Remy Melina, MyHealthNewsDaily Contributor |
Everyone feels stressed out sometimes, but if you don’t keep your stress level in check, it could become overwhelming.
Studies have shown the benefits of lowering stress , and that high levels of worry and stress can negatively impact your health. In 2010, researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine found that people with higher job stress also had a higher body mass index (BMI) than employees with less stressful positions.
A 2006 study from Tel Aviv University in Israel showed that workers who experienced high stress levels were 1.8 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. And another 2006 study from the University of California at San Francisco showed that stress-triggered hormones could worsen or even cause skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema.
Feeling stressed out over your stress levels yet? Here are 11 tips to help you live a little less stressed.
Take a yoga class
Yoga not only keeps your body in shape and improves flexibility, it also helps you cope with stress and lower inflammation.
Inflammation is an immune response that can be beneficial, such as when your body is fighting off infection, but chronically high levels of inflammation have been tied to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, asthma and depression.
A 2010 study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University showed that when yoga experts were exposed to stressors such as dipping their feet in ice water, they experienced less of an increase in their body’s inflammatory response than yoga novices who were subjected to the same stressors.
Get more sleep
Getting adequate sleep doesn’t just make you look better, it also improves your health and helps you stress less, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Unfortunately, poor sleep and stress can be a vicious cycle: feeling stressed out during the day can cause you to toss and turn at night, then feel tired and even more stressed the following day.
A 2010 study from the Clayton Sleep Institute in St. Louis, Mo., showed that people with chronic stress reported shorter sleep duration and worse sleep quality. The researchers also found that individuals who slept less were more likely to report feeling more stress.
How can you break the stress/lack of sleep cycle?
Try Talk Therapy
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is often used as a stress management tool to ease symptoms of stress and anxiety. In talk therapy, patients and psychotherapists discuss the patient’s problems and work together to correct negative or distorted thinking patterns.
There are various types of talk therapy treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and group therapy, but what they all have in common is that they aim to help patients deal with their negative thoughts or feelings and make positive changes to better deal with daily stress.
One reason exercise is so good at relieving stress is because it reduces cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone released from the adrenal gland in times of stress, such as when you feel anxiety, anger or fear. Chronically elevated cortisol levels ultimately inflame and can even damage organs.
Exercise burns cortisol, and thereby makes us healthier and happier, Debbie Mandel, author of “Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul” (Busy Bee Group, 2003), told LiveScience. Exercise also stimulates the brain’s pituitary gland to release endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that have naturally feel-good effects.
The CDC recommends doing muscle-strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) two or more days a week, as well as at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as speed-walking, every week.
That may seem like a lot, but just going out for a brisk, 10-minute walk three times a day for five days a week will add up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.
Numerous studies have shown the positive benefits of meditation, which include soothing stress, decreasing blood pressure, easing feelings of pain and even preventing relapses in patients with depression.
For example, a 2008 study from Emory University in Atlanta showed thatZen meditation, which encourages mental awareness and control of one’s thoughts while focusing on breathing, could treat disorders marked by distracting thoughts, such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.
There are many different meditation techniques, so don’t think that you’re required to sit cross-legged and hum a mantra to de-stress. Some meditation styles focus on clearing one’s mind, while others encourage visualizing healing or calming imagery or thinking kind thoughts towards oneself and others.
Those with physical limitations can also meditate while sitting in a chair or even lying down.
Laugh hard and often
The old adage that laughter is the best medicine rings true if you’re looking for a stress cure.
A study conducted at Loma Linda University in 2001 found that participants who viewed a funny video experienced a decrease in the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. They also had an increase in endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that boost mood and relieve depression, and
in human growth hormone, which boosts the immune system.
Laughter doesn’t just help us deal with stress or emotional pain it helps us handle physical pain as well. In September, researchers at the University of Oxford in England found that laughter raises our tolerancefor pain by stimulating a release of endorphins.
Plan for “worry time”
Heavy duty worriers may benefit from carving out a specific chunk of time to think about what is worrying or bothering them, according to a Penn State University study published in July.
Scheduling worrying into a 30-minute block of time each day is beneficial because people may not be able to stop worrying altogether, but they can postpone and limit when they worry, according to the researchers. This allows them to better control their fretful habit and focus on other ideally, more positive things during the rest of their day.
Complaining about what’s stressing you out may seem like a good idea, but a study published in July showed that unloading about your problems to a friend may not always be helpful.
The study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Kent in England, found that when people with traits of perfectionism faced daily setbacks, venting made them feel worse . These study participants felt less satisfied with their circumstances than before they talked to a friend about what was stressing them out.
“Venting is not an effective strategy for anyone trying to cope with daily stress, whether they have perfectionistic tendencies or not,” social psychologist Brad J. Bushman, who teaches at Ohio State University and has researched aggression and coping, told MyHealthNewsDaily. “Research clearly shows that venting increases rather than decreases stress.”
Instead, try one or all of the three strategies the study found to help people cope with setbacks; acceptance, humor and positive reframing, which means looking for something good in an otherwise stressful situation.
Get a massage
Getting a massage not only helps you relax and ease muscle tension, it may also impact your hormone levels in a positive way, according to a 2010 study.
Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that after receiving a 45-minute massage, participants had decreased levels of cortisol , a stress hormone, and vasopressin, a hormone believed to play a role in aggressive behavior.
Keeping a journal can lessen stress in several ways, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). When you’re feeling frazzled, writing down your feelings makes you feel more in control, and may help you better analyze the situation. It can even give you a new perceptive or ways to address the problem.
And by looking over past journal entries, you may begin to see a pattern of what stresses you out, according to the NIH. You can then decide what needs to change to prevent those stress triggers from affecting you in the future.
Oxytocin, which is also known as the “cuddle hormone,” is involved in social bonding, but can also help to lower stress levels. Produced in the brain’s hypothalamus, oxytocin is then transferred to the pituitary gland, which releases the hormone into the bloodstream.
Several animal studies have shown that the hormone relieves stress and anxiety in social settings. In a 2007 study, researchers separated prairie voles, which are Midwestern rodents, from their siblings. The isolated prairie voles exhibited signs of anxiety, stress and depression, but these symptoms abated after they were injected with oxytocin.
The body naturally produces oxytocin during sex, childbirth and breastfeeding. But the “love hormone” can also be released during simple physical contact, such as a friendly hug. Even playing with your dog can boost oxytocin levels, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior.