Health & Fitness » Highlights » Lifestyle » Vol. 43

DIY Relaxation: 18 ways to destress

Destress-during-holidays-300x166-1Stress is often seen as a negative effect on the body, but it is very essential to life. It is the “fight or flight” system that is naturally part of our survival system. Stress is bad when it overwhelmingly impacts our health equilibrium. Everyone deals with stress in one way or another. It is associated with higher levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Accumulated unmanaged stress can lead to major physical and psychological illness, including depression, overeating, excessive sleep and irritability. While it is impossible to avoid stress completely, it is possible to manage your stress. Here are a few ways:

1. Get a massage.
Massage has been shown to be effective in reducing mental and physical stress. In one study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, massage helped lessen stress and pain in patients who have chronic pain. Another study in the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing suggested that 15-minute massages help reduce the psychological stress of their test subjects. Massage lowers the level of cortisol and increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine.

2. Go for a walk.
Going for a walk can clear your mind and keep your body healthy. Walking helps increase your endorphins, which can give you a euphoric feeling, and it reduces your levels of cortisol. It will give you a boost of energy while reducing your fatigue. On top of that, simply being outside also helps reduce stress and helps increase memory and attention span.

3. Relieve stress with a pet.
Studies have shown that pet therapy helps reduce anxiety and stress for many people. One study showed that it helped students during exam times. Another study showed that patients experienced a 37 percent reduction in anxiety if they spend time with animals before their medical operations. Pets lower blood pressure and cortisol. While dogs and cats are usually the choice of pet for stress relief, other animals can also help. Watching fish in an aquarium has also been shown to reduce your blood pressure.

4. Drink tea.
Green tea lowers your blood pressure and is full of antioxidants that are beneficial for your health. In one study, black tea helped lower cortisol and reduced stress after six weeks, more so than in subjects who were drinking placebo drinks.

5. Get proper sleep.
A study in children showed that disruptive sleep may lead to a higher level of cortisol. By having a restful and high-quality sleep and undisrupted naps, one’s cortisol levels will decrease. Another study of healthy young men has shown that taking proper naps throughout the day will lower one’s cortisol levels.

6. Work out.
Hit the gym or go for a run. This allows your body and mind to focus on something that is good for your well-being. While it distracts you from the cause of your stress, it also increases your endorphins and decreases your levels of cortisol. The more aerobic your workout is, the more endorphins your body releases.

7. Breathe deep.
By taking deep, slow breaths, your blood pressure and heart rate also slows down, which counteracts the effects of stress. This also allows you to relax and clear your mind. It has been shown to reduce anxiety and help with depression.

8. Use guided visualizations.
This is a technique that many people use to relax, control their stress and help them achieve their goals. One study showed that subjects reported less perceived and dyadic stress after using this stress-managing tool. Guided visualization allows people to imagine and consciously think about certain issues and helps people get in touch with their intuition. This usually leads to feeling refreshed and has helped many attain higher self-esteem.

9. Aromatherapy.
The scents of certain plants, such as lavender, can ease our stress and relax us. These scents can create a mood for us, and some may even bring us memories or thoughts associated with the smell. Aromatherapy is often used with massages, meditations and hot baths. It is a wonderful, calming experience for those who have tried it.

10. Turn your phone off.
Your smartphone allows you to access the rest of the world. This will allow stress to come to you. According to one study, work-related emails through smartphones cause higher stress levels in people. By turning off your phone, you shut the external stress out, and it allows you to focus on yourself and your immediate surroundings. Escaping technology can be a very relaxing experience, whether it’s during the weekend or during vacation.

11. Meditate.
Meditation has been used for thousands of years. It is an inexpensive technique that can release your stress and clear your mind. Pair it with breathing exercises to further lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Meditation can help you find tranquility and clarity in your thoughts.

12. Enjoy a hot bath.
A hot bath can help relieve the tension in your muscles, lessen the pain in your body, promote blood circulation and calm the nervous system. Water can be infused with minerals and other products such as Dead Sea salt or oil.

13. Try yoga.
Yoga is an excellent weight and stress management tool. It helps your balance and flexibility and strengthens your core. Studies have shown that yoga is promising in reducing anxiety and stress. Yoga originated in India and has been around for more than 5,000 years. It also helps with bronchitis, chronic pain and some symptoms of menopause.

14. Listen to music.
A study has shown that patients in post-surgery who listened to music had lower stress levels than those who did not listen to music. Another study showed that people from different cultural backgrounds preferred different types of music for pain and stress relief. While everyone’s preference is different, find music that is soothing for you.

15. Laugh.
Going to a comedy show or watching a funny movie will help manage your stress. One study showed that there are lower levels of the salivary endocrinological stress marker chromogranin A (CgA) in those who watched a humorous movie. Along with less stress, these subjects also reported a feeling of being uplifted and fulfilled.

16. Try a craft.
Finding a hobby and keeping your hands busy will distract your mind from stressors. Studies have shown that doing a craft enhances relaxation, especially for children and seniors. It is used quite often as a therapeutic healing method.

17. Write down your thoughts.
Keeping a journal or diary of your thoughts and activities allows you to express yourself and your feelings. Your journal is also a place for you to let your emotions out. One of the best parts of journaling is that you can write down your negative emotions so that you move on with your positive emotions.

18. Avoid caffeine.
Try to avoid coffee, energy drinks and other drinks that are heavy in caffeine. Caffeine increases catecholamines and cortisol, which are both stress hormones, while increasing dopamine for a quick, feel-good response that will wear off quickly and make you feel low. Drink green tea instead.


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