Move more, stress less.
Stress is a universally awful feeling. It’s a response triggered when we perceive something to be a threat – that could be a lion who thinks we look like lunch (which it may have been back when cavemen roamed the earth) or a stern email from an unimpressed boss.
It’s also known as the “fight or flight” response, and the physical side-effects are the same irrespective of the situation we’re in, but because we (presumably) have no real lions to escape from, we’re left with all of our stress response’s nasty side-effects, like a high heart rate, heavy breathing, excessive sweating, and headaches.
If left unchecked, it can increase your risk of developing serious long-term health conditions like hypertension, depression, and anxiety.
Fortunately, scientists have used their resources to pin down a number of sure-fire ways to relieve the nastiness that comes with a high-pressure week at work, trying emotional time, or bad news:
No, it’s not a cliché. When we’re feeling stressed, we (often unknowingly) inhale and exhale at a more rapid rate, so taking slow, deep, even breaths forces your body to operate the way it does when you’re feeling relaxed. The extra boost of oxygen can help to relieve pent-up stress and reduce tension by stimulating the “parasympathetic reaction” – or the mechanism that helps us relax.
Start by simply breathing in and out through your nose for a count of four, maintaining the same pace on the next breath. There, don’t you feel better already?
Rock out to the classics
No, that doesn’t mean your dad’s Rolling Stones records. Research from the Science University of Tokyo showed that classical music like Mozart and Bach slows the heart rate and stimulates the part of our brains responsible for sleep and emotional activity. It also helps to release tense muscles and breathe both more evenly and more deeply.
Put a stop to screen time
For some of us, there’s nothing more stressful than being more than an arm’s reach from out email inbox or Facebook feed, but a study from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found late night or long periods of computer use was associated with stress, disrupted sleep, and depression, with the outcomes significantly worse for women.
Make time to make out
Endorphins are a powerful stress-buster and kissing prompts the brain to release endorphins, so it stands to reason that settling in for a proper make-out session with your significant other will help to release some stress. It does come with a caveat, though: those who only kiss when they’re having sex don’t see the benefits that come with it, according to a Northwestern University study.
Move it, move it
Exercise is one of the most effective stress-busters available to us as humans. It’s so powerful because it literally changes our brain wave patterns: when we’re feeling tense, our brainwaves are in what’s known as a beta state, but exercise can help them transition to an alpha state, which is more closely associated with relaxation, by regulating our blood pressure. Plus, its great motivation for a boxing class if it’s your boss who’s giving you grief.