9 proven strategies for staying calm
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Stress Rx1 of 10
By Kelly Mickle
Need on-the-spot stress relief? You're in luck: A growing body of research suggests there are fast, easy—and natural—ways to feel less frazzled. Relax in just minutes with these nine science-backed stress busters.
Chew on This2 of 10
A stick of your favorite sugar-free gum can take the bite out of a bad day. Research in the journal Appetite shows gum chewers are more focused, less anxious and have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than their gumless counterparts. The act of chewing stimulates blood flow to the brain—making us feel more alert—and makes us think of pleasant social situations such as meal times, distracting us from worries.
Laughing Matter3 of 10
Panicked about an upcoming deadline? Laugh it off with your favorite YouTube video. Laughter or simply anticipating laughter is enough to reduce cortisol levels by nearly half, according to research from Loma Linda University in California. Like exercise, laughter reduces levels of cholesterol and cortisol and increases levels of feel-good hormones like dopamine.
Color Cure4 of 10
Keep a few colored markers or pencils at your desk for a quick art therapy fix. Drawing objects or a place that makes us feel safe and happy reduces anxiety and improves mood, research published in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association finds.
Listen Up5 of 10
Who knew the secret to relaxing was right there on your iPod? Listening to music you love evokes positive emotions, lowering blood pressure and harmful stress hormones, research from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden shows. Not everyone responds to the same songs, so find a tune that resonates with you personally to reap the mood-boosting rewards.
Picture This6 of 10
We all know fresh air makes us feel good, but even peering out the window or looking at a photo of the great outdoors can help calm your nerves and increase happiness, according to a study from Chonnam National University in South Korea. Viewing nature scenes, such as mountains or forests, activates areas of the brain associated with happiness and positive memories. The longer you look, the bigger the rewards, so let yourself daydream.
Sip Tip7 of 10
Tea time is the new happy hour: People who sipped black tea had lower levels of cortisol and were able to recover faster after a stressful event than those who drank a placebo brew, a study from University College London finds. Nutrients in the tea may stimulate neurotransmitters in the brain that make us feel more at ease.
Log Off8 of 10
Struggling to keep up with all your emails? It may be time to unplug. The influx of incoming messages puts us on constant red alert, resulting in high blood pressure and elevated heart rates, a study from the University of Irvine in California notes. Check email once in the morning, once after lunch and once in the evening to spend less time multitasking (a major stressor) and more time on face-to-face interactions.
Just Breathe9 of 10
Meditation can make your work easier and less stressful, according to research from the University of Washington. People who used meditation techniques, such as mindful breathing, stayed on task longer and had fewer distractions, lower stress and improved memory. When anxious, we often take shallow breaths or hold our breath, reducing oxygen flow and increasing emotional and physical distress. Take a deep breath: Place hands on your abdomen and slowly inhale through your nose and out through your mouth, feeling your belly expand. Repeat six to seven times and breathing will deepen naturally.
Close Call10 of 10
Getting physical can reduce anxiety, a study from the University of North Carolina reports. Holding hands and hugging for just ten minutes dramatically lowers blood pressure, thanks to the release of oxytocin, a relaxing hormone that also plays a key role in bonding, trust and orgasms.