10-Second Stress Busters whether we’re fretting over that pile of monthly bills or anticipating an exciting change like the birth of a new nephew, the million things we’ve got going on can leave us all feeling like big balls of stress—and that can wreak serious havoc on our health. But you don’t need to turn your life inside out to beat the effects of stress. These quick and easy natural solutions can help you stay mellow in a crazy world.
Black tea has been shown to have an effect on stress hormone levels in the body. Researchers in England have found that people who drink black tea de-stress more quickly than those drinking a fake tea substitute. Tea contains catechins, polyphenols, flavonoids and amino acids that affect your brain’s neurotransmitters and ultimately reduce blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Next time you feel a bit cracked up, forgo the junk food and snack on some nuts instead. Nuts are typically high in tryptophan and magnesium, two key nutrients that support serotonin production. And almonds are especially high in stress-busting B vitamins, zinc, vitamin E and antioxidants
Rub Your Ears
“According to Ayurveda, India’s 5,000-year-old ‘science of life,’ there are marma points—like acupuncture points—in the ears that correspond to the various parts of the body,” says Lissa Coffey, author/producer of the Dosha Yoga DVD. Simply rub the circumference of each ear—right hand on right ear and left hand on left ear—to instantly ease tension.
Take a Whiff
Aromatherapy has calming effects that can tame the tension in no time. Proven stress-reducing aromas include lavender, lemon balm, chamomile and geranium. Carol Duncan, a registered aromatherapist and owner of Massage Central says to place a few drops of essential oils on cotton balls and place them a few inches from fans or heater vents or underneath your car seat. “Each time air passes over the cotton ball, the essential oils are reintroduced to the area,” she explains.
Pop a Vitamin C Pill
Researchers at the University of Alabama say that vitamin C reduces the levels of stress hormones in the blood, which may alleviate the body’s response to stress. Studies suggest that 1,000 mg of vitamin C is most helpful.
Put on the Pressure
“Self-administer acupressure,” suggests Susan Lark MD, a leading authority on integrative medicine and women’s health. Put your left finger at the base of your skull, then move it down the width of one finger, and then move it to the left the width of one finger. Position your right finger in the same place on the right side. Press both points for one to three minutes. According to Dr. Lark, a second stress-busting point is located four finger-widths below your kneecap and one finger-width to the outside of your shin. (You should feel a slight indentation.)
Blueberries, blackberries and other berries contain some of nature’s most powerful antioxidants and are jam-packed with vitamin C, making them potent stress-busters. Stress causes the body to release free radicals—highly unstable oxygen molecules that can damage normal cells—and antioxidants help to neutralize those harmful molecules.
Strike a Yoga Pose
“When we get stressed, we tend to tense up and cave our chest in,” says Lissa. She recommends folding your hands as if in prayer behind your back, then pulling your shoulders back, tilting your head back and breathing deeply
Stretch for Balance
Another move that Lissa suggests is to sit in a chair with your left foot on the floor. Put your right ankle on your left knee and lean forward with a stretch. Hold it as far as you can go, then bend forward a bit more. Repeat on the other side. “This opens up your hips and balances that tensed up muscle feeling,” she adds.
Reframe Your Thoughts
“Reframing simply means putting a different context around the situation,” says Jay Winner, M.D., author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life. For example, Winner suggests thinking of time spent in a long line as a break from a busy day—a chance to relax your mind or meet someone new like the person standing next to you. A positive spin can counteract the stress-induced physiological changes that wreak havoc on your body.
Crave Complex Carbs
Complex carbohydrates boost serotonin levels and keep a heightened sense of calm and relaxation for a longer period of time. Target carbs include whole-grain foods and cereals—such as whole-grain breads, oats and brown rice—as well as legumes such as peas, beans and lentils.
Brian Jump, multi-day tour sales manager for Arizona Outback Adventures, breaks the tension of his long days by doing 10 jumping jacks, push-ups or anything that gets the blood flowing through the body. “This helps to release endorphins, which are a natural stress reliever,” he says.
Laugh Out Loud
According to a University of California, Irvine study, even the expectation of a laugh boosts stress-busting hormones and increases hormones that induce relaxation—an effect that can last for up to 24 hours. Read a comic strip, check out the joke of the day or make funny faces in the mirror until you bust out with a belly laugh.
Eat “Good Mood” Foods
Certain foods contain compounds that may help the body produce mood-boosting neurochemicals. Dr. Lark, who’s also author of Dr. Susan Lark’s Hormone Revolution, says the following foods have been shown to produce a noticeable calming effect: turkey (high in tryptophan, taurine and B6); pumpkin seeds, spinach and black beans (all high in magnesium); papaya (high in vitamin C); and bananas (high in potassium).
Be in the Moment
Focus on what’s right in front of you, using your senses to connect with the environment. Dr. Winner suggests, for example, taking 10 seconds to smell the aroma of the food you’re eating and savor its taste. “Take a few steps and let go of thoughts, feeling the ground massaging your feet with each step,” he adds.