Stress affects us all; it’s everywhere. We might feel stress when dealing with the demands of your work, when managing your finances, disciplining your kids or when coping with a difficult relationship.
When we’re stressed, hormones like adrenaline and cortisol flood our system, causing the stress response. In this state, the body prepares for action: your breathing quickens, your muscles tighten, the heart begins to race and your blood pressure rises.
Not all stress is bad. The body is designed to handle stress in small doses. It helps you to perform a task or prevent you from getting hurt like when you slam on the breaks to avoid hitting the car in front of you. But when we encounter long-term, chronic stress, it becomes negative. Over time, this stress-related tension may have detrimental effects on your health, contributing to chronic conditions like heart disease and hypertension, as well as mental health conditions and anxiety disorders.
Luckily, there are a couple of easy things you can do to bust and turn down your stress.
- Take a walk
Walking doesn’t just take you away from whatever situation’s overwhelming you. It also boosts up your endorphin levels. Endorphins are neurotransmitters, chemical messengers in the brain that help us feel good. Walking is also an act of active meditation, distracting you from the day’s irritations by focusing on your movement. If you can, take your walk outdoors. Most outdoor activities are linked to well-being.
Put on a smile when you’re stressed. A study published in Psychological Science in 2012 found that smiling, particularly a genuine smile where the muscles around your mouth end eyes are engaged, helps reduce your stress responses even if you’re not happy. Smiling also helps lower your heart rate after you’ve done something stressful.
- Have a laugh
While you’re smiling, try giving yourself a good laugh, too. According to the Mayo Clinic, numerous researches has proven that laughter has a myriad of benefits, from reducing stress to relieving pain to improving your immune system. Even just the anticipation of a laugh or any positive event in general, can help reduce stress hormones. The study published in the American Physiological Society found that an anticipation of mirthful laughter reduced the levels of three stress hormones, namely cortisol, epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline) and dupac, a chemical that helps produce epinephrine.
- Practice deep breathing
Breathing exercises or just deep breathing helps you to relax because it mimics the way the body feels when it is already relaxed. Deep breathing reduces anxiety and stress by increasing the supply of oxygen to the brain and by stimulating the parasympathetic system, thereby promoting feelings of calmness. Focused breathing also draws your attention away from negative thoughts and quiets your mind by bringing your attention to your body.
- Chew a gum
Next time you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, unwrap a stick of gum. A study presented at the 10th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine in 2008 revealed that chewing gum can help improve alertness, relieve anxiety and reduce stress. researchers believe that the smell and taste of mint helps you to relax.
- Practice aromatherapy with lavender
Lavender has long been appreciated for its scent. It’s most frequently used in baths and soaps to help purify the body and spirit and research seems to confirm this up. Research shows that lavender scent has a calming, soothing, and sedative effect, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
- Listen to music
Put on some music to help you ease your tension and stress. Recent studies on the benefits of music found that listening to music reduces pre- and post-operative stress and anxiety in patients, ease chronic and post-operative pains, relieves depression and increase self-esteem ratings in the elderly, and reduces emotional distress among adult cancer patients.
While classical music has always been associated with music therapy and has long been regarded to have a soothing effect, studies also show that any type of music that you like will have the same feel-good effect.
- Call a friend
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, seek out and tell it to a friend. A research involving kids aged 10 to 12 found that kids who were with their best friend during an unpleasant experience had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than kids who weren’t around a friend during those times. So open up because that’s what friends are for.