When you think of stress, you may think of the overwhelming feeling you get when you are struggling with the demands of everyday life. Deadlines at work, the expectations of a relationship or troubles managing finances are just a few of the reasons Calgarians feel stress. But while stress may seem like nothing but a weight on your shoulders, positive stress can be a motivator. It instinctually stems from our ‘fight or flight’ response, warning us when we may need to respond to a dangerous situation.

While positive stress is healthy, too many stressors at once can cause mental and physical drain and lead to more serious mental health conditions. According to a Statistics Canada report, 73 percent of working adults aged 20 to 64 report having some level of stress. For those aged 35 to 54, nearly one third of respondents feel ‘extremely’ stressed on a regular basis. Thankfully, there are several ways our bodies work to regulate stress naturally. Here are a few proven ways that you can reduce your stress by visiting these three Calgary locations.

1) Visit the Regal Cat Café in Kensington

Researchers have shown that snuggling up to a fluffy friend can have major benefits for stress reduction. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 74 percent of those surveyed reported mental health improvements as a result of bringing a pet into the family. Positive interactions with animals lead to an increase of oxytocin in the brain, the hormone responsible for making you feel bonding, love and well-being. But if you’re unable to bring a furry friend into the home, visit Kensington’s Regal Cate Café. Grab an afternoon tea and cuddle up to one of the many friendly kittens for a natural dose of stress relief.

2) Walk the riverbank in Sandy Beach Park

Another proven way to reduce stress is to immerse yourself in nature. Studies from the University of Queensland even recommend a minimum ‘dose of nature,’ encouraging individuals to spend at least 30 minutes in a park each week. But how does it work? Just like a stressful environment can increase our stress levels – such as a busy mall, for example – a nature environment is proven to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and even the production of stress hormones. For Calgarians, nature isn’t hard to find. Visit the serene riverbank at Sandy Beach Park or take in the serenity of the Glenmore Reservoir on a crisp afternoon. If you’re really looking to escape the chaos, the solitude and tranquility of the Rocky Mountains are only a hop, skip and a jump away.

3) Reach for the sky with outdoor yoga at Stanley Park or Mahogany

The physical benefits of exercise are many, but science has shown that working out has a significant impact on mental health as well. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains that exercise not only allows you to reduce fatigue, improve alertness and enhance cognitive function – all which lead to a better mental state – but it also produces endorphins. Endorphins improve our ability to sleep and in turn, reduce our stress levels. Calgary is an active city, and you can easily find outdoor yoga classes throughout the spring and summer months. But if you’re looking for something indoors, explore the many options our city has to offer including boxing classes, rock climbing, swimming and more.

While there are many natural ways to help reduce stress in your life, we understand that the more intrinsic root causes of stress can be overwhelming at times. Avoiding those root causes and prolonging stress over years can have negative impacts on your long-term mental health, and can often lead to anxiety disorders and depression.

If you’re experiencing heavy onset stress on a regular basis, working with a professional can help you to find the proper coping mechanisms for you, and can also open new doors to solving the problems that lead to your stress initially. Stress does not have to dictate your everyday life – the proper support and resources can help you to feel in control.