Whatever is stressing you out (and if you’re like most people, there is something, be it family, work, classes, or relationships), the good news is that there’s also something you can do about that stress. Which is a good idea because researchers have reported that stress can take a serious toll on your health. People under chronic stress are more likely to get colds, may have trouble sleeping, and may have an increased risk of high blood pressure. So avoid all that bad stuff by busting out of that stress cycle. Here are six tips that help—and fast.
Take deep breaths. In stressful situations many people take short, shallow breaths, which can affect the way their brain works and how it processes their thoughts. But breathing slowly and deeply helps restore rational thought and put things in perspective. Give this a try: Exhale, inhale through your nose for three seconds, then purse your lips, and exhale for as long as possible, trying to get all the air out of your lungs while letting your cheeks inflate. Repeat until you’ve settled down.
Drop your shoulders. When you’re anxious, your body instinctively shields itself like a boxer on the ropes. Your head drops, shoulders hunch, and chest caves in. Many people spend an entire day at their desks unaware that they’re in this posture. To find out whether you do this when you’re under pressure, try lowering your shoulders away from your ears during stressful times. If that feels instantly better, then you carry a lot of tension in your neck and upper body, and you may want to drop those shoulders more often. Put a sticky note with those words on your computer, dashboard, or any place you frequently glance.
Sing! Researchers have found that singing increases your stress-reducing hormone (called cortisol) more than just listening to music does. If you like to turn up your favorite songs on your drive home from work, try singing along and see if it helps end your day on a nicer note.
Laugh out loud. When it comes to decreasing anxiety, it turns out that watching a comedy is more effective than viewing a peaceful landscape scene, according to researchers at Osaka University. Collect your favorite funny clips on your smartphone or computer, and try watching one or two when stress starts getting the better of you.
Have a bite. Dark chocolate is not only good for your taste buds but, thanks to its free-radical fighting polyphenols, this sweet treat also reduces the stress hormone levels in the blood. You don’t have to overdo a good thing though—1 ounce is all it takes to soothe.
Brew a cup. Try sipping chamomile tea instead of coffee when stress strikes. Studies have shown that the herb contains ingredients with naturally soothing effects for mild anxious moments.