March 10, 2009

Five Ways to Lower Your Stress

Feeling frazzled? Here are five ways to help you lower your stress. These come from MSNBC and biochemist Shawn Talbott, author of The Cortisol Connection.

1.The first stress-buster: Music. Mellow tunes can have a calming effect on your brain, especially if you’re highly stressed. In one study, patients who got colonoscopies while listening to music had 66% less of the stress hormone cortisol in their bloodstream than those who were scoped in a quiet room. Another study found that listening to music helped people wind down faster at bedtime, and fall asleep quicker than watching TV.

2.Hit the sack early – or take a nap. When you get six hours of sleep instead of the recommended eight hours, your body pumps out 50% more stress hormones all day. Getting a full night’s sleep – or taking a catnap – can bring your cortisol levels right back to normal.

3.Also, drink black tea. The polyphenols and flavonoids in black tea help your body shake off stress more quickly. In a study in England, when volunteers were exposed to stress, the stress hormones of black tea drinkers returned to normal within an hour. However, those who drank fake tea took four hours to get back to normal.

4.Another way to de-stress: Chew gum. Just moving the muscles in your jaw instantly defuses tension. Studies show that gum-chewers are more alert and pump out 15% fewer stress hormones than their gum-deprived counterparts. Why? The act of chewing increases blood flow to your brain, and boosts neural activity in the areas tied to energy and focus.

5.One final way to de-stress: Hang out with a funny friend. According to researchers at Loma Linda University, simply anticipating laughter is enough to cut your stress hormone levels nearly in half. If your favorite Tina Fey clone can’t meet you for coffee, you can get almost the same stress-melting effect by popping in a DVD of a funny movie, or your favorite stand-up comic.

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