The high cost of stress (in dollars and cents)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stress costs American employers $300+ billion annually. Forbes states that this cost breaks down into about $600 per employee—$2,000 if stress coincides with depression.
- Average cost of a single visit to a mental health professional: $90-$250
- Average cost of a (pre-prescription) psychiatric assessment: $400
- Average cost of a single 60-minute massage: $50-$300
- Average cost of a stress-soothing summer family vacation: $4,580
The truth is, sometimes you just don't have enough time—or cash—or both to get de-stressed the old-fashioned medical way. If this describes you (or if you just love saving money), read on below for some much cheaper stress remedies that take no time at all to do and work right away!
1. Stream coffee shop ambience
For work-from-home freelancers like myself, as well as new moms, creatives, and other individuals who spend much time alone, isolation can be a stress producer. But now you can stream coffee-shop ambience that eases the isolation instantly (by the way, Lifehacker, the New York Times, Inc. Time, and others swear by it).
- Stream Coffivity online: http://coffitivity.com
- Get the iOS app (free)
- Get the Android app (free)
- Cost: free
2. Brush your skin
According to the author of Natural Choices for Women's Health, Laurie Steelsmith, brushing your dry skin with a soft natural bristle hairbrush gets to the heart of where stress hormones hang out. The dry brush sensation helps the lymphatic system flush toxins, stimulates the skin's surface nerve endings (and the parasympathetic nervous system), and restores calmness.
- What to do: Gently brush bare skin upwards towards the heart. Do this once each morning and repeat during the day or before bed as needed.
- Cost: free
3. Breathe in scented air
While the scent may differ from one stressed-out individual to the next, the simple act of breathing in a favorite scent—or a scent known to produce calming sensations—can ease stress instantly.
- What to do: If you don't have a favorite scent, or you aren't sure which scent might help, try essential oils like peppermint, lavender, coconut, rose, or citrus.
- Cost: One bottle of scented oil or extract ($3.50 including shipping).
4. Blow something up
Here, we mean balloons, not buildings. Oddly, blowing up balloons not only provides instant pleasant visual distraction (which is great to help you forget about your stress, even if just for a moment) but also encourages deep breathing in and out, in and out.
- What to do: Nab a balloon, stretch it out a bit by tugging on it with both hands (like it is a bit of balloon-flavored salt water taffy), then blow into it until the balloon fully inflates. Repeat as needed.
- Cost: One package of latex balloons ($1.29 for 10ct from Walmart).
5. Be kind
Smiling at a stranger, holding the door for an elderly person, letting someone else take that prime parking spot—when you are stressed out, these choices are not instinctive. But being kind feels good—so good, in fact, that it can remind you life can be hard and stressful for everyone. By focusing on someone else whose day might become a little brighter through your simple act of optional kindness, the stress recedes bit by bit.
- Cost: free
This might not work for everyone, but cleaning is a godsend for me when I’m stressed. And research says I’m not alone—de-cluttering, downsizing, donating, scrubbing, spritzing, sweeping, and other repetitive, physical motions can downshift both brain and body into a more peaceful place. Oh, and—bonus!—you then get to enjoy the squeaky clean results!
- Cost: Just the cost of cleaning supplies you already own.
7. Visit a zoo, a pet store, an animal shelter, a park
In nearly all cases, when a non-human being gets stressed, it’s due to the basics of life—finding food, finding shelter, reproducing, evading something else larger and hungrier with very sharp teeth. Many people keep pets for their stress-reducing effects, but even if you don't have a pet, there are plenty of places you can go to be around animals and nature.
- Cost: free (in the case of zoos, most zoos have one free day per week or month)
8. Lie in the grass
Yes, you can look up at the sky while standing or sitting and still see it. But you won't accomplish the same total shift in perspective. Lying in the grass effectively takes you out of your comfort zone…and into a more comfortable zone where the world looks so much bigger and your problems look so much smaller. Plus it’s easier to catch deep breaths while lying down with your ribcage responding to gravity's effects.
- Cost: free
9. Just do it—whatever "it" is
Stress is part of the fight-or-flight survival system each of us comes pre-installed with. Stress signals "danger!" Danger signals problem solving. Chances are there is something you think would really ease your stress, but instead of just doing it, you argue with yourself (i.e. "I can't turn off my phone—my boss/partner/child might call!") If nothing else is working to relieve your stress, try giving yourself permission to do the thing you really do think will help. Chances are, it will!
- Cost: Your estimate here.
10. Don't do it—whatever "it" is
Finally, if the stress seems linked to a particular task or issue, give yourself permission to not do it. Don't put it on hold—take it off the table entirely. Remove it from your calendar. Call and cancel the meeting. Call in sick. Don't show. Delegate. Do whatever you need to do to get your stress level down. Then—and only then—take another look at the issue with a fresh, clear and calm outlook.
- Cost: free