De-Stress Scientifically!

In these stressful times, it seems that everyone has suggestions for the best ways to handle stress. Sometimes we may assume that the suggestions are “old wives tales” or “new age feel-good strategies.” But many of the most recommended strategies for handling stress actually have a basis in science! Our body chemistry changes with stress; hormones like cortisol flood our systems, heart rate and blood pressure rises, and our breathing becomes faster and shallower. Our bodies physical response is the same whether we face a grizzly bear or a disgruntled boss- the difference lies in the severity of the response.

Just like our bodies respond to stress in scientifically measurable ways, our techniques for handling stress can result in scientifically measurable relief. Here are some strategies to use which will relieve stress at the physical level: 

– Breathe deeply: increased oxygen to the brain and bloodstream clears the mind and increases energy to handle stressors more efficiently.

– Treat yourself- eat ONE candy: a small amount of sugar can help stem the production of stress hormones in the body. The key here is eating only a small amount. Too much sugar can raise blood sugar levels and create a sugar “crash” following the initial sugar high. 

– Step away from the screen: taking frequent breaks from the computer relieves eyestrain and headaches, thus decreasing stress. 

– Take a short walk: walking helps regulate breathing and increases oxygen levels throughout the body. Endorphin (feel-good chemicals in the body) levels are also boosted by physical activities.

– Eat a banana or a potato: potassium, which is found in abundance in bananas and potatoes, help regulate blood pressure and improve energy. 

These are just a few ways that you can scientifically de-stress. What other strategies do you use? How or why do they help?