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5 ways to Reduce Stress in 10 minutes or Less

April 24, 2015

Between work, family and social obligations, we’re all very busy. These commitments can make it challenging to just slow down, relax and enjoy each minute of every day.

Everyone experiences stress, but the more stress you have, the more it can impact your health. It can cause increases in blood pressure and your heart rate and lead to several internal physiological reactions that could become chronic and negatively impact your well-being.

According to a 2013 American Psychological Association survey, 43 percent of adults said stress had affected their sleep and 38 percent said they had overeaten or consumed unhealthy food because they were stressed. Fortunately, there are ways you can cope with stress. Sometimes all we need is a few minutes to remind ourselves to slow down, reevaluate why we are becoming so stressed, and make a conscious choice to relax. This choice can activate nerve signals in the body that stop the production of stress chemicals. If stress is affecting your everyday life, here are some other ways to release the tension and find comfort—in 10 minutes or less.

Practice Your Breathing

Slowing down your breath is one of the simplest ways to de-stress. Consciously pay attention to how you breathe, count your breath in, hold it briefly at the top and bottom of the breath cycle, and then count your breath out. Bringing your breath into a slower cycle signals to your body that you are in control and signals to your brain to stop releasing a cascade of stress chemicals.

Take a Walk

If a specific situation is the root of your stress, briefly remove yourself from it and take a walk. This can be very beneficial for two reasons. First, giving yourself a little distance let’s you reevaluate and gain some perspective on the source of your tension. Second, the actual act of walking helps your body produce endorphins—Mother Nature’s feel good chemical—and releases some of the physical tension building up in your muscles.

Taking that walk outside also can bring added benefits. A few minutes of sunshine helps your body manufacture vitamin D, a natural stress buster that regulates serotonin. Research also has shown that nature, such as beautiful flowers or a lovely view, has a calming effect that can minimize stress.

Use Your Imagination

Even if  you don’t have a view, you have the power of your mind at your disposal. Using your mind to take you to a beautiful place in your imagination, or using a technique called guided imagery, which directs your mind toward a more relaxed state, can have the same positive effect. Listening to a favorite song also can boost your mood by conjuring up memories of happier times.

Eat Right

When we are stressed, we sometimes reach for comfort foods. However, these foods often don’t have the effect we want. Research has shown that fast food, butter, sugar, energy drinks and soft drinks (just to name a few) can aggravate stress.

Instead of reaching for high-fat, sugar-filled desserts and snacks, go for healthier options like fruits, vegetables, yogurt, fish and herbal products. Foods high in vitamin C, like blueberries and oranges, also can reduce some of the demands that stress puts on your system. If you tend to overeat when stressed, follow a meal plan that involves a healthy and hearty breakfast, followed by a lighter lunch and dinner. This will help you feel more full and hopefully stave off the cravings and indulgences you may want when tension is high.

Get Moving

Exercise is a natural stress reliever because it increases endorphins that can boost your mood. Exercise also can be cathartic and help to quiet your mind. If you run or do yoga, for example, you may find that you have more time to think and reflect. Yoga in particular allows you to meditate in a quiet environment, while increasing your physical strength at the same time.

Regular exercise has been found to decrease symptoms associated with anxiety and depression and improve your quality of sleep. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week. If you only have 10 minutes to spare, do some quick aerobic exercises like jumping jacks or jogging in place. You also can do push-ups, sit-ups or a few yoga poses to increase your energy and lower your stress level.

Stress can have a huge impact on your quality of life. When the emotional and physical symptoms of stress occur, it’s important to take steps to combat them. Remove yourself from a situation that may be inducing stress, take a walk, go for a jog or meditate. Talking to a family member or friend who can calm you or just serve as a listening ear also can help to lower your stress. However, if you feel as though stress is affecting your life more than it should, talk to your doctor about what to do. He or she can get to the root of what could be causing it and develop a solution that stops stress from affecting your overall health.

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