Stress is a part of life—but it doesn’t have to be your life. If you walk into your office every morning feeling totally frazzled, it’s time for a wake-up call: Your anxiety-ridden life is taking a toll on your health (and more specifically, your heart, according to a researcn review). Stuff happens—we get it. But you don’t have to let your demanding boss or ridiculous client get the best of you. Instead, just a few small things can instantly lower your rapidly boiling stress levels according to science. Keep flipping for seven things you can do now to instantly de-stress!
Ever heard of the term Relaxation Response? It was coined from a book of the same name, authored by Dr. Herbert Benson. In it, he describes this response as your personal ability to release chemicals and brain signals that make your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain. Basically, it’s the opposite of the “fight or flight” response some people are naturally inclined to. Dr. Benson found that the use of the Relaxation Response can even help health problems caused by chronic stress, like fibromyalgia, insomnia, hypertension, anxiety disorders, or more. One part of the Relaxation Response is just breathing—being aware of your breaths, and ultimately calming yourself.
If you feel the hysteria setting in, get off your butt, leave your iPhone at your desk, and take a walk somewhere peaceful—and preferably green. According to this study, volunteers who walked through a green space (say, a park or forest) entered a more meditative state than those who walked through busy streets. The University of Washington's Green Cities: Good Health project also found that taking a walk in a park or being outside in nature helps conquer mental fatigue and even boosts your brain activity.
The first thing most of us want to do when we’re feeling stressed is to drown our anxiety in something doughy, fried, or both. Stress-eating is a real term, after all. Instead of reaching for your go-to comfort food, replace those saturated fats with good fats, like you’d find in an avocado or an egg. The connection between the gut and brain is huge—it’s called the gut-brain axis—and lots of interesting data supports the idea that the gut is a major mediator of the stress response. Instead of giving into your gut, try one of these healthy snacks or carb-curbing tricks.
This technique is rooted in Eastern Medicine, and drawn from the Naam Yoga technique. Basically, you can “reset” yourself by applying pressure to a point on your middle finger, between your second and third knuckles and near where your finger and hand meet. Doing so supposedly activates a nerve that loosens up the area around your heart. You can read more about it here.
Most people know that bananas are a great source of potassium but did you know they also contain tryptophan? In case you didn’t know, tryptophan is a type of protein that your body converts into serotonin, which is basically the brain chemical that makes you feel happy and relaxed. We recommend keeping a bunch of them on your desk to curb your midday stress spike.
The easiest way to calm yourself when you feel the hysteria setting in? Put on your favorite tune—seriously. According to this study, listening to music that you decreases perceived stress and increases the subject’s sense of personal control and well-being. (No judgment if it’s the new T.Swift album.)
Chewing a stick of gum can help relieve anxiety, improve your alertness, and reduce stress. Not the most attractive habit, perhaps, but a good tip to tuck away for a rainy day (or, let’s be real, in a few hours).
How do you de-stress? Tell us below!
Furman D, Campisi J, Verdin E, et al. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nat Med. 2019;25(12):1822‐1832. doi:10.1038/s41591-019-0675-0
Nakao M. Heart rate variability and perceived stress as measurements of relaxation response. J Clin Med. 2019;8(10):1704. doi:10.3390/jcm8101704
Aspinall P, Mavros P, Coyne R, Roe J. The urban brain: analysing outdoor physical activity with mobile EEG. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(4):272‐276. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091877
Meule A, Reichenberger J, Blechert J. Smoking, stress eating, and body weight: the moderating role of perceived stress. Subst Use Misuse. 2018;53(13):2152‐2156. doi:10.1080/10826084.2018.1461223
Foster JA, Rinaman L, Cryan JF. Stress & the gut-brain axis: regulation by the microbiome. Neurobiol Stress. 2017;7:124-136. doi:10.1016/j.ynstr.2017.03.001
Wada, K., Yata, S., Akimitsu, O. et al. A tryptophan-rich breakfast and exposure to light with low color temperature at night improve sleep and salivary melatonin level in Japanese students. J Circad Rhythms. 2013;11:4. doi:10.1186/1740-3391-11-4
de Witte M, Spruit A, van Hooren S, Moonen X, Stams GJ. Effects of music interventions on stress-related outcomes: a systematic review and two meta-analyses. Health Psychol Rev. 2019;15:1-31. doi:10.1080/17437199.2019.1627897
Yu H, Chen X, Liu J, Zhou X. Gum chewing inhibits the sensory processing and the propagation of stress-related information in a brain network. PLoS One. 2013;8(4):e57111. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057111