This stress relief activity works.
When it comes to finding stress relief there are a lot of activities you can engage in. In this article I am going to tell you about a stress relief activity that has been found to be very powerful. It is both enjoyable and costs nothing.
Research has found that this activity can reduce psychological distress by 30% during stressful periods of your life. I will come back to that later.
First, I want to ask you a question...
It's no secret that high levels of stress can result in high blood pressure. It also seems reasonable to think that a chaotic environment can increase stress.
So you would think that chaos would increase blood pressure, not decrease it.
That's why I was surprised one Friday evening when my blood pressure was lower than it has been in several weeks.
I believe living a healthy life is an important part of managing stress well. Therefore, I monitor my blood pressure closely. It tends to run high at times.
On the Friday evening mentioned above, just before going to bed, I checked it and found it to be 117/79:-)
You may be wondering why I was surprised; I will explain.
The Friday being discussed was the beginning of a long holiday weekend. Two of my sons and their families were at my house with plans to camp in the back yard, burning a campfire and letting the kids have s'mores.
For those of you who don't know, s'mores are sandwiches made with fire-roasted marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers. They are not healthy; nevertheless, they are delicious!
The backyard campers included four of my grandkids -- a 5 year old, two 4 year olds, and a 2 year old.
This all sounds like a fun time, doesn't it?
The plans for the night's activities were great...but it rained; it rained hard.
Was there a plan B?
Of course there was!
Plan B: move the camp-out into the house.
We put some old mattresses on the floor, built a "campfire" in the fireplace and proceeded with preparing the s'mores.
The kid's loved it. So did the adults.
Then, it happened.
The kids started running, screaming, laughing, fighting, climbing on furniture, jumping, throwing things, and having a fabulous time.
You know the number one ingredient in s'mores is SUGAR. And they had overdosed!
Despite the frantic efforts of all the adults present, the kids' behavior was not to be contained. The only way to describe the situation was chaos.
It was fun and no damage was done. Still, it was chaotic.
Why do you think my blood pressure was so good when so much chaos had just happened?
Research has found that the stress relief activity that can really help is to spend happy times with family and friends.
Social activities with those you love and enjoy being with can increase positive feelings.
But even more important, higher than average support from a friend was found to lessen the chances of experiencing psychological distress by 30% when times are not so good.
"Not so good" times include life events like the death of a loved one, divorce, and job loss. This is the level of stress that social support can help.
Your group of supportive family or friends doesn't have to be large for you to benefit. Just one friend or a small number of friends can have a big stress relief impact.
What is important is that you are satisfied with your social support system.
In her book, Mind Over Medicine, Lissa Rankin, MD, lists spending time with people you love as being one of many activities that can trigger your nervous system to activate the relaxation response. (p 153)
The relaxation response is the opposite of the flight - fight response. When you are relaxed you are not stressed-out. While relaxing, your body begins to recover from all the wear and tear of stress. You become healthier and happier.
That's why my blood pressure was good that chaotic Friday night; the stress relief activity that brought my blood pressure down was spending time with the people I love.
Here is how you can apply this...
And don't just seek support when you need it; give support when your friends and family need it.
Here is a helpful article from the American Psychological Association with some tips about how you can grow a stronger social support network.