistance for your heart and lungs. 

2. Scalp and hair massage can do the trick

The fatal effects of stress on health are well-known to many of us. The good thing is our body has a system built to manage and recover from it, which is called the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). You only need a little boost and a few massages to do the trick. 

Relaxing is a great way to remove stress, and one way to do it is through scalp and hair massage. PSNS is activated when you receive a massage because your body becomes relaxed.

Research proves that there is a scientific measurement of the effects of massage on relieving stress.

The researchers emphasised that short periods of relaxation can be considered psychologically and physiologically regenerative and that the effect is even more identified with a massage [4]. 

Therefore, the experiments confirmed that simply having a few moments to relax can help an individual manage stress.

Plus, doing a relaxing massage, whether on the scalp or hair, counts even more as it activates one’s PSNS and alleviates the physical and mental effects of stress.

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3. Do the gentle spinal twist pose

You don’t need to have any background in yoga to do the gentle spinal twist pose. The idea is to do a full, free-form movement of the spine that can help recalibrate your central energy channel.

It is a restorative pose that can address the achiness and tension accumulating within the muscles of your back when you are overly stressed. It helps stretch your lower back muscles, specifically the spinal rotators and quadratus lumborum.

As you gently twist your spine, you may feel the slow relaxation and release of muscle tension. The pose can stimulate digestion, create balance and also open and relax the chest, shoulders and upper back muscles.

4. Stretch your body for 10 minutes 

Doing a few minutes of stretching to unwind tight joints and unclench stiff muscles can aid in releasing both physical and mental tension.

If you have been sitting all day, stretching is perfect for your body. You can gently extend your muscles and feel restorative and relaxed when you wake up, right after work and before bed. 

Stretching your body for ten minutes can reduce your muscle tension, thereby reversing the cycle of tension, then tightening and pain.

It is found to help increase serotonin levels–the hormone that aids in stabilising your mood–reduce stress, make you feel good overall and elicit positive feelings, causing a decrease in depression and anxiety [5].

5. Adopt a more open body posture

Embracing an upright, open posture may spare the muscles in your back, including arms and legs, from stiffness and soreness.

Plus, having an upright posture instead of slouching can potentially expand your lung capacity and aid you in breathing more efficiently [6]. It can also give you more energy and stability throughout the day.

Moreover, the benefits of good posture go beyond physical capacity; it has mental upside as well. Research shows that sitting up straight in your chair and leaning your chest forward can give you the feeling of self-confidence.

Adopting an upright seated posture while you are stressed can keep your self-esteem, lower your negative mood and increase your positive mood compared with having a slumped posture. Also, sitting upright leads to an increased rate of speech and reduced self-focus [7]. 

6. Have a mini spa day at home

When we think about relaxation, there is always the spa. Stress can be reduced when you are at ease and feeling comfortable, so having a mini spa day at home can be a good way. 

You can take a salty bath using magnesium sulphate or commonly called Epsom salts. Dissolving Epsom salts in the water releases magnesium and sulphate ions that can help reduce inflammation and soothe sore joints.

Research proves that Epsom salts can help stabilise your mood, relieve stress and lower anxiety and depression. Some others also claim that taking magnesium increases serotonin production in your brain [8].

The Ayurvedic standpoint believes that salts, including sea salts and Epsom salts, have historically been used for cleansing purposes in a physical and energetic way.

In that realm, a salty bath can also be a relaxing way to clear off negative energy that you may have acquired from others and connect back to your spiritual centre.

7 scientifically-proven physical ways to calm your mind when stressed out

7. Commit to a consistent sleep pattern

Sleep is essential to help your mind rest and relax. If you are not sleeping well, chances are, you may not be living energetically and peacefully during your waking hours. Sleep deprivation can lead to serious mental- and physical-health detriments.

It is associated with many chronic health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity and depression. 

Committing to a regular sleeping pattern can help boost your sleep hygiene and have a more stable mind.

As sleep operates in alignment with your circadian rhythm or the internal body clock, following a consistent sleep pattern ensures that you are not throwing that rhythm off.

Proper sleep can calm and restore your body, improve concentration, regulate mood and sharpen judgement and decision-making. 

Also, you become a better problem solver and more effective in coping with stress when your body and mind are well-rested. On the other hand, when you lack sleep, your energy and mental clarity can be reduced and diminished.

The bottom line

Stress can significantly affect longevity, in fact, chronic stress can shorten your lifespan. There are many health issues that started from simple stress that has become chronic due to the inability to correctly cope with it.

Some people cope with stress by drinking alcohol, smoking or eating excessively which are all red flags as they can also lead to serious health and lifestyle problems.

The seven scientifically-proven ways mentioned above are the most effective and healthier ways to deal with stress. 

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[1] https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/about/copingwith-stresstips.html
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6064756/
[3] https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/newsreleases/2011/aug-8-2011/walking-can-help-relieve-stress/
[4] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-71173
[5] https://www.research.colostate.edu/healthyagingcenter/2021/06/23/the-simple-act-of-stretching/
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5845520/ 
[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25222091/
[8] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19944540/ 

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.