We all experience stress, and it can actually be a good thing. But too much can take a pretty big toll.
A recent video from TED-Ed explains what happens to your body when its exposed to too much stress for too long. Dr. Sharon Horesh Bergquist lays out the ins and outs of chronic stress. Long story made short: Too much stress can have potentially deadly effects on the body.
Chronic stress can lead to hypertension, cholesterol plaque buildup, increased chance of heart attacks, increased chance of stroke, irritable bowel syndrome, a weakened immune system, and even DNA-level changes that can shorten your lifespan.
But there’s no need to worry! Here are six scientifically-proven methods to reduce stress.
1. Breathe deeply.
Stress causes you to breathe shallower and quicker. Luckily, your body is gullible — you can actually trick it into calming down by breathing more deeply and slowly. Taking slow, deep breaths can help temporarily lower your heart rate and blood pressure!
2. Squeeeeeze … and relax.
Subconsciously tensing your muscles is not only a common reaction to stress, but it can also make you feel worse. The key here, then, is to take control of this reaction by clenching and releasing your muscles. A few seconds at a time, go through each area of your body, from head to toe.
This will keep your muscles from straining for an extended period of time and will bring you closer to relaxation. By doing this, you can experience improved mood and lower stress levels.
3. Listen to classical music.
Classical music featuring slower rhythms was found to reduce stress and promote long-term heart health! It’s not really super surprising to learn that soothing music can have soothing effects on your well-being, so go on and give it a shot.
4. Go for a quick stroll.
Moderate exercise like walking has been shown to significantly reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol, as we learned in the TED-Ed video above, is no good.
The same study found that practicing moving meditation like tai chi has similar benefits!
5. Grab a book (and read it).
Reading is fundamental! It’s also a great way to relax your mind and body. So if you’re feeling stressed, try grabbing a book, curling up in a comfy chair, and giving your mind a quick distraction from whatever’s got you feeling tense. Go on, give it a try!
6. Make friends with your stress.
If you can’t beat it, join it! As we learned in the video above, stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
A recent Harvard study showed that participants who were taught that stress could actually help them complete tough tasks were less anxious and more confident than a control group. Physically, their blood vessels remained relaxed — a much healthier state.
If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed on a daily basis, though, please see a doctor.
These tips are meant to help out if you’re having a rough day and need to feel better quickly. If you’re experiencing severe anxiety or depression, it’s best to make an appointment with your doctor to come up with a long-term stress-reduction plan.