Editor’s Note: The following article is one in a series of pieces inspired by the onset of spring and April being Stress Awareness month, brought to you by Colgate. Smile up!
When life has got you stressed to your limit—whether it’s day-to-day chaos or extraordinary circumstances—it can feel like taking even a few minutes to try and reduce your stress level is just a waste of time.
But rediscovering your inner calm is not only worth the effort, it’s well within your reach—even in as little as six minutes. Here are five proven methods to reduce your stress.
PERFECT YOUR TECHNIQUE It may sound too good—and too easy—to be true, especially to those who suffer from panic attacks or experience a great deal of stress in their daily lives due to work, domestic chaos, or a full plate of responsibilities. But learning simple relaxation techniques (the Mayo Clinic website offers a good primer on techniques like visualization and muscle relaxation) can be your ticket to finding your inner calm anytime, anywhere (no yoga mat required).
SOAK IN THE TUB It’s true that a harried shower will get you clean, even if you emerge from the bathroom just as stressed as when you went in. But taking a soak in the tub is a proven method to reducing stress. Why does a nice, warm bath help wash the your troubles away? According to the Discovery Health website, “the act of bathing stimulates blood circulation and calms the nervous system.” If you have some essential oils at hand, all the better: “Aromatherapy (essential oils) is a great way to calm the mind and adds to the therapeutic benefit of a bath.” Plus, an aromatic bath will have you rediscovering your inner goddess in no time. Just make sure to hang a Do Not Disturb sign on the bathroom door!
PICK UP A BOOK Curling up with a book for some quiet reading time sounds relaxing in theory—but it really is a proven stress reliever, according to a study done in the U.K. by Mindlab International. As the Telegraph reported in 2009, the study showed that reading “[reduced] stress levels by 68 per cent.” And Mindlab’s research revealed that you don’t even have to put aside that much time for reading in order to benefit from its stress-relieving powers: “Subjects only needed to read, silently, for six minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles,” reported the Telegraph. “In fact it got subjects to stress levels lower than before they started.”
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GO FOR A WALK It’s not easy for a busy mami to sneak exercise into her packed routine. But you don’t need to hit the gym or even make time for working out at home in order to reap the benefits of this simple stress-reducing exercise: walking. Prevention reports that “a brisk 20- to 30-minute walk can have the same calming effect as a mild tranquilizer.” That’s right—forget the prescription drugs and just head out for a stroll when you’re feeling stressed. If you’re worried you won’t be able to manage a quick enough pace to reduce your anxiety, have no fear: “To reap the stress-busting benefits of walking, you don’t need to pound the pavement or push yourself really hard,” reports Prevention. “In fact, at least one study has shown that a comfortable stroll can be just as effective as a brisk walk.”
YO, GOBBLE GABA Recently, Dr. Oz introduced his viewers to a stress-relieving chemical that sounds like the name of a zany kids’ show: GABA (short for gamma-aminobutyric acid). As Dr. Oz’s website explains, when you’re stressed, “the chemicals that act like your car’s accelerator pedal—dopamine, adrenaline, norepinephrine—are surging. And GABA, the chemical that acts like your car’s brakes, is in short supply.” If it sounds like you have to don a lab coat to figure out where to get more GABA, don’t worry: not only is it found in supplements, GABA is also found in healthy snacks like hummus, cherry tomatoes, as well as oolong tea.