Ever stop and measure the stress in your life? You should. The amount of stress — and how you deal with it — can cause serious illness and shorten your life.
Most people don’t really understand the power of stress and what it can do to our bodies. Instead they trivialize and ignore it. Doctors call stress a weapon of mass destruction and never doubt its lethality. Fact: Stress is responsible for 75 percent to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians.
Perhaps you’re dealing with a demanding career, or maybe financial woes have you down? It could be a failed marriage, or a certain presidential race? Stress is simply a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. In other words, it’s an omnipresent part of life.
Here are some easy — and fun — counters to stress. Pick one, or all, and make them a part of your daily routine. Your body will thank you.
This may seem frivolous and self-indulgent, but go with it. Everyone has a chocolate moment, but rather than gobbling it down, savoring it helps you reconnect with your senses, which is vital in this fast-paced world.
Choose dark chocolate (it’s high in antioxidants, improves circulation and lowers blood pressure). Open the package and, with your eyes closed, inhale the aroma. Breathe. Break off a piece and put it in your mouth. See if it’s possible to hold it on your tongue to melt. Don’t let your mind wander. Instead focus on the intense flavor and the indulgence of it all. After the chocolate has completely melted, swallow it very slowly and deliberately. Open your eyes, and get back to your life.
Drink a glass of red wine
This wouldn’t be responsible to try at work, but perhaps the moment after you arrive home. As long as we drink it responsibly, wine is an excellent stress reducer. On top of that, a single glass of red wine has several additional health benefits. Wine helps to reduce stress because it has sedative qualities and acts as a central nervous system depressant. Doctors suggest that having a single glass of wine can have a calming effect. However, if you consume too much alcohol too close to bedtime, it can actually interfere with your body’s natural circadian rhythms and have an adverse effect on relaxation.
Connect with nature
Just looking out your window can have a relaxing effect. In a study the University of Washington in Seattle, participants in an office were shown one of three views: a natural setting, a digital display of the same scene, and no view. When stress levels were artificially increased, those looking at the real natural scene returned to their normal heart rate more quickly. Those who looked at the digital display did no better than those looking at a blank wall. It seems we do best mentally and physically when we’re connected to nature.
Pucker up for 10 seconds
A kiss (or four) a day can keep the stress away. You’ll feel less isolated, which is a common source of anxiety. According to Laura Berman, a professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University, women in particular respond to locking lips by releasing endorphins. She recommends at least one 10-second kiss a day—deep and emotional, but not necessarily sexually arousing. It’s important to just enjoy the physical connection.