It's not just sleep and yoga that bring relief — try some of these unexpected ways to combat stress, and start enjoying a more calm and balanced life.
Stop Trying to Be “Productive”
You might think that multitasking is a stress reducer because it feels like you’re being productive, but there's data to suggest otherwise. A University of Irvine study, for example, found that people who responded to emails throughout the entire day while also attempting to complete other work experienced more heart-rate variability (an indicator of mental stress) than those who waited to respond to all of their emails at once, Health Magazine reports.
“When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount,” author Guy Winch, Ph.D., adds. Alternating between several tasks may actually waste productivity, he argues, because your attention is depleted on the act of switching gears and you rarely get zeroed in fully on either activity.
Hug it Out
"The gentle pressure of a hug can stimulate nerve endings under the skin that send calming messages to the brain and slow the release of [the ‘stress hormone’] cortisol," explains Tiffany Field, Ph.D., of the University of Miami Medical School's Touch Research Institute. A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study found that couples who were asked to hold hands and hug before talking about a stressful past event exhibited heart rate and blood pressure levels that weren't nearly as elevated as those subjects who were not asked to interact accordingly. Studies show that a hug from a friend or a professional massage can have a similar effect.
Sip Some Tea
People who drank black tea four times a day for six weeks showed lower levels of cortisol after a stressful task than those who drank a caffeinated fruit drink, University College London scientists found. Green tea leaves might also shift brain wave activity from the beta waves associated with anxiety to the alpha waves connected with relaxation, WebMD adds.
Recognize Second-Hand Stress
A study from the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Technische Universität Dresden “found that even being around a stressed person, be it a loved one or a stranger, has the power to make someone stressed in a physically quantifiable way,” TIME reports. This doesn’t mean you should cast off a stressed out friend, but it may mean that you should consider if their emotional state is affecting yours and what you can do about it.
A not-so-surprising way to beat stress? Stop by the Y, of course. How do you deal with stress? Share your strategies with us.