Photo: ThinkstockBy Kelly Mickle
Don't be surprised if you feel tension taking over as the holidays approach: Nearly half of all women experience increased stress during this season. Luckily, regaining your calm doesn't have to take long. Whether you've got ten minutes or an hour, the right activity is all you need.
10 Minutes: Chew a Stick of Gum
Researchers from Australia and England found that in moments of stress, gum chewers felt less anxious and had 18 percent less cortisol (the stress hormone) in their saliva. "Chewing increases blood flow to the brain--which may make us feel more alert--and it may also distract us from stressors," says study coauthor Andrew Scholey, PhD, director of the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University.
Photo: Thinkstock12 Minutes: Brew Some Black Tea
People who drank four servings of black tea a day for six weeks were able to de-stress faster and had lower levels of cortisol after a stressful event, according to a study from University College London. Chemical compounds in the antioxidant-packed beverage may relax us through their effect on neurotransmitters in the brain.
Photo: Thinkstock15 Minutes: Try a DIY Massage
The International Journal of Neuroscience reported that a 15-minute chair massage twice weekly can lower stress, likely by calming the sympathetic nervous system. The at-home approach is an effective alternative. "Simply rolling a tennis ball over muscles with the palm of your hand can trigger a similar response," says Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
Photo: Thinkstock20 Minutes: Put Pen to Paper
A 2010 study in Anxiety, Stress & Coping found that writing about a stressful event for just 20 minutes on two different days lowered levels of perceived stress. Putting feelings on paper appears to organize thoughts, helping us process unpleasant experiences and release negative emotions.
Photo: Thinkstock30 Minutes: Put on Music You Love
Music can elicit positive emotions and reduce your levels of stress hormones. A study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that patients who listened to songs of their choice were less anxious before surgery. Boost your mood even more by dancing along to trigger the release of feel-good endorphins.
Photo: Thinkstock45 Minutes: Take a Tech Break
In a study by University of California, Irvine, and U.S. Army researchers, heart rate monitors showed that checking e-mail put subjects on constant high alert with heart rates that indicated stress. "We found that shutting off e-mail eases anxiety," says study coauthor Gloria Mark, PhD. Commit to no e-mail for 45 minutes a day to begin weaning yourself off.
RELATED: How to Embrace the Present Moment
Photo: Thinkstock60 Minutes: Clean HouseHousework's repetitive nature can help release tension. "We get lost in the rhythm of folding clothes or vacuuming, which can disrupt stressful thought patterns and trigger the body's relaxation response," says Herbert Benson, MD, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.
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