Affordable Ways To Reduce Anxiety And Stress Now

Everybody gets stressed out. These items can help you manage that stress, without breaking the bank.
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managing anxiety and stress on a budget
Image Source: Keenan Constance from Pexels

Everybody feels stressed out from time to time. Whether it’s an overwhelming job situation, a global pandemic, or a diagnosable anxiety or panic disorder, we can all benefit from relaxing and de-stressing. The problem is that many tools designed to help us calm down such as weighted blankets, massage tools, and meditation bowls can be expensive.

If you’re anything like me, you want to take better care of your mental health while maintaining your budget. This article offers cheap alternatives to the expensive products on the market today. 

Physical and Emotional Signs of Stress

No part of the body is unaffected by stress and anxiety. There are many physical manifestations of stress, but just as many emotional and mental ones. 

Stress can manifest in many physical ways. Stomachaches, headaches, shakiness, nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations, loss of breath, trouble sleeping, and muscle tension can all be indicative of stress. 

There are also emotional responses to stress. Feelings of anger or irritability, trouble concentrating or remembering things, racing thoughts, procrastination or avoidance, and making rash, irresponsible decisions can all be signs of excess stress or anxiety. 

How to use relaxation to relieve anxiety and stress

Stress is designed to help us react to danger. Adrenaline heightened awareness of our surroundings, and racing thoughts are all our body's way of trying to protect us from perceived threats. In most cases, however, these effects can be harmful rather than helpful.

Relaxation techniques like slowing down our breathing, relaxing our muscles, and calming our thoughts help counteract the effects of stress.

Here is a list of tools that work to relax the mind and calm the body during stressful moments. 

1. Control your breathing 

The simplest, most effective way to calm anxiety is through controlling the breath. Follow this ten-minute video to feel the immediate positive effects of relaxation. 

2. ASMR 

If you’ve never heard of ASMR, you’re not alone. ASMR videos or autonomous sensory meridian response videos are videos designed specifically to relax the viewer by triggering ASMR. This sensation starts in the scalp and can be described as a tingling, relaxing feeling that causes the recipient to feel sleepy and calm. These videos vary in topic and style but include calming sounds and visuals like hair brushing, tapping, and whispering. 

Not everyone experiences ASMR, and we’re still not entirely sure why it works. So far, scientific studies on this topic are limited. Therefore, the only real way to know if ASMR works for you is to test it out for yourself.

Check out the video below (headphones recommended) to see whether or not you experience ASMR:

3. Headspace

Headspace meditation app
Image Source: Headspace

Meditation has remarkable effects on the body. As stated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, meditation can help ease insomnia, reduce blood pressure, and promote overall well-being. 

Guided meditation is generally preferable to non-guided, especially when the mind is distracted or overwhelmed. Headspace offers guided meditations straight to your phone that specifically deal with issues such as stress and anxiety, loneliness, and relationships. The app also tracks your progress and is backed by scientific study, proving its authenticity.  

Price: $69.99/yr

4. Calm 

calm meditation app
Image Source: Calm

Calm is a meditation app similar to Headspace. It focuses on meditation, body, and sleep as well as offering exclusive music and nature scenes. This app is suitable for a more experienced meditator, as its format is less structured than Headspace but offers more options and freedom with choosing your practice. 

Price: $69.99/yr

5. Rain or Nature Sounds

rain or nature sounds for meditation
Image Source: Brianna Martinez from Pexels

Listening to rain or nature sounds, or even wordless meditation music, can help keep your heart rate down while working or soothe you to sleep without being overly distracting. It’s also a great way to feel connected to nature, especially if you’re unable to get outside. Rain noises, white noise, and meditation music can all be found online.

6. Crystals and Gemstones 

crystals and gemstones for anxiety
Image Source: Deena from Pexels

Crystals and gemstones won’t be able to magically cure your anxiety and stress. However, having a physical object to help ground you can be useful in meditation, and the placebo effect of gemstones and crystals can be just as effective as their perceived healing abilities. 

Whether you believe in the healing properties of gemstones or not, these can function like worry stones and be held or kept nearby as a reminder to keep balance and peace in your day. 

Every gemstone has a different purpose and appearance.  

Buy Now (starting at $12.97)

7. Warmies Heating Pads 

warmies frog heating pad
Image Source: Mattie B's

Stress can cause tense muscles. Heating pads are a cheap and easy way to relax when a hot bath is too time-consuming. 

