The Best Stress Relief Activities

If you’re struggling with stress and finding it difficult to let go and feel at ease, then one of the best solutions you might consider may be to distract yourself with one or more stress relief activities. There are a number of different activities you can engage yourself in that will be effective in combating and alleviating stress and any of them can do wonders when you’re struggling.

The aim of this article is not to list these stress relief activities however as there are countless different kinds and the best choice will always depend on the kinds of things you enjoy, your personality and other individual factors.

Instead then, we will look at what the criteria are for stress relief activities. We will examine the kinds of activities that are good for fighting anxiety and the kinds that aren’t. Read on and discover what the very best stress relief activities are for you.

Catharsis Doesn’t Work

One thing to consider when picking a form of stress relief activity, is that catharsis doesn’t work. Many people believe that they can combat stress by ranting to their friends, by punching a punch bag or by otherwise doing something aggressive to ‘burn off’ their stress.

In fact though, this is the precise opposite from what you want to do. That’s because ranting or punching things only serves to make you more worked up. When you talk about things that are stressing you out in a negative, non-constructive manner, you remind yourself of them and you feel more stressed. Similarly, when you punch a punching bag, your heart rate increases, your stress hormones increase and you feel worse than you did before you started (1).

For all these reasons, you want to avoid these commonly used techniques and look elsewhere instead.

Anything Can be Meditative

Meditation is one of the very best tools that you can use to combat stress and is highly effective at calming your heart rate, lowering blood pressure, removing negative thoughts and generally helping you to find quiet even when things are seeming tough.

Actively engaging in transcendental meditation or the like then can be a very useful tool and one of the best stress relief activities. More than that though, it’s important to recognize that all meditation really is is your brain being completely focused or completely still such that you aren’t having those negative thoughts.

In this regard, anything can become meditation as long as you are very focused on it or it is commanding all of your cognitive attention.

A really good example of this is painting or drawing. If you try sketching something then often you’ll find you completely ‘forget yourself’ after a while and that it helps you to completely calm your thoughts, or alternatively just let them wander.

Reading is also a guaranteed way to distract yourself from your thoughts, as is watching a movie even. This is often why it feels almost like awakening from a trance once a really good film ends.

Find something that completely engages your attention and anything like that will serve as a stress relief activity.


Stress has a physical component as well as a mental component. When you become stressed, this causes your heart rate to increase, your blood to thicken and your muscles to tense. Paradoxically though, these things then also contribute to you becoming more stressed.

And conversely, you can also elicit the opposite response by forcing your body to relax and feel calmer. If you can relax your muscles or make yourself comfortable then immediately your body start affecting your mind helping you to become less stressed.

This is why getting a massage, taking some time out in the sauna, or sunbathing can all be so helpful for combating stress.

At the same time though, it’s also important to remember that stress can be made worse if your thoughts are racing. If you are going to try and do something physically relaxing and use these kinds of exercises as stress relief activities, then remember that you’ll need to actively help your mind to relax as well.


Conversely, anything that involves physical exercise can also be very effective at fighting stress. The reason for this is that exercise results in the release of endorphins and happiness hormones that work as natural mood enhancers.

Social Stimulation

Being with friends or family can help us to fight stress as long as we are laughing and having a good time. Being with a partner is also very beneficial – particularly as hugging, kissing and sex are all great stress relief activities.

No matter what kind of activities you choose, go through them with someone supportive and you’ll find they become even more powerful and effective.

Keith Hillman

Keith Hillman is a full time writer specializing in psychology as well as the broader health niche. He has a BSc degree in psychology from Surrey University, where he particularly focused on neuroscience and biological psychology. Since then, he has written countless articles on a range of topics within psychology for numerous of magazines and websites. He continues to be an avid reader of the latest studies and books on the subject, as well as self-development literature.