10 Simple Ways To De-Stress That Cost You Absolutely Nothing

by Niki McGloster

For the most part, I suck at stress management.

Once something overwhelms me, it takes copious amounts of relaxing green tea and a revitalizing boxing class to calm me down. No matter how much I try to eliminate stress altogether, there's always some pending deadline or a jerk who's looking to ruin my good mood.

That's just life.

However, I don't want to shell out over $100 for a therapy session every time my workload piles up or I feel the need to punch something. I'm a stickler for cheap, everyday ways to keep my stress in check.

Things that trigger your stress are taxing, but it's possible to unburden yourself for free.

1. Get some fresh air or sunlight.

Crack a window when stress starts suffocating you. If your mind is cluttered with an overwhelming to-do list, a cool breeze and warm sunlight can help you chill out.

Breathing in scents found in fresh air is calming, and sunlight triggers the release of serotonin in your body. Your mood will get a boost almost instantly. While it's better to get a whiff of forest air rather than city smog, inhaling fresh air increases the oxygen in your bloodstream and gives you a much clearer mind.

2. Make up with the person who's making you angriest.

Arguing over an unpaid cable bill or finding out your BFF betrayed you becomes a much bigger stressor if gone unchecked.

As the saying goes, holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Forgiveness isn't easy, but ridding yourself of negative feelings allows you to stop dwelling on an issue that keeps you up at night.

Most importantly, ditching your resentment relieves the pressure you've placed on yourself mentally.

3. Drink green tea.

Sipping on a cup of tea is one of life's smallest wonders when it comes to psychological stress. Coming in only second to water as the most consumed beverage in the world, tea helps you relax in a serious way.

The Institute of Natural Healing says an amino acid found in green tea called L-theanine has a meditative effect, reducing your heart rate in high-stress situations, causing you to relax.

4. Read a book.

Escapism can be a dangerous if you're popping pills and blacking out while drunk. Instead, get lost in a good book. Reading can seriously take the edge off a stressful day at work.

Science is behind you on this one too, too. Carving out time to read "Bad Feminist" for the 80th time can reduce your stress by 68 percent.

Revisiting the "Harry Potter" series can also lower your heart rate and ease the tension in your muscles. Knowing this, you'll feel so much more relaxed about Hermione kissing Ron.

5. Eat an orange.

The smell of this piece of fruit reduces stress almost immediately.

Citrus scents trigger relaxation by lowering your blood pressure and levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Also, if you want an ultra soothing moment, take the time to actually peel an orange. The anticipation of eating the refreshing snack causes stress relief in itself.

6. Take a 20-minute walk.

Exercise the secret to overall good health. You don't necessarily need to lace up your Nike Roshes and bang out five miles, but take 20 minutes to walk around the block when you feel overwhelmed with emails.

It'll increase the flow of oxygen in your body and allow you some much needed fresh air. Getting your heart rate up also allows you to think more clearly, as the part of your brain designed to boost your memory works better after exercise.

Bottom line: When your body feels good, you can stop obsessing over how much you weigh.

7. Give yourself credit.

Don't give yourself enough praise? Well, that can be making your initial stress worse. Take it from someone who spent a weekend digging herself out of a rut: Celebrate your wins.

Be mindful to pat yourself on the back sometimes, focusing on the positive thoughts that help keep your stress at bay.

8. Meditate for 10 minutes.

Activate your body's natural ability to relieve stress with 10 minutes of meditation.

Tap into your inner peace and alleviate nagging stressors with some serious concentration techniques. In meditation, the act of purposeful contemplation lowers your blood pressure and decreases the amount of stress hormones circulating in your bloodstream.

If you're a beginner, try Headspace, an app that coaches you through the process and helps you erase unproductive worries.

9. Do your laundry and answer your work emails.

Cluttered spaces make for cluttered minds. Most often, disarray is a physical manifestation of stress.

According to Shape, seeing a heaping pile of clothes doesn't help the stress hormone, cortisol. In fact, it takes a toll on your mood and even your sleep. Toss a few loads in the washer and tackle those work emails you've left unanswered for days. Once your space is orderly, you'll feel like nothing can ruin your day.

10. Stretch your arms up.

Most people spend eight hours sitting down, stifling their mood. To give yourself a shot of mood-boosting endorphins, raise your hands to the sky and stretch your shoulders and fingers. Jane Ehrman, a behavioral specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, suggests taking a full deep breath as you reach up to maximize the stress-relieving effects.

You don't need a baller budget to feel zen. I can testify that each of these inexpensive ways will relieve your stress effectively and without breaking the bank.