Stress! Or shall we say, STRESSSSSSS!!!!!! If you’re retired and live in a mansion with a personal chef, housekeeper, and massage therapist, simply take a load off and relax! But for the rest of us, here are some tips on easy ways you can relieve stress and anxiety at work, at home, and in your daily lives.
Eat Some Chocolate!
A 1-ounce serving of dark chocolate can actually lower your stress level and improve your mood. That’s right: Just think of all the amazing stress-relief desserts you could indulge in—all in the name of good mental health!
Try Some Aromatherapy
If you’re prone to panic attacks, consider carrying a small bottle of your favorite essential oil with you. The nasal passages are very close to the brain, and scent can have a powerful impact on your emotional state in an instant. (Consider how a long-forgotten smell can transport you to another time and place.) Other than lavender, scents to consider include basil, bergamot, chamomile, jasmine, rose, and rosemary. But you can pick whatever you like! Interestingly, it’s been shown that vanilla can trigger the release of endorphins, so you could even stash a tiny bottle of vanilla extract in your purse and sniff it for quick relief.
DIY Warming Pillow
Heat plus aromatherapy have been proved to help relieve stress and anxiety. But don’t spend your money on an aromatherapy pillow! Instead, add uncooked, long-grain rice to a sock and tie it shut. To add a little scent to the pillow, put a few drops of your favorite essential oil into the rice before closing. Whenever you need a little heat after a long day, stick it in the microwave on high for 1–2 minutes, and you’ll have soothing warmth.
Go for the Salad
Add a side salad to your next meal. Dark green, leafy vegetables like swiss chard and kale are great for offsetting the negative effects of cortisol—which is released when you’re stressed—in the body. If you want a well-balanced mind and body, you’ve got to eat a well-balanced diet!
Take a Contrast Shower
You’ll love the feeling of this simple routine that will help relieve stress and even boost your immune and circulatory systems. Toward the end of your shower, turn it up as hot as you can stand it and allow it to warm your body for three minutes. Then turn it down so the water is cool, and let it run over your body for 30–60 seconds. Repeat as many times as you like, ending on cold. When you get out of the shower, rub yourself vigorously with a towel to encourage circulation. Do not continue the contrasting temperatures, however, if you feel dizzy, nauseated, or excessively chilled.
Pinch to Relieve Stress
Many people hold stress in the area between their eyebrows, and in time, vertical stress lines will develop here. When you feel your brow knit together with concentration or stress, take a moment to pinch the muscle there, working from the center of the brow along the brow-line in each direction with a thumb and bent forefinger. Not only will it make you feel better by reminding your body to release, it will prevent wrinkles, too!
Indulge in Pet Therapy
If you’re always saying you couldn’t live without your pet, you’re right! Playing with or petting your pet is known to reduce blood pressure, improve your mood, and reduce stress. It been proven to work with all kinds of pets: dogs, cats, hamsters—every type but dust bunnies.
Make Time for Tea
Many herbal teas help alleviate anxiety. Drink a few cups of chamomile, lemon balm, or passion flower tea each day. Strangely enough, catnip also has a calming effect on humans—the opposite of its power over our feline friends! Add a bit to your tea green tea and you may feel less stress.
Learn How to Connect…
Feeling stressed? Seek out others and avoid isolating yourself. Have lunch with a friend, plan a fun outing with your family, strike up a conversation with a neighbor at the supermarket, or simply hold the door for a stranger at the post office. When you connect with your family, friends, and community, you’re less likely to feel anxious.
…And When to Unplug
Take a media break. We’re so bombarded by media and technology these days that it can often make us feel more anxious, rather than more connected. Turn off your cell phone, switch off the TV, ignore the news for a few days, and try to limit the amount of time you spend on your computer. The decrease in stimulation can help you unwind.
Take a Bath
A warm bath can do wonders for anxiety. You can make it even more relaxing by adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to the bath water. Lavender is considered to have a soothing effect on the body, so as the warm water releases the knots from your tense muscles, the sweet scent will relax your tense mind.
If you’ve opened a magazine or been online recently, you’ve probably heard about mindful meditation. Fortune 500 company employees, athletes, students, prisoners, and many others are all learning this ancient art. The idea is that if you sit and focus on your breath and try to let go of distracting, worrisome thoughts, you’ll lower your overall levels of anxiety, improve concentration, strengthen your relationships with others, and more. The scientific evidence to support its effectiveness is quite strong, and best of all, meditation is free! You can start out by sitting quietly for 15 minutes—or even 1 minute—a day. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of meditation, make reading a book, gardening, prayer, or some other quiet, peaceful activity a part of your daily routine, and you’ll help keep that anxiety at bay.
Numerous studies have shown that yoga, a gentle exercise that is easily tailored to any skill level, is a fantastic tool for relieving stress. Look for yoga DVDs at your local library and engage in an invigorating yoga routine first thing in the morning or a relaxing yoga routine after dinnertime.
Get a Massage
Feeling stressed out? Getting therapeutic massage can aid in stress reduction. Check to see if massage is covered under your health insurance plan—it may fall under chiropractic care or physical therapy. Another source for inexpensive massages are massage therapy schools, where massage students offer discounted sessions as part of their education. If you can’t afford a back massage (and can’t talk your kids or spouse into doing it), take matters into your own hands by using two tennis balls in a tube sock. Drop the balls in, tie it shut, take a hold of each end, and roll away. You can also use your body weight to get the more pressure by lying on top of the balls.
Go Ahead, Eat the Ice Cream
It’s official—children have known it for years, but scientists now admit that eating ice cream can actually make you feel better. Eating a spoonful of ice cream lights up the same pleasure center in the brain as winning money!
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