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Mental Health

5 Things You Can Do to Instantly Eliminate Stress

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In today’s 24-7 world, we are constantly connected to screens and work and social obligations and are struggling to find time to relax and be with our families. With that being said, it’s hardly surprising that many people are finding themselves stressed and anxious. Here are some easy, quick, and effective stress busters to break out the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed.

Sniff tangerine oil to get energized. 

Why tangerine oil? The scent can be invigorating because it stimulates the limbic system, which is the emotional center of the brain, according to researchers at the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. Put a few drops on your wrists, rub, and inhale.

Breathe in some cinnamon — and eat it, too! 

Cinnamon not only conjures up thoughts of apple pie or other yummy treats, but it can help relieve stress, too. This heavenly spice has been shown to reduce anxiety levels by 25 percent in as little as two minutes by calming the regions of the brain that are responsible for fearful thoughts. Eating cinnamon has also been shown to prevent spikes in blood sugar levels, which can lead to changes in mood and energy. In other words, eating cinnamon can help you feel calm. Good excuse the next time you reach for a cinnamon bun! 

Cinnamon may even minimize the stress of sitting in a traffic jam: A study from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia found that the scent of cinnamon or peppermint may reduce fatigue, increase alertness, and ease stress in drivers.

Smile, even if you don’t feel like it. 

You may have heard this tip about smiling even when you’re not particularly happy because doing so can lift your mood. Just the physical act of smiling, even if it isn’t real, can help you feel relaxed and happy again, says research from the University of Kansas, in Lawrence. Here’s how: When you put on a happy face, your brain produces endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that lift your mood almost right away.

Sit on a rocking chair, or even a swing! 

You know how babies are soothed when they are rocked in a smooth motion? Take that idea and use it on yourself to quickly relieve your stress. If you have a rocking chair, spend a couple of minutes rocking back and forth. Or, grab an empty swing the next time you take your kids to the playground and take a turn. These soothing motions can help lower the production of cortisol, a hormone that’s produced in the adrenal glands. 

Cortisol is referred to as the “stress hormone” because its levels spike up when we’re stressed. Rocking or swinging has been shown to lower cortisol levels by 25 percent or more, reducing stress and anxiety for up to two hours at a time and putting the entire nervous system into a meditative and relaxed state, says research from the University of Miami.

Get up and move. 

A quick burst of exercise, like taking a brisk walk around the block, running up a flight of stairs, or even just getting out of your chair and stretching, are great stress busters that can get your blood flowing and boost endorphins. And when you get outside, fresh air and sunlight can also help lift your mood.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine.

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