We all have to deal with stress in our lives. Work, school, family commitments, even the ever encroaching presence of social media can make you feel pressured or stressed at times – but if ongoing stress is a problem for you, it can lead to serious health issues. Chronic headaches, insomnia, stomach problems and depression are just a few symptoms. So how do you fight off stress before it becomes a problem? There are a few tips that take very little time out of your day, and produce big results in the face of stress. Follow these tips, and you’re sure to find yourself relaxing more often!

1. Clean Up

Self care is almost a buzzword in today’s society, but it’s nothing to sneer at. As your stress level rises, you tend to forgo things like housekeeping, personal care, and even sometimes remembering to take time to get some fresh air. Taking fifteen minutes a day to freshen up is a great way to promote self-care that can help you de-stress, and it’s not tough to fit into your schedule, as long as you don’t try to tackle any huge projects. Instead, if you’re noticing your stress levels climbing at work, take ten minutes to straighten up your desk. If you’re having a hard time relaxing at home, straighten up the living room, make the bed, or throw a load of laundry in the wash. If you’ve been feeling like you can’t get time for yourself, hop into a hot shower. Even these small acts of kindness to yourself can make a huge difference in your mood and your overall stress levels.

2. Learn To Meditate

Meditation is a skill that takes time to master, but mindfulness and breathing techniques have lasting positive effects on your body, and your mind. It really doesn’t take much to pick up the habit. Plenty of meditation classes are available at local temples and yoga centres. Some are even free, and welcome newcomers regular. If you flinch at the idea of being vulnerable with strangers, or you just can’t find the time, meditation exercises on tape are a great option to help you build the skill. Start small. Take five minutes of your day to sit in a quiet space, and practice deep breathing, and being aware of your body. Over time, your ability to sit and empty your mind will expand to 30 minutes or hour long intervals. Meditation, even in small intervals has been shown to reduce stress and improve health, sometimes with dramatic results.

3. Spend Time In Nature

Do you know about Seasonal Affective Disorder? This is a condition that affects thousands of people in the Northern Hemisphere every year. As the days get shorter, and the weather makes it impossible to spend recreational time outside, moods dip and stress levels rise. Partly, this is because of a lack of Vitamin D. We get most of our vitamin D through our skin, thanks to the sun’s rays. Less sunshine, less Vitamin D, leads to a dip in our mood and energy levels, and an increase of cortisol in the brain. Fresh air, and spending quality time in nature, either taking part in sports, or just taking a great walk in nature, can really boost your mood, and make it easier to handle stress in your day to day life. Replicating the outdoors in our homes can also have a positive impact on overall health, consider opting for an air purifier and plants to display throughout your home to optimise the flow of clean air.

4. Spend Time with Friends

No one wants to be the downer friend. It’s natural when you’re feeling swamped by deadlines, to make less time for socializing. If you’ve been having a tough time due to stress or negative events in your life, it makes sense why you would want to shy away from the happy social occasions of your friends. But the data suggests you should resist that impulse. Just like getting out in nature has an energizing effect on your mood, so does getting out and hanging with friends! It’s true what they say about happy moods: They’re infectious. Spend more time with positive energy and happy people who feel good about their lives, and far from being bitter, it will actually help you to problem solve. Plus, it’s not good to hold in your stresses. Your friends and family care about you, and you’d be surprised how many people are willing to offer advice and support when you’re in need. Even if you can’t use all of it, sometimes just knowing how many people are willing to put down their own problems and help pull you through, can have a calming effect and help us feel less isolated and alone, which is a huge help when you’re stressed.

5. Get A Good Night’s Rest

Sleep is so important to us, that science has been studying for decades, and still hasn’t figured out exactly what it does! It’s definitely vital though, and the effects of not getting enough sleep can be felt in many ways. From loss of cognitive function, to difficulty retaining and accessing new skills and new memories, to aches and pains, headaches, and yes, increased stress level, a lack of sleep is definitely something that will affect your health long term. To help with climbing stress levels, ensure you’re getting enough sleep. Set yourself a sleep schedule, and stick to it. Practice good sleep hygiene, by keeping projects and work (including laptops and cell phones) out of the bedroom- and invest in a new mattress! Sometimes, you may not realize the tension in your body is the reason you’re not getting enough sleep!

There are always going to be stressful periods in our lives, but how you handle them can mean the difference between being overwhelmed and rising to the challenge. Embrace that new project, that extra work, or that unexpected event with grace and calm with these five tips to combat stress in your day to day life.