If you clicked on this article you probably feel stressed right now. There are many things that make us feel anxious – an awkward conversation with the boss, family issues or a fight with your partner.The good news is that you can instantly fight back the “S Word” with these simple tips to destress. Take a deep breath. Ready? Now relax!
1. Go for a walk
Yes, it’s as simple as that. Ten minutes outside will help you clear your mind and boost endorphins – a powerful antidote to stress hormones. Have a stroll in a park, go out to the garden and plan an escape into the wood on the weekends. Nature is one of the most powerful (and free!) stress-relievers out there as a recent study proved. If you cannot step outside right now, find a window with a view on something leafy and green and take your “zen” moment. Solely visual encounters with nature, as well, have actionable positive influences on your psychological and physiological states.
2. Buy a plant
Did you know that a small pot on your desk can actually help you to calm down? A research conducted by Washington State University proved that being around plants drastically reduces anxiety and drops blood pressure. For an easier breathe, get a snake plant for your office. It absorbs carbon dioxide during the day and releases oxygen during the night (while most plants do it vice versa), so that your morning begins with clean-air boost to kick-start your productivity. Or a spider plant – still one of the most effective air-purifying plants according the NASA study in late 80s. It consumes and transforms harmful pollutants like benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and more, thus making us healthier and more content.
3. Do a quick breathing exercise
One of the oldest techniques discovered nearly 3000 years from Ayurveda practices is gaining control of your “pranayama” – the life force or simply, your breath. Deep breathing stimulates parasympathetic reactions in our body, which helps us to relieve the tension and calm down. Shallow quick breathing does not allow our body to get enough oxygen and is considered as a “fight or flight” reaction by our brains, thus provoking stress. According to Herbert Benson, a researcher from Harvard, short periods of meditation, using breathing as a focus, can significantly alter the body’s stress response and even change the expression of some genes. Here are a few simple techniques to try:
- Sama Vritti or “Equal Breathing”: deeply inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. All through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. Keep the focus on the same thought while doing the exercise.
- Kapalabhati or “Skull Shining Breath”: start with a long, slow inhale, followed by a rapid, powerful exhale coming from the lower belly. Once you feel more comfortable with the contraction, speed up the pace to one inhale-exhale (all through the nose) every two seconds, for a total of 10 breaths.
4. Chew a gum
Feeling overwhelmed with ongoing tasks? Chew a gum to stay focused and reduce your anxiety. According to Andrew Scholey from Swinburne University in Melbourne, using a chewing gum while balancing numerous tasks improves overall attentiveness and effectiveness. During the research gum-chewers performed 67% better on multi-tasks and showed a reduction in anxiety by 17% during mild stress and 10% in moderate stress situations compared to non-chewers.
5. Squeeze out a smile
Even a phony fake smile will reduce your stress levels according to the “facial feedback” theory of emotion. Our brains constantly analyze changes in our body from posture and muscle pressure to facial expression, thus judging how you actually feel right now. In simple words if you act like a happy person, you’ll start feeling like one! Is there nothing to cheer you up right now? Place a pencil vertically between your teeth to mimic a genuine smile. As another research proved, participants who were holding a pencil vertically in their mouth felt less stressed when solving a mental challenge and reported to endure less pain while going through the pain induction.
6. Eat a banana, potato or an avocado
All of them contain a lot of potassium – a property known to reduce blood pressure jumping sky high as you feel stressed. The also help your body to gain the necessary energy for recovery and even protect you from negative stress-related consequences like strokes and heart attacks.
7. Listen to some music
Music is known to have a lot of healing powers. It can reduce both the distress of chronic and postoperative pains; relieve depression and increase self-esteem in elderly people; reduce burnouts and improve the mood among pressured nursing students. It even makes patients less anxious and stressed before surgery. Classical music has a particularly soothing effect – it calms down the heart rate, cuts back the amount of stress hormones and reduces blood pressure. However, it could be any of your favorite songs to flood your brain with “the happiness hormone” – dopamine.
8. Do progressive muscle relaxation exercises
Researches have found that a series of simple progressive muscle relaxation exercises once a week significantly reduces blood pulse, pressure and overall anxiety even for people suffering clinical depression or other psychological disorders. Sit down, close your eyes and tighten your foot muscles (starting from toes) as much as you can. Than relax. Gradually make you way up tightening and relaxing each muscle until you’ve reached your forehead. The exercises works miracles when done with a soothing tune in your headphones.
9. Treat yourself with something sweet
Eat a candy or a piece of cookie (one piece!) as it is the fastest aid to reduce both psychological and physical stress. Sugar can decrease the production of glucocorticoid – a stress-related hormone linked to decreased immune response and obesity. And yes, that must be something really syrupy, not a low-calorie sugar-substantive variety.
10. Create Cushions in Your Calendar
Tight schedules and constant multi-tasking are one of the most common contributors to stress nowadays. When you have a lot of things to cross of your to-do list, you find yourself in a constant hurry, juggling a bunch of things at a time and not being properly focused on any of them. By creating cushions in your calendar you avoid stressful situations in the first place. Always leave enough time from you to reach from point A to point B despite any possible obstacles you may face. If you have an important meeting scheduled for 10 am, go out of home 30 min earlier than your usual time, so you could spend your commuting time calmly revising your notes, instead of rushing and stressing out due to heavy traffic.
11. Use the Naam yoga hand trick
Once you feel anxiety rising up, say during difficult negotiations, press a point between your second and third knuckles, just at the spot where your finger and hand meet. It will instantly make you feel calmer! Also, try moving your thumb down the middle finger toward your palm till you feel a soft, slightly indented spot. It should be on the inside of your finger of your palm. Applying medium pressure here will loosen the area around the heart and make your anxiety go away notes Sharon Melnick, author of the “Success Under Stress” program.
12. Stop Should-ing Yourself
After all, we are our own worst enemies in terms of stress. How many times have you told yourself that you should go to that date (but you knew it’s going to be pathetic!), you should meet you old friend (though you had hardly anything in common as you grew up) or that you should go through with the wedding as all the invitation have been sent and tons of money spent? Those “should”s crush your soul and make you feel anxious about making life decisions. As Lissa Rankin, M.D states: “If you ignore the soul’s guidance, the soul may guide you through painful interventions, like loss or illness.” Stay true to yourself and listen to your heart more often! It does no harm to you.