Chronic stress is a sign that our natural fight or flight response has gone awry which puts our health at risk. While it is nearly impossible to completely avoid stress, there are some things we can do to calm our system down in the face of stressful situations. Learning how to control your system from overreacting to real or perceived danger is important for your health and well-being. So next time you face a difficult situation, try these 10 scientifically proven tips for instant stress relief.
Some personality types are more susceptible to stress than others which is usually due to maladaptive coping mechanisms. Mindfulness-based stress reduction* which is a clinically standardized type of meditation was found to reduce* ruminative types of thinking and increase* self-compassion which might especially benefit anxious personalities according to a meta-analysis published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
2. Relax with Music
In one study, female volunteers were randomly assigned to either music listening, listening to rippling water or resting in silence prior to undergoing a stress test.
The researchers found that listening to music prior to a stressful event resulted in faster recovery of the autonomic nervous system in comparison with the other two relaxation methods. Music also lessened the levels of stress hormones, psychological feelings and warning signs of stress.
3. Chew some Gum
Surprisingly, chewing on a piece of gum seems to offer instant stress-relief according to a study conducted by Japan Prosthodontic Society. The volunteers underwent a stress-inducing test and were given gums to chew after the test.
The participants also performed the test without the gum for control. The results showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol when the participants chewed gum in comparison when they did not. The stress relieving benefits from gum chewing come from the chewing motions which seem to put one in a more relaxed state.
4. Take a Stroll through the Park
Walking in itself can be extremely relaxing but a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that subjects walking through a green space put their minds into a more meditative state which they recorded through EEG.
Walking through a peaceful green park for a couple of minutes can put your mind at ease and help you get into a more meditative state for instant stress relief.
5. Breathe Deeply
Deep breathing exercises have been a part of traditional yogic and Zen schools to bring balance to the mind and body. There is definitely some logic behind this technique because when we are in the fight or flight response, our breathing tends to become shallow. One way to counteract this stress response is to breathe deeply with our diaphragm.
This breathing stimulates the release of melatonin according to one study. Melatonin does not only reduce* feelings of stress but can actually boost* your immune system as this is one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants.
6. Hug Someone
Hugging someone you love is a great way to get your mind off of troubles according to science. Hugs promote the release of the neuropeptide oxytocin which is also responsible for mother-child bonding. Animal models found that daily administration of oxytocin resulted in lower blood pressure that lasted up to two months.
7. Talk to Someone
Humans are social animals that thrive in relationships. While many who suffer social anxiety disorders might think that talking with someone can make their stress worse, the opposite is actually true. A review on the role of social support in psychological well-being was published in Psychiatry.
This review found that having good social support increased one’s resilience to stressful situations while poor social support negatively impacted one’s health. Turning to someone even if that is a therapist is the best thing you can do to relieve chronic stress.
8. Consider Gardening
Reconnecting with nature through gardening is a proven way to reduce* overall stress levels ac-cording to one study. Thirty subjects underwent a stressful Stroop task and then were asked to do 30 minutes of gardening or reading for control.
While both activities reduced* salivary cortisol levels, it seems gardening had a significantly stronger stress-relieving effect and even improved* the subjects’ moods.
9. Take a Magnesium Supplement
Sometimes prolonged stress can deplete the body’s levels of magnesium, and low levels of magnesium can make our nervous system hyperexcitable. Magnesium deficiency was also observed in some psychiatric disorders and is related to low dopamine levels. Boosting your magnesium levels is one way to combat stress-related nervous problems.
10. Laugh it off
Laughter is the best medicine is more than just a saying. There are many studies supporting the therapeutic effects of humor. One such study found that laughter enhanced* the immune system in subjects who watched humorous videos. So next time you are feeling stressed out, find a funny video online and see your problems go away.
Managing stress is important for one’s health and well-being. Keep these 10 tips in mind and we’re sure you’ll keep excess stress at bay.