Stress is an all-too-common experience for the average person. Between work, finances, family stress, and other obligations, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. What’s more, is that many people feel this burnout beyond their coping capabilities.
So how can we help with chronic stress from our everyday lives? While there are many practices to cope with stress, such as meditation, going for a walk, journaling, or yoga, studies have shown that acts of service does wonders for alleviating stress levels. It sounds redundant, as you don't want lending a helping hand to be yet another burden to carry. However, research has shown that helping others benefits your mental and physical health.
What The Research Says
A small study published by the Clinical Psychological Science journal found eye-opening results that show how helping others can relieve stress. Participants of the study were asked about the events of their day, like commuting to work, financial responsibilities, and at home chores. They were also asked to keep track of any helpful behaviors they portrayed, any small acts of kindness they did, and their emotions about the act.
The study proved that participants who reported daily acts of kindness were less stressed, as the positivity they felt by doing a good deed helped cope with the negative side effects of stress. On days they could not report any acts of kindness the participants experienced more stress and negativity. This study proves that we can help manage our stress and feel good by performing acts of service.
Ways to Reduce Stress by Acts of Service
Acts of service does not have to mean burdening yourself with other people’s problems. Acts of service can be as small as opening the door for someone, or helping them with directions. Here are a few simple things you can do to help lower stress levels and improve your overall well being.
Everyone has clothes in their closet they never wear anymore, but just cant find it in them to give away. If not clothes, maybe it’s old children’s toys or books you’ve read. To help reduce your stress, gather the things lying around the house that don’t serve you anymore, but could serve someone else. There are probably many organizations within your community that are in need of these items. By donating the goods you no longer need you are not only helping others, but you are reminded to be grateful for the things you do have.
Local non-profits are always looking for volunteers to help, and there are typically many ways you can get involved. Whether you are a great cook, photographer, or web designer, taking your skills and giving back to the community can be a great way to help. Volunteer directly with an animal shelter or soup kitchen and see what they need the most help with. Additionally, volunteering does not have to mean going to an organization. You can volunteer your baking skills to help your friends, or help your kids' teachers with school supplies. Just sharing what you can, whether that be skills, time, or money is a great way to show you care.
Pay it Forward with Love
Sometimes, the best things in life are free. While giving out smiles and hugs is not technically an act of service, it does make someone's day brighter, which in turn, brings you some positivity. You don’t need to make a grand gesture to make a difference in someones life. Showing you are there for them and supporting them can have a positive impact of your own.
Source: Vanessa Rancano (2015) How Helping Others Can Help Keep Stress in Check
Source: Elizabeth Scott (2020) Helping Others Can Increase Happiness and Reduce Stress