What's People's Go-To Method Of Dealing With Stress?- Health Digest Survey

Stress is something that everyone experiences at some point, whether it stems from school, work, relationships, financial obligations, current events, or something else. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that stress is a form of strain that places pressure on a person's psychological, emotional, or physical state. The changes someone experiences from stress can vary from person to person. Symptoms of stress frequently include feelings of anxiety, fear, worry, and physical presentations of increased heart rate, trouble concentrating, and sleep disturbances. Stress can even serve as a primitive reaction to indicate a threat to a person's safety, which can be similar to a fight or flight response, but in high amounts, it can negatively affect a person's well-being. 

Given that experiencing stress is a normal part of the human experience, the way a person chooses to cope with stress can determine how well they are able to move forward with responsibilities and protect their well-being. In an exclusive Health Digest survey, we asked participants which methods they incorporate to decrease the stress they experience. The poll conducted confirms the positive ways that people seek to lower the stress in their lives. Following the responses of 612 participants, here are the go-to methods that people use to deal with stress.

Benefits of mindfulness and deep breathing

The ways people handle stress can be as unique as each individual person, but common methods of coping with stress through a healthy lens are simple outlets that don't require expensive accessories or equipment. Mindfulness, for example, is a practice emerging in popularity as its benefits are becoming known in mainstream discourse. In the Health Digest survey, 8.82% of participants stated that they practice mindfulness as their go-to method of dealing with stress. Focusing on the present moment is the premise of practicing mindfulness, with other pillars of the practice, including cultivating awareness, observation, and acceptance, per the University of Washington. Mindfulness is frequently confused with meditation, though meditation is a form of practicing mindfulness. Yoga is another way of practicing mindfulness, which can be a strong way of decreasing stress as a form of exercise that can be enjoyed outside. 

However, other participants reported that they utilize deep breathing to calm their bodies and minds when experiencing stress. Taking time to breathe and paying attention to the breath is a healthy way to cope with stress, and 15.85% of participants reported that deep breathing is their go-to stress relief method. Since stress can increase the heart rate and provoke rapid breathing, taking a few minutes to intentionally focus on taking deep breaths is a proven way to reduce stress (via UPMC). Deep breathing can also lower cortisol, known as the stress hormone, in the bloodstream.

Healthy outlets for coping with stress

Nearly half of participants, according to the Health Digest survey, said that their go-to method of coping with stress is either exercising or going outside, with 24.35% of respondents indicating exercise as their go-to stress reduction outlet and 23.20% saying that going outside helps to decrease stress. These two methods for stress reduction can be easily combined by going for a calming walk outside or taking an outdoor exercise class.

However, the most popular method for dealing with stress is listening to music, with 27.78% of participants being drawn to music when they feel the strain from stress. When stress occurs, cortisol is often released in the body, which causes changes in the body that can increase symptoms of stress (via PsychCentral). However, when a person is listening to music, the sounds of the songs transfer as vibrations through the ears, then send electrical signals through neurons that are received by parts of the cerebral cortex of the brain. The result is that the brain translates the signals it receives from the music and uses them to calm the body's physical and emotional state.