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Evidence-Based Techniques to Reduce Stress


Stress lies at the root of many mental, emotional, and physical health issues. Busy lives tend to drive up stress levels, and it is up to us as individuals to bring them back down. There are many stress-reduction techniques available on the market and it can be overwhelming to know which ones are worth trying and evidence-based.


As a holistic therapist, I provide stress reduction to my clients in sessions, including hypnosis and meditation. However, healing happens not just in the therapy room, but outside of it. It is important for everyone to identify stress-reduction practices that they enjoy and to employ them regularly to take care of themselves outside of the therapy room and long after therapy is over. This blog will present a number of researched-backed tools to help you reduce your stress levels.


  1. Mindfulness-Based Movement: In a study on college women, mindfulness-based movement (including yoga and walking) was found to decrease state anxiety and perceived stress (Robert-McComb et al., 2015).

  2. Mindful Walking: A study was done on adults with moderate to high levels of perceived stress who participated in 8 mindful walking sessions over 4 weeks. The participants benefitted from reduced symptoms of psychological stress and also increased their quality of life as compared to those who received no intervention (Teut et al., 2013).

  3. Mindfulness Meditation: In a study on college students who met for 14 90-minute classes that included mindfulness-based activities such as guided imagery, breathwork, body scans, mindfulness meditations, and relaxation skills, the participants decreased their stress levels and maladaptive coping behaviors while increasing resilience (Vidic, Z, 2023). I use many mindfulness-based interventions in my sessions with clients.

  4. Spirituality: In a study that included 80 participants, marked differences were noted in stress levels and personality traits in those who were spiritual and those who were not. Those who had higher levels of spirituality had lower state anger and respiration rate in response to a stressful event. They also had higher levels of what are considered to be "protective" personality traits, including agreeableness and conscientiousness. Spiritual individuals also had lower levels of neuroticism and state anger when compared to people with lower spirituality scores (Labbé, E. E., & Fobes, A., 2010). It is important to note that one need not be "religious" to be "spiritual."

  5. Urban Gardening: A study on the benefits of gardening was conducted on 90 individuals. Urban gardening increased their perceived restorativeness, resilience, and sense of community, while reducing cortisol and stress levels (Kim et al., 2023).

  6. Nature-Based Therapy: A study measured contacts with a general practitioner and compared nature-based interventions with cognitive-based interventions. The nature-based interventions involved activities done in natural surroundings. Both interventions similarly reduced the number of contacts with a general practitioner for health concerns in the year after treatment. Both groups also reduced their sick leave, showing benefits on stress-related illnesses (Corazon et al., 2018).

  7. Forest Bathing: Forest bathing involves walking in a forest using 4 of the 5 senses. A critical review of 9 studies concluded that forest bathing might have positive effects on stress and psychophysiological benefits (Pavlovic & Connolly, 2023). While the review called for more research needed, the findings seem to reinforce findings from other nature-based interventions.

  8. Sauna and Cold Water: Participants in a study experienced three sets of sauna, cold water, and resting. The participants reported feelings of mental clarity, positive emotions, and physical and mental relaxation. The researchers found increases in theta and alpha power, a more efficient attentional state, and a decreased response time (Chang et al., 2023).

You do not need to do all of these techniques to reap full benefits. However, if one or two stick out to you that you'd like to try, take a moment to write them down and make a plan to either try them for the first time or work them into your schedule.


References


Chang, M., Ibaraki, T., Naruse, Y., & Imamura, Y. (2023). A study on neural changes induced by sauna bathing: Neural basis of the “totonou” state. PLoS ONE, 18(11), 1–18. https://doi-org.uws.idm.oclc.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0294137


Corazon, S. S., Nyed, P. K., Sidenius, U., Poulsen, D. V., & Stigsdotter, U. K. (2018). A Long-Term Follow-Up of the Efficacy of Nature-Based Therapy for Adults Suffering from Stress-Related Illnesses on Levels of Healthcare Consumption and Sick-Leave Absence: A Randomized Controlled Trial. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(1). https://doi-org.uws.idm.oclc.org/10.3390/ijerph15010137


Kim, H. R., Oh, W. S., Kim, J. G., & Shin, W. S. (2023). The Influence of Urban Gardening Activities on Participants' Perceived Restorativeness, Resilience, Sense of Community and Stress. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 11(12), 1664. https://doi-org.uws.idm.oclc.org/10.3390/healthcare11121664


Labbé, E. E., & Fobes, A. (2010). Evaluating the interplay between spirituality, personality and stress. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 35(2), 141–146. https://doi-org.uws.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10484-009-9119-9


Pavlovic, G. A., & Connolly, G. (2023). Forest bathing for stress reduction: a critical review. Australian Journal of Herbal and Naturopathic Medicine, 35(2), 56. https://doi-org.uws.idm.oclc.org/10.33235/ajhnm.35.2.56-72


Robert-McComb, J. J., Cisneros, A., Tacón, A., Panike, R., Norman, R., Qian, X.-P., & McGlone, J. (2015). The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Movement on Parameters of Stress. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 25(1), 79–88. https://doi-org.uws.idm.oclc.org/10.17761/1531-2054-25.1.79


Teut, M., Roesner, E. J., Ortiz, M., Reese, F., Binting, S., Roll, S., Fischer, H. F., Michalsen, A., Willich, S. N., & Brinkhaus, B. (2013). Mindful Walking in Psychologically Distressed Individuals: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (ECAM), 2013, 1–7. https://doi-org.uws.idm.oclc.org/10.1155/2013/489856


Vidic, Z. (2021). Multi-year investigation of a relaxation course with a mindfulness meditation component on college students’ stress, resilience, coping and mindfulness. Journal of American College Health, 71(9), 2711–2716. https://doi-org.uws.idm.oclc.org/10.1080/07448481.2021.1987918

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