By Jennifer Li 

Few would argue we live in stressful times. Mix a pandemic with social and political dissension and add the routine anxieties of daily life, and you have a stewpot of stress.

Too much stress leads to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and – well, you get the picture.

You can do things to keep the stewpot from boiling over. Here are some simple ways to combat stress.

1. Exercise
It may seem like a contradiction… that placing stress on your body can reduce internal stress, but it works. Exercise lowers bad hormones like cortisol and increases good hormones like endorphins, which are proven to improve your mood and help you sleep. Exercise doesn’t have to mean sweaty hours in a gym.

Choose something you enjoy. Just an hour in the garden can burn calories, and living in Orlando allows us to garden year-round.

Or tackle a project in your yard that you’ve been putting off. Maybe build a rain garden. It’s one of several hot landscaping trends in Orlando to choose from.

Biking and walking are also excellent options. You can enjoy the outdoors while combating stress.

Yoga is perhaps the best stress reliever. Not only does it entail physical exercise, but it also provides a mental and spiritual boost.

2. Watch Your Intake

What you choose to put into your body can worsen stress. At the top of the list is caffeine

On the positive side, it gives you a shot of brain stimulation that increases alertness and reduces drowsiness and fatigue. On the negative side, too much leads to jitters, irritability, confusion, and headaches. 

If you can’t do without that cup of Joe in the morning, at least limit the number of cups. Watch out, too, for soft drinks – many contain a strong dose of caffeine.

Some foods actually reduce stress. Broccoli, whole-grain breads, eggs, fish, chamomile tea, and avocados are a few of them. Here’s something to lift your spirits – chocolate is proven to reduce stress!

3. Turn Over a New Leaf – or Several

Modern science is proving what our Victorian ancestors knew by instinct – plants reduce stress. 

“Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress,” according to the Journal of Physiological Anthropology. Plants rid the air of toxins and improve your mood. 

Aloe vera, English ivy, lavender, and peace lily are among those that give so much while demanding only a little light and water.

4. Music Soothes the Savage Beast
Your favorite tunes (or tones) also reduce stress. Researchers at Stanford University confirm that “listening to music can affect brain functioning to the same extent as medication.” 

Easy listening music is best for stress relief, but light jazz, and Celtic and Native American rhythms are also effective. Mick Jagger should probably be reserved for another occasion.

5. Take a Good Scents Approach

Like music, aroma can lessen stress. Certain aromas lower cortisol and provide a sense of contentment. 

Lavender is probably the all-time favorite mood enhancer, but lemon, rosemary, and sea breeze are popular, too. Essential oils and potpourri are ways to add fragrance to your home, and candles offer visual relaxation along with a soothing scent.
Getting away from life’s stresses may not be doable, but a yoga class followed by a cup of tea, some Miles Davis in the background, and a lavender-scented candle beside your money tree plant might go a long way toward turning down the heat under the stewpot of stress.


Jennifer Li is a vegan, physical therapist, and yoga instructor who writes about spiritual and wellness issues for both humans and their companions.