A lot of people think of stress as simply a psychological issue, but it actually affects both your body and mind. Chronic stress increases your risk for a countless number of physiological disorders from obesity to hypertension, and most people don’t realize the absolutely amazing impact that controlling and mitigating stress can have on your mind, body, and soul.
Although there are some major steps you can take to control high levels of anxiety and stress, including medical treatment, there are a lot of little things that you can do to deflate stress before it becomes problematic, or reduce stress in your life by recognizing that stress and making the conscious effort to overcome it.
Chewing Gum Can Help Alleviate Stress
Scientific research has shown that chewing gum can help alleviate anxiety. A study conducted in Japan shows that chewing gum for ten minutes has the ability to help control physiological factors associated with stress, as well as reducing feelings of stress in the minds of the participants. Specifically, chewing gum was shown to reduce cortisol levels in the blood stream, one of the primary stress hormones produced by the body. Researchers also hypothesize that chewing gum can provide these benefits in other ways, including improving circulation to the brain via motor activity.
Spending Time Outside Can Alleviate Stress
This is sometimes referred to as Forest Therapy. For reasons that are not entirely clear, both body and mind respond to being outside and experiencing nature. This is another concept that comes from Japan, and research shows that spending time in the outdoors has the ability to both suppress cortisol levels and improve blood pressure. There is even evidence that spending time outdoors can help promote better immune system function by boosting the production of NK Cells which are important in both preventing cancer and fighting off infection. Research shows that spending a weekend in the forest has the ability to boost the activity of NK Cells by fifty percent, and the benefits persist for as long as a month.
Take the Time to Smile!
The way that humans respond to positive experience is through the act of smiling. It makes sense that people that know how to keep a smile on their face are more likely to be less stressed. Interestingly enough, smiling appears to be both a response to happiness and actually a mechanism by which we alleviate stress. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense, because smiling, as well as laughing, are both a mechanism of deescalation and a sign that individuals mean no harm to one another. Even a forced smile has the ability to reduce the influence of stress at a physiological level. Also, if you find yourself caught up in stress, the act of smiling has been shown to help bring heart rate back down to normal more quickly after conditions have improved.
Lavender Naturally Dissolves Anxiety
Scent may seem like the most primitive sense that human beings experience, but evolutionary evidence shows that scent was likely the first sense that living organisms developed. Scent is a mechanism by which animals can directly and immediately respond to chemical stimuli. It makes sense that scent, although it has given way to the other senses in terms of importance, still has a powerful effect on human psychology.
For example, certain scents, such as lavender, have an innately calming effect on the human mind. Research has shown that simply wearing a vial of lavender oil has the ability to mitigate stress. Lavender sends such strong chemical signals simply through scent, that it can boost the power of both anti-anxiety drugs and painkillers. This effect is so pronounced that anyone that uses these medications should discuss lavender therapy with their physician.
Listen to Music to Alleviate Stress
Human beings respond powerfully to music, and it’s clear that this has been true for the entirety of our existence. There is even evidence that animals respond positively to musical stimulation. In one study, participants in two groups either listened to the sound of a rippling stream (another proven stress modulator) or to peaceful music. They found that people that listened to such music before engaging in a stressful activity experienced less stress than their counterparts.
Research has shown that pleasant music has the ability to suppress the production of cortisol. The opposite is also true. People that are highly stressed have trouble listening to and enjoying music. If you are feeling a bit stressed, take the time to force yourself to listen to some music and it will likely lead to stress reduction. Listening to music also improves blood pressure and slows down heart rate.
Focused Breathing Can Alleviate Stress
When we get stressed out, it has a natural impact on our breathing patterns. Breathing speeds up, in preparation for our response to stressors. Our ancestors responded to stress with action, but today, the modern lifestyle can create an environment of constant, abstract stress that our bodies prepare for but can’t overcome by natural means. By making the effort to focus on breathing, and subverting the subconscious breathing pattern associated with stress, it is possible to mitigate and alleviate that stress. In order to alleviate this stress, take yourself somewhere that exudes peace and quiet for you, personally.
Breath in deeply, hold the breath for a few moments, and slowly exhale. When you breath in, take the air in and allow your chest to expand. Focus on breathing through your nose. Research shows that nasal breathing improves lung capacity and improves the circulation of both oxygen and carbon dioxide. In order to maximize the benefit, try to take ten minutes out of your day for this breathing exercise
Focus on the Positive Within Yourself to Alleviate Anxiety
Everyone knows what it’s like to be too hard on oneself, and how that can impact both self-perception and stress levels. If you find yourself getting caught in a spiral associated with your perception of your self worth, take control of your mind and allow yourself to love and appreciate the good things about yourself. By honestly taking stock of yourself and the positive things that you have to offer, you can safeguard yourself from stress and promote an improved mind state.
Put Your Thoughts on Paper to Alleviate Stress
A big problem with stress is that we get so caught up in our problems, we lose the perspective to be able to resolve them. One way to resolve this issue and force yourself to take your anxiety from the abstract to the concrete is to get a notebook or laptop and write or type your problems out. By putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper you can separate yourself from your problems a bit and make plans to resolve and mitigate that stress. The key to successfully using this technique is honesty. You have to bear yourself out on the page so that you can deal with your problems most effectively.
Talk to a Friend to Reduce Anxiety
It’s easy to let yourself get caught up in anxiety and depressive thoughts. These thoughts may make it hard to believe that there are people that are there for you that want to hear your problems. It’s important to fight this cycle, because if you hold your thoughts and feelings inside, it can only lead to bigger problems later on. Sometimes, all it takes is a phone call with a good friend to get all the thoughts and feelings trapped inside you out. And your friend likely has some healthy opinions which can help you put your thoughts in perspective.
Exercise to Take Control of Your Anxiety
Psychological and physical stress are intrinsically connected. If you are feeling caught up in your own mind and stressed out, one of the best ways to combat that stress is to go for a walk or a jog, or going to the gym to lift some weights. Exercise releases endorphins, which suppress stress and promote positive feelings. Exercise is an act of physical expression, and the benefits of physical release bear remarkable similarity to those of emotional release.
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