For younger people with a slightly bigger budget, Warmies Stuffed Animal Heat Pads are available from $12.99 (price dependent on size). They are available as neck wraps or regular stuffed toys. The website also offers heated slippers, eye masks, and regular heat pads and hot-paks. 

Buy Now (starting at $12.99)

8. Squishmallows 

squishmallows owl family
Image Source: Squishmallows

A combination of squishy toys and classic stuffed animals. Sometimes, there’s nothing more comforting than an adorable friend that’s extremely huggable to curl up with at the end of a hard day. 

Multiple styles and sizes. 

Buy Now (starting at $9.99)

9. Decaffeinated Tea

decaffeinated tea for anxiety and stress
Image Source: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO from Pexels

Another way to use heat and natural elements to calm the body and mind. Decaffeinated tea is a great alternative to soda or coffee, and there are so many kinds to try.

Buy Now ($8.09)

10. Herbal Supplements

herbal supplements to relieve anxiety and stress
Image Source: fotografierende from Pexels

There are plenty of herbal supplements that can be used to naturally calm the body. Brent A. Bauer, M.D cites lavender, lemon balm, and valerian root as a few possibly effective treatments. While herbal supplements are not certified by the FDA, when used correctly, they can prove to be a powerful tool for relieving anxiety.  

Please consult with a medical professional to decide if herbal supplements are right for you, especially if you are already taking prescribed medication. 

11. Calming Scents

lavender calming scent
Image Source: Mareefe from Sociomix

Our brains can identify sights, sounds, and even scents as triggers to think in certain ways. Listening to a song that used to be your alarm can trigger feelings of grumpiness while putting on a certain outfit or work uniform can prepare us to act professionally. 

Choosing a calming scent, like lavender or vanilla, and applying it every night can be a powerful tool that signals the brain to relax. Using a body spray, lotion, or bath bar infused with calming scents before bed can put your body into the routine of relaxation. 

12. Calming Lights

calming string lights
Image Source: Dzenina Lukac from Pexels

Similar to calming scents, softer lighting can help the mind relax without being submerged completely in darkness. Turning down the lights before bed is an important step to wind down and prepare the mind for sleep. 

Buy Now ($19.99)

13. Bath Products 

calming bath
Image Source: Elizaveta Dushechkina from Pexels

If you have the time, taking a hot, relaxing bath is one of the best ways to relax. Companies like Lush have bath bombs infused with vanilla and lavender specific for sleep and relaxation. This is a great way to destress, especially after a particularly difficult day or the night before a big event. 

14. Glitter Jar 

For the DIY crowd. This glitter jar is easy to make and an easy way to remember to take breaks during your work. It works just like a snow globe but takes longer for the glitter to sink to the bottom of the jar. 

Watching the glitter fall can calm the heart rate and reduce blood pressure, similar to watching fish swimming in a tank.  

Cheap Ways to Physically Reduce Stress

Anxiety can cause a fight or flight response in the body. When that happens, the brain releases adrenaline. This is because many years ago, our ancestors had to react to various threats in order to survive. Our brains want us to be able to escape from predators or fight off attacks. However, in daily life, there’s usually no need for all of this energy. 

Whether you need to get through classes or work meetings, or if you just need something to release excess adrenaline, these products can help without breaking the bank. 

1. Fidget Spinners 

fidget spinner to reduce stress
Image Source: David Bartus from Pexels

As of yet, there are no studies proving why the fidget spinner is so effective. Some theorize that fidgeting helps focus energy and attention on a present task by providing stimulation. It may also be a form of stress relief. 

Whatever the reason, when used correctly, fidget spinners can help calm fidgeting while still allowing you to focus on work. This is perfect for use during long meetings, classes, or anywhere else you may not be allowed to get up and move.

In many cases, the spinner may prove even less distracting than tapping your pencil, which can disturb others, or doodling, which impedes your vision or ability to take notes. 

Buy Now ($10.40)

2. Fidget Cube 

fidget cube to reduce stress
Image Source: Amazon

This is an alternative to the fidget spinner which provides a more interactive experience. The cube has six different sides with buttons, wheels, rolling balls, and switches. Some of the features make clicking sounds, while others are silent. It’s small enough to fit in the palm and can be easily and discreetly carried and used. 

The fidget cube is my preferred alternative to the spinner, as I find it more stimulating and less obvious to those around me. It’s perfect for sitting in auditoriums or theaters, going to class, and virtual meetings. 

