6 Ways to a More Relaxed You

Stress is a word that is used for so many varied concepts that it has practically lost its original meaning. Like love. Or Coke.

Understand that everyone reacts to stress differently. Some people verbally express their stressors to help cope and conquer their mounting tasks. Others draw inward, choosing to process their stress internally and plan their course of action. Genetics, too, play a part in how you handle stress, because of overactive or underactive stress responses, one’s own life experiences, and/or a history of anxiety disorder, according to Mayo Clinic research.

Just Breathe.Easier said than done, really. Shallow, chest breathing—the kind most of us do involuntarily—activates the sympathetic nervous system. Its purpose is to prepare your body for fight-or-flight by raising your heart rate and blood pressure, dilating your pupils and increasing your sweat gland production. These are good for running from bears. Bad for conquering your daily to-do list.

Instead, concentrate on deep breathing from your abdomen, the Mayo Clinic advises. Slow inhalation and exhalation can help reset your body’s equilibrium and lower your naturally occurring stress hormones.

Clench and Release.Sometimes used as a meditation exercise, tightening and releasing your body’s muscles is a proven relaxation technique. Clenching one part of your body at a time, such as arms or legs, or your entire body all at once and holding that pose for several seconds helps release excess tension in your arms, shoulders, back and feet. And it feels good, too.

Other Tricks of the Trade.While these methods can be used for any level of stress, some of the equilibrium “resets” can help give you a boost of feel-good chemicals in your body. Chew gum—it produces saliva that helps naturally curb nausea. Avoid caffeine—doctors at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine say caffeine can exacerbate anxiety in some people. Gulp ice-cold water—the jolt of cold water in your stomach will help cool your body temperature.Drink herbal tea—chamomile and jasmine contain herbal ingredients that can help promote relaxation. Drinking a hot cup of tea forces you to slow down. Drink it slowly and change whatever stress-inducing behavior you were engaged in.

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