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Mindful meditation, yoga, and 23 other ways to relieve stress

  • Mindful meditation, yoga, and 23 other ways to relieve stress

    The world is facing a dissemblance of normal life, and whether you have been directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19, chances are high your stress levels are increased. You may feel like you lack control of this situation, and to some extent, that’s true; however, there are strategies you can try to relieve the stress you are experiencing day to day.

    One approach is to limit your exposure to your own stress triggers. If having the news on all day or habitually scrolling through headlines or social media on your phone is causing you emotional distress, it is OK to take a step back. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that anyone would be worried by “the sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak.” You can stay informed while also taking care of your mental health by limiting the number of times you check the news in a day and making sure to only follow reputable sources. One Johns Hopkins Medicine psychologist also recommends getting news about the new coronavirus from credible sources, not social media posts.

    Another approach to relieving stress is to actively participate in activities that are known by researchers and medical professionals to reduce stress. Stacker looked through scientific journals and news reports to research 25 scientifically supported ways to relieve stress. The activities people often partake in to reduce these feelings may be off the table right now, such as a trip to the gym, attending church service, or even spending time in-person with friends and family, but each of the suggestions in this slideshow can be done from the comfort of your home. And it’s likely at least one of these stress-reducing activities is already something you take part in.

    From mindful meditation and yoga to reading and gardening, here is a list of 25 strategies you can try to help lessen the weight on your shoulders.

    Related: Social isolation and mental health: tips from experts on staying healthy

  • Breathing exercises

    Inhale for five seconds, exhale for five seconds, and repeat the pattern for a few minutes—you’ve just practiced what is known as resonant breathing. When your heart and mind are racing and you need a quick way to destress, breathing exercises can help bring your body to a relaxed state in seconds. The University of Michigan Health System recommends several breathing techniques for managing stress: belly breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, roll breathing, and morning breathing.

  • Chewing gum

    Experts often recommend chewing gum to help with focus or alertness, such as in the case of taking an exam. Researchers have also wondered whether chewing gum can help reduce stress: In a 2016 review of studies exploring the connection between gum chewing and stress reduction, Andrew P. Smith of Cardiff University’s School of Psychology suggested chewing gum could be “a simple, cost-effective method of reducing stress and improving quality of life and well-being.”

  • Drinking tea

    While people around the world have long believed drinking tea brings a myriad of health benefits, both mental and physical, scientists are still trying to figure out exactly why and how. Researchers have discovered drinking tea can reduce cortisol levels—a stress hormone—and also believe an antioxidant present in tea, epigallocatechin gallate, could be responsible for the drink’s calming effects.

  • Napping

    Fatigue is a common symptom of stress, which can also be an obstacle to getting enough sleep in the first place. Taking a 30-minute midday nap could be enough to restore stress-related hormones and proteins after a bad night of sleep, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Endocrine Society. The Sleep Foundation warns against taking naps too late in the day, as it could interfere with getting a restful night.

  • Laughing

    The Mayo Clinic reports that laughing activates and relieves a person’s response to stress, while also lessening physical stress symptoms by boosting circulation and relaxing muscles. Laughter can also deliver long-term health benefits, including mood improvement, pain relief, and even increasing one’s immunity.

    Check out Stacker’s list of 100 best comedy films of all time, according to critics, if you’re in need of some laughter.

  • Kissing

    Kissing the right person can lower cortisol levels. Smooching can even protect participants from the physiological impact of stress, according to a 2009 Santa Clara University study about kissing in cohabiting and married relationships. Affection exchange theory asserts that people receive stress-ameliorating effects from communicating affectionate behavior in close relationships. This method, and the next one, are of course not accessible or recommended to those living on their own during the current pandemic.

  • Sex

    Stress can lead to low libido—because your body is focused on surviving, not procreating, licensed psychologist and sex therapist Rachel Needle, explained to Self. But having sex can also help to relieve stress: Sex is known to offer a release of mood-elevating hormones, such as endorphins, and it can reduce cortisol levels, too.

  • Watching TV

    Full disclosure, this tip may be more effective for women than men: A study published in a 2016 issue of the journal Health Communications found that a woman’s cortisol levels became lower with the more television she watched—though this was the case for some genres more than others. The study’s lead author Robin L. Nabi suggests stress levels may drop since watching TV is usually a passive activity.

  • Music

    Listening to music positively impacts the psychobiological stress system, according to a study published in 2013 in the journal PLOS One. Stanford University also researchers reported in 2006 that brain functioning can be altered just as much by listening to rhythmic music as it can be by taking medication. While certain types of music are thought to lessen stress more than others—rhythmic drumming, classical, light jazz, and nature sounds, to name a few—a person’s music preference does come into play. If the sound of an approaching thunderstorm stresses you out, listening to music depicting thunder is not going to have calming effects.

  • Reading

    Reading is proven to reduce stress by as much as 68%, according to a frequently cited 2009 study by researchers at the University of Sussex. Regular book reading over a long period of time might even be able to extend your lifespan by up to two years, according to researchers involved in the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal panel study of an estimated 20,000 Americans over age 50. When choosing a book to read in order to reduce your stress levels, avoid anything that might upset you.

    Check out Stacker’s list of best-selling fiction books from the year you were born to find inspiration for your next read.

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