Buy Now ($6.99)

3. Squishies 

squishy to reduce stress
Image Source: Amazon

These softer, cuter stress toys are a classic. They are a great and healthy way to let out frustration and can double as adorable decorations or toys, especially for younger users. Sites like Oriental Trading have a variety of options you can choose from. 

When buying squishes, it’s always a good idea to make sure you choose durable ones. Fear of breaking or tearing them is the opposite of anxiety-relieving. 

Buy Now (various prices)

4. Pinch Me Therapy Dough (Zen) 

zen pinch me therapy dough lavender scent
Image Source: Pinch Me

This dough is reminiscent of play-doh but carries the calming scent of lavender and sticks together better. It’s cleaner and simpler than slime and comes in a three-ounce tub, which is more than enough to work through with both hands. 

This one is great for use at home, watching tv, or unwinding after a long day. The scent is calming without being overwhelming, and the cool texture is much more pleasant than slime, especially if you are averse to certain textures. 

Buy Now ($24.99)

5. Chew Gum

chewing gum health benefits
Image Source: iStock

In a controlled study by Şengül Yaman-Sözbir, Sultan Ayaz-Alkaya, and Burcu Bayrak-Kahraman, chewing gum was shown to have positive effects towards reducing stress and anxiety, boosting academic success, and improving attention span. 

Chewing gum is a simple, easy way to help concentrate on work that does not distract others or draw too much attention.

6. Sing or rap along to upbeat music 

listening to upbeat music headphones
Image Source: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Using your voice is a great way to get extra adrenaline out. Focusing on difficult lyrics or fast raps takes enough concentration to distract and provides an outlet to let out frustration, nerves, and energy.

I personally love to listen to the musical Hamilton on my way to work. The lyrics are fun and just challenging enough to demand attention. 

7. Tongue twisters 

tongue twister readers digest
Image Source: Reader's Digest

For those who aren’t about singing, tongue twisters can provide the same relief. Child-friendly tongue twisters can be found online on websites like Reader's Digest. 

8. Puzzles and Brain Teaser Apps 

puzzle to distract from stress scrabble
Image Source: Pixabay from Pexels

When your thoughts are running wild, sometimes physical activity isn’t as helpful as utilizing your mind. Instead of letting myself imagine worst-case scenarios, distract yourself by using brain teaser apps on your phone. These are an absolute go-to for waiting rooms and killing time between activities. 

Many puzzle games can be found for free on your phone. Sudoku, Wordscapes, and Solitare are all good choices, as they require concentration and brainpower without the pressure of a time limit.

If you’re more into a tech-free approach, brainteasers, Sudoku books, and crosswords can be found at local dollar stores or ordered online as well! 

9. Yoga with Adriene

Exercise is the best, free way to reduce stress. As stated by Mayo Clinic, exercising can reduce negative emotions, release endorphins, and improve mood. However, with so many different exercise types and options, it’s difficult to know how to start. 

Yoga is an easy way to engage your entire body that also focuses on mental well-being and finding your center. Rather than concentrate on results, Adrienne uses yoga as a vehicle to check in with herself, to let her mind rest, and to come together as part of a greater community. Her videos vary from five minutes to fifty-five (check) and guided daily journeys keep viewers accountable and showing up for themselves. 

10. Go for a brisk walk

walking to relieve stress
Image Source: Tobi from Pexels

When all else fails, walks are a great and simple way to connect with nature without taking too much time out of your day. 

Even a few laps around your place of work, up and down the hallways at school, or in the parking lot can help release endorphins. Every day before going into work, I walk from one end of the plaza to the other, just to get my body moving and put myself into the mindset to focus and show up for myself and my team. This small step is super effective. 

11. 5-minute workout

If time is a constraint for you, or if you’re looking for some more intense exercise, try a five-minute workout. 

Simple and effective ways to practice mindfulness

Mindfulness, simply put, is a practiced awareness of the present moment. It works through focusing on what is real, the nature of one’s present thoughts, and the reality of the world around us. According to Psychology Today, mindfulness can reduce depression, anxiety, and physical pain. 

Here are some simple ideas that can be used to practice mindful awareness and build an understanding of the mind every day.  

1. Practice Grounding 

grounding for mindfulness meditation
Image Source: Kelvin Valerio from Pexels

By rooting yourself in the physical world around you, you can begin to take control of your worries and find a new perspective on difficult situations. Follow this video for a brief grounding exercise whenever you need a break from your racing thoughts.

