For many of us, relaxation means zoning out in front of the TV at the end of a stressful day. But this does little to reduce the damaging effects of stress. To effectively combat stress, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. You can do this by practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercise, and yoga. Fitting these activities into your life can help reduce everyday stress and boost your energy and mood.
Stress Reduction Techniques
1. Prep for tomorrow.
Nothing is more stressful than being unprepared. Get organized so you’re ready for the next day, taking a few minutes to make a to-do list and clean up before you leave. Knowing you’ve got everything covered means you’ll be less likely to fret about work in the evenings. When you come in the next morning, you’ll have the sense that you’re in control of the situation and can handle it. This sets a positive tone for the day, which can help you get more accomplished.
2. Arm yourself with healthy snacks.
According to an American Psychological Association (APA) survey, more women than men (one in three) turn to comfort food such as ice cream and cookies to ease stress. It’s common for women to deny themselves favorite foods because they’re trying to lose weight. But under stress, the urge for them becomes even stronger.
In fact, researchers recently confirmed that dieters are more likely than non-dieters to overeat when under pressure, bingeing on the very same high-fat foods they normally try to avoid. The key is to not deprive yourself. Keep three or four healthy snacks on hand that you know you’ll probably want–peanuts, if you like salty; string cheese, if you crave protein; a small piece of chocolate for something sweet–so you aren’t tempted to binge.
3. Try a repeat performance.
Doing almost any routine, repetitive activity (like vacuuming, shredding paper or knitting), or reciting a word that represents how you wish you felt (such as calm) is a quick way to achieve a Zen-like state.
Studies show the effects lower blood pressure and slow heart rate and breathing. The crucial elements are to focus on a word, your breathing or a movement and to bring your attention back to your task if your mind wanders or negative thoughts intrude.
Or look to your faith for a mantra: A recent study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that repeating phrases with spiritual meanings helped participants cope with a range of problems, from anxiety to insomnia.