Advertising
Advertising

7 Science-Backed Ways You Can Reduce Stress Today

7 Science-Backed Ways You Can Reduce Stress Today

We all experience stress in our lives. Some of us experience stress once in awhile, while others face it on a daily basis.

Whether you’re one of the few people who perform better under stress or not, the side effects of stress are clear. Stress has been shown to increase the risk of disease or illness, lead to premature aging, and weaken your immune system.

Here’s a helpful diagram of how chronic stress works and how it can act as a negative feedback loop in our brain.

stresschart2

    If you’re worried about the level of stress you experience, you’re not alone. Over 54 percent of Americans feel an urgent need to reduce stress levels on a daily basis.

    The good news is that there are science-backed ways that have been proven to reduce stress, starting today.

    1. Practice Your Power Poses

    One of the most popular TED Talks to date is called Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” by social psychologist Amy Cuddy.

    Cuddy’s research reveals that adopting the body language associated with dominance for just 120 seconds is enough to create a 20-percent increase in testosterone and a 25-percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. In other words, your posture can make a significant difference in your mood, emotions, and more importantly, reduce stress levels.

    “If you feel like you shouldn’t be somewhere: Fake it. Do it not until you make it—but until you become it.” — Amy Cuddy

    Cuddy makes a distinguishable contrast by presenting the difference between a “High Power” pose and a “Low Power” pose. In the image below, notice how relaxed and comfortable the people in the top row look (and feel) versus the bottom.

    Advertising

    body-language-power-poses

      The reason why we bring up Cuddy’s research is that most of us are stuck in a “Low Power” pose throughout the day (i.e. typing on our computer, in meetings), which inevitably enhances our stress levels and reduces our energy levels.

      Try to take regular breaks during your work, and put yourself in one of the power poses above for 2-3 minutes. You’ll be surprised at the level of impact this has on your mood and stress levels. As we shared in our post on productivity, you can try using the Pomodoro timer to work in 25-minute, intensive segments to force yourself to take breaks.

      What would be even better is to experiment working while standing up. A 2012 study found that if the average American reduced his or her sitting time to three hours per day, life expectancy would climb by two years.

      If you’ve never worked while standing up, you can refer to this photo as a starting guide.

      standing-desk-benefits

        2. Laugh More

        Laughing each day keeps the doctor away.

        According to the Mayo Clinic:

        “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.”

        This is probably why comedic videos are by far the most popular videos online, because laughter releases dopamine in our brains, encouraging us to seek more of this sensation.

        jimmy-fallon-donald-trump-obama

          What’s even more interesting is that we don’t necessarily have to watch or witness anything funny to gain the benefits of reducing stress, as the anticipation alone can boost endorphins in our brains.

          Advertising

          3. Practice Gratitude

          Gratitude can sometimes be placed in the same category as spiritualization or positive psychology, which is not often associated with science-backed research. This is probably because throughout history, philosophers and religious leaders have extolled gratitude as a virtue integral to health and well-being without any scientific research backings.

          But this has changed, according to Robert Emmons, a psychologist professor at the University of California Davis, who says that “Research on gratitude is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress.”

          The main reason for this is that it’s very difficult to experience the feelings of fear and gratitude at the same time, since we’re naturally more optimistic when we’re grateful for what we have.

          In another research performed at the University of Utah, researchers compared the immune systems of healthy, first-year law students under stress. By midterm season, students characterized as optimistic (based on survey responses) maintained higher numbers of blood cells that protect the immune system compared with their more pessimistic classmates.

          A helpful tool I’ve been using personally is the five-minute journal, which helps you practice daily gratitude by answering specific questions about your day and the day ahead of you.

          Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 1.54.35 PM

            4. Get Moving (Even For 7 Minutes)

            If you’ve been sitting down all day (like I have), then this is a tip to seriously consider.

            Exercise has been proven to improve our mental health, decrease risk of diseases, and improve our quality of sleep, which is a key factor to reducing stress.

            0228sleepeffects1

              The problem for most of us, which applies to learning a language just as much as exercise, is finding the time in your schedule to do it. Luckily, you can start by spending just seven minutes in your day.

              The science-based 7-minute workout is hard, but short enough to fit it into your schedule. These simple exercises do not require any weights, which makes it possible for you to do at home, at your office, or outside.

              Advertising

              12well_physed-tmagArticle

                5. Develop A Growth Mindset

                One of my favorite books on personal development and growth is Mindset by Carol Dweck, a social psychology professor at Stanford University with over twenty years of dedicated research in the field of psychology.

                “For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt of yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.” – Carol Dweck

                In her book, Dweck talks about the two different types of mindsets that an individual has, which is the fixed or growth mindset. Which mindset you choose to practice can have a significant impact on your optimism, levels of stress, and how you make important decisions in your life.

