Simple Stress-free tips
Simple, field-tested strategies you can use right now
You know what stress looks like: The sun rises; so do you. Your child suddenly remembers that he needs cupcakes for the school party. The dog’s gotten sick in the living room. Your spouse leaves for work in a huff after a pre-breakfast tiff over finances. You leave for work without a report that’s due today. You double back, grab it from the kitchen counter, trip over an Everest of laundry — must we go on?
You know what stress feels like: Your pulse quickens, your lungs squeeze shut, your ears ring, and you wonder if this is the time your head actually explodes. Sensing anxiety overload, your brain orders up a chemical surge that makes your blood vessels narrow, heart race, blood pressure rise, and muscles tighten. Your body is mobilizing to deal with threat.
Good plan, nature! But you weren’t meant to stay on red alert forever. Prolonged stress leads to health problems. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol are associated with heart disease and cancer; stress has also been linked to gastrointestinal problems, eczema, asthma, and depression.
But here’s what you may not know: Recent studies have suggested six new stress reducers — research-tested, rather surprising, and relatively simple. You can ease these strategies into your life right now.
Strategy 1: Smooch spontaneously
“When I come home from a hard day at work and kiss my husband, the bad stuff doesn’t seem to matter anymore,” says Cheryl Kennedy Henderson, 47, an accountant in Knoxville, TN. Science says she’s on to something. A recent study of 2,000 couples showed that those who kiss only during lovemaking are eight times more likely to report suffering from stress and depression than those who frequently kiss on the spur of the moment. Study leader Laura Berman, Ph.D., an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and ob-gyn at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, explains why: “Kissing relieves stress by creating a sense of connectedness, which releases endorphins, the chemicals that counteract stress and depression.”
Strategy 2: Take the cuddle cure
More good news from the annals of affection: Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently found that holding hands and hugging can measurably reduce stress. Fifty couples were asked to hold hands for 10 minutes, then hug for 20 seconds. A second group of 85 people rested quietly, not touching their significant others. Researchers then asked people in both groups to talk about a past event that left them angry or anxious. Those who hadn’t cuddled before revisiting the past exhibited signs of elevated heart rate and blood pressure. But couples who had hugged and held hands weren’t nearly as ruffled. “The gentle pressure of a hug can stimulate nerve endings under the skin that send calming messages to the brain and slow the release of cortisol,” explains Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the University of Miami Medical School’s Touch Research Institute. And if your honey isn’t on hand? Field says other studies have found that a hug from a friend or a professional massage can also help banish tension.
Source: Web MD Feature from “Good Housekeeping” Magazine, By Catherine Guthrie
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