HEALTH – How does your stress manifest itself? For some, a quickening heartbeat or a slight feeling of unease is enough to let them know that they are starting to get anxious or overwhelmed. But just as a little annoyance from your boss or bad family news can raise your stress hormones and quickly raise your blood pressure, you have the power to reset everything almost instantly.
When we are stressed, hormones like cortisol flood our system, producing a “survival” response in which our heart rate increases, our breathing becomes heavier (thus requiring more oxygen) and our blood vessels constrict.
While during the prehistoric era, the increased blood in our hearts and muscles helped us escape predators or get us out of dangerous situations, we are not at all in the same type of situations today.
Our bodies can’t tell the difference between an approaching grizzly bear , a pissed off spouse, or a particularly epic traffic jam, and it triggers a stress response even when there isn’t. of immediate danger. Instead of helping us escape, this reaction can then contribute to chronic health problems like high blood pressure, headaches, but also depression and anxiety disorders. Even more, stress can worsen other health concerns, such as asthma, irritable bowel syndrome or insomnia.
The good news ? According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the American Institutes of Health , in the same way that we have a “stress reaction”, we have a “relaxation reaction”, during which our breathing slows down, lowering blood pressure, and reducing the need for oxygen.
Since we can’t really prevent stress from building on us, we might as well work on removing the effects. With that in mind, here we present 20 ways to control your stress, based on scientific evidence.
Walk for 10 minutes
While any walk will help clear your head and boost endorphins (which in turn will lower stress hormones ), consider going for a walk in a garden or other green space, which can place your body in a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon called “involuntary attention” during which something holds your attention, but allows you to think at the same time.
“Breathing exercises can help you relax, because they give your body a sensation similar to that of an already relaxed body,” explains medical website WebMD.
In addition, it has been proven by clinical research that breathing exercises help certain systems damaged by stress: they can reduce blood pressure and even, are able to change the expression of certain genes, according to Herbert Benson, researcher. at Harvard.
Even the US National Institutes of Health recognize the power of “mental imagery” to elicit a relaxing response.
All you need to do is make yourself comfortable (at your desk, in an empty conference room – anywhere!) And then visualize a peaceful scene: an upcoming vacation, your favorite beach. You can even imagine yourself achieving a future goal or, in the words of Women’s Health magazine , “visualize yourself in an elevator, happy to be stuck between two beautiful actors of your choice”.
Eat a snack (be careful!)
The latter is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the College of Physicians & Surgeons at Columbia University, and author of The Happiness Diet
Choose a snack that fills you well – like half an avocado, a handful of walnuts or hazelnuts, or a hard-boiled egg – because nothing is more stressful for the brain than feeling like it lack of food. Eat away from your computer and go and sit in a peaceful place. Focus on the food: its texture, how it tastes, how it feels. And now your snack has become a moment of meditation.
Do you buy a plant
Houseplants aren’t just great air purifiers, they help you relax, too . Researchers have found that just standing around plants is enough to trigger a relaxation response. According to Prevention magazine , a study by Washington State University showed that a group of stressed people who entered a room filled with plants saw their blood pressure drop by 4%, while an equivalent group but who had not seen the plants experienced a decrease of only 2%.
Move away from the computer
Using the computer late at night has also been associated with stress, according to the same study – for both men and women.
Make sure you take frequent breaks during your day at the computer – and try to log off at least an hour before bed.
Stretch your lips
According to WebMD, kissing relieves stress by helping your brain make endorphins. And this can have an effect on your daily life: in a study of 2,000 couples, Laura Berman, a researcher at Northwestern University in Chicago, established that those who only kiss when they make love were eight times more likely to report chronic stress or depression.
Try this “Naam yoga” trick
According to Sharon Melnick, author of the book Success Under Stress , apply pressure to the space between the second and third joints of the fingers (the joints at the base of the index and middle fingers).“This activates a nerve that relaxes the area near the heart, allowing that feeling of restlessness you feel to go away,” Melnick told the Business Insider news site .
Hang up, then turn off your phone
Laptops are a source of stress, that’s for sure. Talking can even raise your blood pressure.
Put on some music
While classical music has a real calming effect – it slows your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and even lowers stress hormone levels – any music you love will fill your brain with feel-good neurohormones, like dopamine.
And while music can ease everyday anxiety (turn up the volume when you get home!), Research has shown that it is especially beneficial for people undergoing stressful events, such as surgery .
Don’t have headphones handy? Try humming or playing your own music. A study of stressed nursing students found that playing music for pleasure relieved stress and prevented burnout.
Treat yourself! Eat one (only one!) Candy
Eating or drinking something sweet has a calming effect because it regulates the production of stress hormones, glucocorticoids (which makes it possible to understand why we sometimes find ourselves staring at the bottom of a packet of empty cakes, when the things go wrong). While it’s no excuse to throw yourself at the office vending machine, a square of chocolate, a small candy, or other reasonably sized sweet can help with stress.
Or on the contrary, log in
Of course, screens can be stressful. But used in the right way, there’s no reason you can’t rely on the internet for some stress relief . Amanda L. Chan of Healthy Living magazine reported that a Cleveland clinical study found online stress management programs, such as guided meditation, lower stress levels and increase emotional well-being outcomes in the community. a group of 300 people.
Chewing gum doesn’t just freshen your breath – it can relieve anxiety, improve alertness, and reduce stress when you’re under high demand, according to a 2008 study .
Watch a video that makes the buzz
A good laugh is a good relaxation technique. “Laughter increases the volume of oxygen-rich air you ingest, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases endorphins that are released by the brain,” explains the Mayo Clinic website. .
Counterintuitively, laughter begins by activating your stress response and then defusing it, creating a “roller coaster” effect that leads to a feeling of relaxation.
Better yet, even if you find that the video sent by your Uncle Jacques is not that funny, the simple fact of having anticipated his drollness is enough to boost the endorphins .
Gradually relax your muscles
Start with the toes and gradually work your way up: contract the muscles of the foot as much as possible, then release them. Go up by contracting and relaxing each muscle until you finish with your face. It sounds silly like that, but this method can help reduce anxiety and stress, and is often recommended for patients who have suffered from depression or anxiety disorders
Seriously, turn off your phone.
It is especially smartphones that are linked to increased stress, as people increasingly feel compelled to respond to messages at all times.
See your best friend
Friends aren’t just for fun – those who are very close can really lower your cortisol production, according to a study of kids in college. We believe it is the same in adulthood . And psychologists agree with us .
Eat a banana (or a potato!)
Potassium helps regulate blood pressure, which rises during times of stress. Some people find that eating a banana when they are stressed helps them regain energy and recover. And research has shown that it can protect your body from the negative effects of stress, such as an increased risk of strokes or heart attacks. The American Psychological Association recommends it to prevent physical damage from stress as well.