Stress is a normal part of life, especially in our fast-paced, chaos-driven culture; however, chronic stress is a major cause of many medical and mental health concerns including, but not limited to, insomnia, depression, anxiety, heart disease, lower immune function, obesity, headaches, and many more.
Here are some things you can do to reduce stress levels.
- At the onset of stress, chew a piece of sugar-free gum. Studies have shown that this lowers anxiety levels, likely due to the rhythmic movement of the jaw, which helps to increase blood flow to the brain and encourage the proper release of hormones.
- Take a walk. Spending a bit of time outside, even just a few minutes, helps to keep the fluids moving and the mind clear.
- Smile…There is meaning behind the phrase, “grin and bear it.” A genuine smile involves the muscles around the eyes and mouth, which releases tension and reduces the stress response in the body. There is something chemical in the smile that helps your mind cope differently with the situation. A genuine smile also helps lower the heart rate when the initial stressful situation passes.
- Aromatherapy works wonders. Get a lotion, spray, or vial of lavender, which is clinically proven to be soothing. In one study, a group of nurses kept a vial of lavender on their clothes while another group didn’t. The group that had it noticed a significant decrease in stress levels.
- Music therapy. If you know you’re headed into a stressful situation, listen to something soothing before going.
- Breathing exercises help calm and clear the mind. Deep breathing in the midst of stress helps reduce the “fight-or-flight” reaction and pulls your attention away from the negative thoughts and stressful situation. You can just take a moment to breathe while counting to 10, or sit and do meditation once or twice a day for a few minutes.
- Think positively. We all have that internal predator that sends some pretty nasty thoughts through our minds. It’s important to shut down that predator by thinking more compassionately to yourself. Talk to your internal self like you would your friend or loved one.
- Talk it out with a friend or loved one. It’s okay to vent to a confidante. This will help reduce the tension because more often than not, a good friend is going to listen well and ease your mind with laughter and/or logic.
- Finally, sweat it out. Exercise releases endorphins that help you relieve stress and increase your mood. It clears your head and allows you think more rationally.