Ten Unique but Powerful Ways To Lower Stress & Give Yourself A Break
With age comes wisdom. The insight we develop helps us to overcome threats in new ways that weren’t available in our younger days. Despite newfound resilience, stress can still take a dangerous toll on our health and well being. In fact, chronic stress accelerates the physical aging process, breaking down muscle and bone tissue, harming brain function, and damaging cells throughout the body.
You can counter the onslaught of stress with a twofold approach: First, everyday habits can help manage stress and keep your body young. Then there are days when you just need a little relief. Research reveals unique activities that can give your mood a boost and allow for some real-life stress reduction.
#1: Play With A Pet
There’s a reason animals are used in hospitals as a therapy tool. Petting an animal boosts mood and relieves stress, leading to a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, while triggering release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Animal ownership is associated with longevity, well being, and has cardiovascular benefits as well.
#2: Go Hiking
The Japanese conceived of the practice of “forest bathing,” after research found that when people walked in a cedar forest their cortisol and blood pressure were lower. It’s not just the quiet, relaxing atmosphere of hiking that does it. Trees and plants emit aromatic compounds that have therapeutic benefits and can offer relief for many stress-related disorders including anxiety, depression, and heart disease.
#3: Listen To Nature Sounds
Nature sounds also have a stress lowering effects. One study found that participants who listened to recordings of nature sounds while taking tests had a better mood and enhanced performance compared to those who listened to normal office noises. Researchers concluded that nature sounds, even pre-recorded, have a restorative effect on our cognitive abilities.
#4: Listen To Music
Music is another powerful tool for lowering cortisol and calming the brain. Music therapy may improve the connectivity of brain neurons and delay the oxidative stress that is associated with aging brain cells.
#5: Supplement With Vitamin C
Vitamin C is known for helping the body to metabolize cortisol and it can also reduce that nagging fatigue that is the hallmark of chronic stress. In one study, Korean office workers who took a large dose of 10 grams of vitamin C, had a significant decrease in oxidative stress—a principle marker of accelerated aging.
#6: Eat Anti-Stress Foods
Eating is one of the most popular ways people cope with stress. Unfortunately, the typical “comfort foods” such as mashed potatoes, creamy pasta, or pie and ice cream are unhealthy and packed with calories. Instead, choose nutrient-rich foods that can help lower cortisol: Dark chocolate, almonds, salmon, and Greek yogurt will all give you a little bit of relief when the going gets tough.
#7: Gossip With Friends
Although spending a few minutes on Facebook may give you a nice shot of dopamine for a brief feel good moment, face to face social interaction is going to have more positive effect on your experience of stress. You can keep the conversation light and intriguing, but human connection has key cortisol lowering benefits that social media doesn’t.
#8: Use Essential Oils
Essential oils can lower cortisol in the same way that a walk through the forest would. Simply applying bergamot, peppermint, or cedar oil to your wrists or palms can mimic the biological changes induced when you smell aromatic compounds that are released from trees and plants.
#9: Cuddle Up
Human touch has a powerful anti-stress affect, not only lowering cortisol but also raising the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Getting a hug, rubbing a friend’s feet, or getting a massage can all boost mood and have a relaxing effect on your brain and your cells.
Laughter has a powerful effect on stress. Interestingly, simply laughing or smiling in the absence of humor can boost mood and may increase productivity. This is the theory behind “laughing yoga,” a practice in which forced laughter often turns into voluntary, contagious laughter, reducing depressive feelings and lowering pain.
What do you do to relieve stress? Share your strategies in the comments section of Facebook.
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