Simple Ways to Reduce Stress

Tired of feeling stressed out? Well, you're not alone. A recent survey shows stress is the number one reason for 90 percent of all visits to a doctor's office. Relax. Now you can stay calm and boost your energy by using the latest stress-busting techniques offered by top-notch experts.

Make stress disappear with these easy tricks.

We all suffer from stress at one point or another, but managing it can make a huge improvement in your life. There are five ways to instantly put a lid on high anxiety says leading stress expert Nieca Goldberg, M.D. Remember to:

Learn How to Be Happy Again

--Pack up your cares and woes with visualization. Imagine watching the sunset, sitting on a beach, or floating on a lake, and reap the same stress-releasing rewards as if you were really on vacation! No sunscreen required! Studies show when you imagine paradise, the natural brain tranquilizer serotonin is released, lowering blood pressure and heart rate.
Tip: Gazing at fish swimming in a tank or at clouds moving in the sky has the same calming effect.

--Tame tension by shooting the breeze. Talking about your problems can help sort through what's really eating at you. Make sure your confidante is a sound listener who doesn't interrupt and can be trusted to offer solid advice.
Tip: If you're feeling overwhelmed ask for a hug! A University of North Carolina study confirms hugs boost the stress-fighting hormone oxytocin.

--Steady your nerves with deep breaths. Diaphragmatic breathing for five minutes releases relaxing hormones into the body and boosts energy. Not sure how to do it? Put one hand on your belly right below your navel then inhale deeply and slowly through your nose filling the bottom of your stomach first. Count to three as you inhale and do the same when you exhale, this time letting the air out of the top of your tummy first.

--Take the punch off stress and laugh out loud. Watch a funny movie or read a humorous book. Lots of scientific studies prove when you laugh out loud the stress hormone, dopamine, is pumped through the body.
Tip: Belly laughing detoxes your lungs, offering the same beneficial effects of deep breathing!

--Calm down and cool off. Open a window, stand by the fan, or air conditioner, or splash cool water on your face. Lowering your body temperature is a proven method for slowing heart rate and clearing your mind.

Patience is a Virtue


Muscle tension, headaches and tummy problems are the most common symptoms of stress but you can banish them according to wellness and health expert Brian Luke Seaward. He says:

--Unwind with Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). Sit or lie down comfortably then tense and relax one part of your body at a time. Start with your fingers and end with your toes - but don't forget your eyes and mouth. Studies show when you learn how your muscles feel when tensed you're better able to learn how to focus and relax them.

--Say farewell to fretting and come to your senses. Surround yourself with calming and energizing scents like lavender, rose, jasmine, eucalyptus and sage.
Tip: Lift your spirits and unload your worries by listening to gospel, choral or classical tunes. The calming effects of music are so powerful dentists use it during drilling. Research proves music also accelerates the body's production of feel-good serotonin.

--Ease aches by soaking in a warm bath. Turn down the lights, pour in the bubble bath, then release muscle tension and find inner peace while relaxing in a tub.
Tip: If you can get to a pool and float -- even better. According to a study at Karlstad University in Sweden, floating is effective in relieving stress-related pain.

--Rid tension headaches with yoga. Headaches triggered by muscle fatigue, poor posture or eye strain are cured with a gentle weekly yoga practice. Neck exercises and shoulder stretches are especially effective.

Discover Your Best Tension Tamer


Jonny Bowden, PhD, the best-selling author of "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth" says these foods will make you mellow:

--Refresh and revive with Green Tea. Drenched in chemicals called flavenoids known for their powerful antioxidant abilities, green tea stops the body's manufacture of stress proteins and lowers blood pressure. Plus, who can argue with the calming effect of a cup of tea?
Tip: Studies show green tea helps with weight loss by increasing metabolism and burning fat thanks to its natural chemicals catechin polyphenols.

--Take the edge off with pistachio nuts. According to a ten-year Pennsylvania University study, eating pistachios reduces the body's response to stress by relaxing blood vessels and easing the effort of the heart. Three ounces a day does the trick.

--Stop a pounding heart with a handful of blueberries. They work by releasing dopamine, a calming and healing chemical in the body. And thanks to their abundance of vitamin C blueberries calm a racing heart when you're feeling tense.
Tip: Blueberries for beauty? Since they're super rich in anti-oxidants they enhance your immune system and keep you looking youthful by preventing cell damage.

--Soothe yourself with spinach. Popeye knew what he was doing! Spinach contains a big bundle of magnesium, the same compound found in heart calming beta-blockers.

--Relax muscles with real licorice. Sweet and delicious, licorice is a natural muscle relaxer and anti-oxidant. It also prevents the breakdown of adrenal hormones such as cortisol -- the primary stress-fighting adrenal hormone.

Turning Your Bathroom into a Home Spa


--Limit your to-do list to only three items.

Most women have at least ten items on their agenda and feel pressured and stressed out when they can't check everything off. Create realistic goals.

--Keep a stress diary.

Monitor the things that make you feel uneasy. Knowing what kinds of situations cause stress can help you understand and control them. A study published by the AMA reports forty-four percent of a group who wrote about stressful experiences showed 'clinically relevant improvement."

--Deflate your anxiety

Ask yourself: what's the worst thing that can happen? Psychologists say just posing this question can help you develop coping strategies for worse-case scenarios.

Robin Westen is ThirdAge's medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. She is the author of "Relationship Repair" and "10 Days to Detox: How to Look and Feel a Decade Younger."


Also Popular on ThirdAge

Our Favorite Boomer Beauties

Why You Should Keep a Journal

Six Things Men Really Want in Bed

The Best Anti-Aging Products Ever