2. Keep a Journal

keep a journal to help manage anxiety
Image Source: Jess Bailey Designs from Pexels

Even if writing isn’t your thing, doodles, bullet points, and freeform writing is a great way to relax the mind away from an electronic screen. Peter Pauper Press offers beautiful and cheap journals that are perfect for recording your thoughts.

If incessant worries keep you up at night, try keeping a small journal by your bed and taking note of what’s worrying you, so that you can return to it in the morning. This strategy helps the mind let go of restless thoughts about responsibilities and to-do lists you are afraid of forgetting during the night. 

Buy Now ($8.99)

3. Guided journals

use a guided journal for stress
Image Source: Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Blank pages can be intimidating. If you’re looking for something with a bit more structure, or if you specifically want to track your thoughts and analyze your habits, guided journals are a great way to engage creatively without putting too much pressure on yourself to write for yourself. 

There are many journals out there, geared towards many different audiences. For those looking for a more serious, professional way to guide their thoughts, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook is a great option. For something more light-hearted, Knock Knock I'm So Freaking Freaked Out Inner-Truth Journal is available. 

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook ($19.29)

Knock Knock... ($15.10)

4. Say it out loud

talk to your cat
Image Source: Amiya Nanda from Pexels

Saying your fears out loud undermines their power and importance. If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to a friend or family member, talking out loud to a pet, stuffed animal, or even a camera can have similar therapeutic effects. 

5. Worry box

the worry box technique for anxiety
Image Source: The School Counselor Kind

If worry takes up significant time in your day, you need to try this technique. First, write out every worry, stress, or fear on individual post-it notes. Then, shut those worries away in the worry box. Set a specific time in your day to open the box and to address these worries. Until that time, let your mindset these thoughts aside and focus on the present instead of the future.  

6. Houseplants 

houseplants help reduce stress
Image Source: Daria Rem from Pexels

Taking care of something living builds responsibility and grounds you in the world around you. If pets aren’t an option for you, houseplants could work just as well without as much responsibility.  

Low-maintenance plants for beginners include aloe vera, snake plants, and ZZ plants. They can be found at local nurseries or garden centers. 

7. Gratitude Jar

gratitude jar technique for anxiety
Image Source: Super Simple

Stress can cause a loss of perspective. It’s important to put as much attention and appreciation into the positive things in our lives as we do the negative. 

A simple way to practice this is in a gratitude journal or jar. Take just a few minutes each day to notice the positives, no matter how small they seem. Eventually, your brain will start to pay more attention to things like good food, pretty skies, and pleasant interactions.  

8. Be Calm

Image Source: Amazon

Knowledge is power. Understanding why your mind and body react to stress in the ways that they do can help you be more empathetic with yourself and begin the process of making positive changes in your life. 

Be Calm by Jill P. Weber, Ph.D. is a book based in science that focuses on understanding the stress response and offering techniques and strategies to manage your symptoms. It provides valuable insight into why anxiety affects us the way that it does, without being overly dense. 

Buy Now ($12.49)

9. Use a bracelet as a visual reminder

bracelet visual reminder
Image Source: Oleg Magni from Pexels

It is so important to build boundaries between work and relaxation. When these boundaries become blurred, it becomes harder and harder to relax, and burnout happens much faster. Using a physical reminder like a bracelet can remind us to take breaks from our work and to find balance every day. 

10. Keep a planner 

Image Source: Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Keeping all of the things you have to get done in your mind is exhausting and stressful. Laying out your day in a planner or a list format helps the brain relax and clarifies the amount that actually needs to get done. It’s also a nice way of reminding yourself just how much you are capable of accomplishing and giving yourself credit for all that you have done, rather than just focusing on what lies ahead. 

I like to use colored pens to represent different categories, like work, friends, and personal care. Use stickers if you want! Make it fun! The process itself helps to put things into perspective and helps you to breathe a little bit easier. 

Summary

Stress and anxiety are not meant to harm us. They are natural responses our bodies have meant to protect us from perceived danger and keep us safe. There are many ways to help reduce stress and anxiety; this list is a great way to start working towards a calmer, healthier life.

It is imperative to keep in mind that this list is not a substitute for professional care. If anxiety and stress are having a severe impact on your life, it’s always advisable to speak to a medical professional. In short: if you’re debating whether to seek professional help, please do so.

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A twenty-something writer trying to find her place in the world. I love my dog, mugs of hot tea, and all things make-believe.

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