                Dweck describes the difference between the two mindsets:

                “A fixed mindset comes from the belief that your qualities are carved in stone – who you are is who you are, period. Characteristics such as intelligence, personality, and creativity are fixed traits, rather than something that can be developed.

                A growth mindset comes from the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort. Yes, people differ greatly – in aptitude, talents, interests, or temperaments – but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

                dweck_mindset

                  The point here is that no matter what situation you face, you can choose to believe that this is the beginning of better days ahead of you, or the start of the worst days ahead of you.

                  6. Use Stress As Fuel

                  The scientific research on the growth mindset shows the level of impact our mindset has on reducing stress levels. To take this on another level, you can shift your entire perspective about what stress means to you.

                  If you think about it, experiencing stress often means you’re pushing yourself to grow out of our comfort zone, because you have a deeper meaning that goes beyond your current emotions. While no one wants to have more stress in their lives, how we perceive the stress that enters our lives is crucial, according to health psychologist Kelly McGonigal.

                  Advertising

                  In the 2012 paper “Improving Acute Stress Responses: The Power of Reappraisal,” published by scientists at Harvard’s department of psychology, research shows that treating common stress responses as a positive might even be good for the heart.

                  7. Learn Something New

                  The last tip we have to reduce stress is to spend your time learning something new that interests you, whether it’s a new skill, a new language, a new industry, etc.

                  Have you ever watched a documentary, read an article, or participated in a fascinating conversation that got your brain fired up, even though you felt stressed or tired just moments before?

                  Recent research shows that finding 20-30 minutes a day to do something you’re interested in can be one of the best ways to reduce stress and increase your levels of happiness. These findings share that “interest” doesn’t just keep you going despite fatigue, it actually replenishes your energy. And then that replenished energy flows into whatever you do next.

                  It also recommends that you keep these two points in mind:

                  First, interesting is not the same thing as pleasant, fun, or relaxing (though they’re not mutually exclusive). Taking a lunch break might be relaxing, and if the food is good it will probably be pleasant, but unless you are eating at the hot new molecular gastronomy restaurant, it probably won’t be interesting. So it won’t replenish your energy.

                  Second, interesting does not have to mean effortless. The same studies that showed that interest replenished energy showed that it did so even when the interesting task was difficult and required effort. So, you actually don’t have to “take it easy” to refill your tank.

                  In conclusion, finding things that interest you while challenging you mentally is the way to go if you want to reduce stress levels.

                  Next Steps

                  Share with us below what you’ve tried or are doing today to reduce stress levels in your life, and let us know which one you resonated with the most!

                  Also, if you enjoyed this post, you’ll want to check out the 17 Best Productivity Apps That Will Boost Your Productivity and Happiness and this Complete Guide to Reprogramming Your Mind to Form Good Habits.

                  More by this author

                  8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months 10 Websites To Learn Something New In 30 Minutes A Day 17 Free Websites That Will Improve the Quality of Your Life Today You Don’t Need Extremely High IQ to Be Successful, You Need Self-Control 5 Essential Activities That Will Make Your Brain Healthier

                  Trending in Career Advice

                  1 10 Essential Career Change Questions To Ask Yourself This Year 2 10 Job Search Tools Every Jobseekers Need To Know About 3 10 Websites To Learn Something New In 30 Minutes A Day 4 50 Great People To Follow On LinkedIn, No Matter Your Industry 5 If You Have This Key Behavior, You’ll Be More Successful Than 90% Of People

                  Read Next

                  Advertising
                  Advertising
                  Advertising

                  Last Updated on April 17, 2019

                  10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

                  10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

                  What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

                  Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

                  They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

                  1. Communication Skills

                  Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

                  To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

                  Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

                  Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

                  After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

                  2. Flexibility

                  Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

                  Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

                  Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

                  Advertising

                  Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

                  3. Being a Team Player

                  Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

                  What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

                  This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

                  Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

                  4. Positive Mental Attitude

                  There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

                  Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

                  Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

                  It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

                  Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

                  5. A Strong Work Ethic

                  People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

                  Advertising

                  If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

                  Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

                  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
                  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
                  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
                  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

                  For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

                  6. Public Speaking

                  Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

                  Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

                  If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

                  For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

                  Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

                  7. Integrity

                  From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

                  • Always doing what you say you will do
                  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

                  …even when no one is around to check up on you.

                  There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

                  Advertising

                  Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

                  8. Managing Your Time

                  Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

                  A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

                  Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

                  Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

                  These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

                  9. Assertiveness

                  In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

                  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
                  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
                  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
                  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

                  Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

                  How do you use this information for yourself?

                  It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

                  Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

                  Advertising

                  How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

                  10. Creative Thinking

                  LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

                  Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

                  How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

                  Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

                  These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

                  You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

                  What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

                  Final Thoughts

                  The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

                  So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

                  The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

                  More Articles to Help Advance Your Career

                  Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

                  Reference

                  Read Next