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5 Stress Reduction Strategies for Improved Long-Term Health

Personal Finance
woman practices yoga pose outside as stress reduction to improve her long-term health

Stress can feel like an unavoidable part of modern life. Between concerns about money, job and family pressures, health worries and anxiety over current events, it can seem as though real stress relief is simply out of reach for many people.

But stress reduction does more than just help calm your racing thoughts and relax your tight muscles. It can also significantly improve your overall health.

There are many serious physical and emotional implications of stress, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). In the APA's 2017 survey of stress in the U.S., causes of stress for those surveyed range from health care (43 percent) and Social Security (26 percent) to the economy (35 percent) and crime (31 percent).

Lower Your Stress, Increase Your Happiness

The good news is that stress relief can both help you feel more contented in the short term and give you more options over time. You're more likely to have the good health and energy necessary to truly enjoy a happy retirement if you can conquer your stress.

You may also enjoy lower life insurance premiums — not to mention lower health care costs — if you can maintain a regimen of stress reduction throughout your life to keep your tension at bay.

So, rather than let stress get the better of you, commit to finding a stress management strategy that sticks. To start, here are five stress reduction techniques that have been proven to improve mental and physical well-being.

1. Meditation

The practice of yoga and meditation have positive effects on mind-body health and resilience to stress, according to research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Mindfulness meditation is all about training your brain to stay focused on the current moment — rather than obsessing over things that happened in the past or worrying about what will occur in the future.

If you decide to commit to meditation as a stress reduction strategy, you'll need to make regular time to practice. You can expect to spend about 15 minutes daily on your meditation practice, although new meditators may need to start with shorter, guided meditation practice before working up to 15 minutes at a time.

2. Journaling

Putting your concerns on paper may not seem like the best method of stress management, but researchers have found that journaling is an effective way of dealing with your stress, according to Psych Central. That's because the act of writing not only helps clarify your thoughts on an issue, but it can also provide you with a form of emotional release by giving you a way to understand and process intense emotions.

Starting a journal can feel a little intimidating to anyone who doesn't already write. One way to counter this is to simply make a habit of writing for a few minutes every day. Write down what you did that day, what decisions you made and how you felt. Do it again the next day, and the next.

As you continue the habit from day to day, you'll find it easier and easier to get into the flow of writing about what's worrying you — and it might even become an important part of your day.

3. Yoga

The stress reduction you experience when you practice yoga comes from two parts: one is the fact that you're engaging in physical exercise and the other comes from the meditative nature of assuming yoga poses. Practicing yoga teaches you to pay close attention to the connection between your mind and your body, meaning you can't be focused on your stresses or worries.

Individuals who practice yoga on a regular basis also find the stress reduction benefits continue long after they put away their mats — their bodies are more flexible in reaction to stress, according to Harvard Health Publishing. This means they're able to keep their physical responses at bay during stressful situations.

4. Crafting

Knitting, sewing, drawing, painting, coloring and other crafting activities are all effective methods of stress management. That's because these crafts all rely on repetitive motion, which can help you achieve what's known as a "flow" state, or complete absorption in a process or activity.

Crafting allows you to focus on creating your project while simultaneously losing your sense of self-consciousness, making it a gratifying way to unplug from your stress.

Even if you don't know which end of a paintbrush is up, you can still take advantage of the stress relief offered by crafting. Consider purchasing an adult coloring book or a learn-to-knit kit. Your finished product doesn't need to be a masterpiece, just something you enjoyed creating.

5. Classical Music

Music has a unique ability to soothe our stress, and this is particularly true of classical music. Researchers have found that listening to slow, quiet classical music can help slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure and decrease levels of stress hormones, according to Psych Central.

The most effective way to use classical melodies as stress relief is to immerse yourself in the music. Turn on a symphony and listen from beginning to end. If you have trouble finding time to commit to that, even playing classical music while you work or go about your day can have a noticeable calming effect.

It can be easy to put stress management on the back burner, but it's an important part of staying healthy and happy. By making stress reduction part of your daily routine, you can set yourself up to reap the benefits for years to come.

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