It’s stressful reading about what a stressed-out workforce we are.
We have less time to do more. The telecommuting, continuous mobile connection, and flexible schedules that in many ways make our lives easier, can create a constant thread of tension by blurring the line between work and home.
According to the American Psychological Association, more than one-third of us is chronically stressed out. Even the process of figuring out how to de-stress can be stressful.
So I’ve simplified it for you. Here are six science-backed secrets for decreasing tension and increasing calm. They’re quick, they’re easy, and each one comes with a bonus.
1. Sniff some citrus.
Whether it’s grapefruit, orange, lemon or lime, studies show that simply smelling the scent of citrus is enough to ease anxiety. The fragrance from these fruits is such a powerful stress reliever that in one study, patients on antidepressants were actually able to reduce their medication by getting regular whiffs of citrus.
Bonus: Squeezing a few drops of lemon into your water throughout the day can help detox your liver. So bring half a lemon to work in the morning, and give your body some detoxifying stress relief throughout the day.
2. Chew gum.
When you’re under stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. But when you chew gum, studies show that cortisol levels–and stress levels–drop.
One study looked at two groups of people who were stressed out from multi-tasking. The gum chewers showed a significant reduction in stress, anxiety and cortisol levels, while the non-chewers remained anxious and stressed.
Bonus: Feeling forgetful? Chewing gum helps you retain information and be more alert, according to science.
3. Go green.
Just one small plant on your desk is enough to reduce stress and improve well-being, according to this study, which shows that “plant presence is associated with large reductions in negative mood states.”
Bonus: Plants like ivy, fern, and peace lilies require very little light, and can improve indoor air quality by filtering out chemicals and carbon monoxide.
4. Eat pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin seeds are powerhouses of magnesium, one of the body’s most essential minerals. Magnesium has many scientifically-proven biological benefits, including mood elevation and stress relief.
Bonus: Just in time to counteract the Halloween sugar slump, pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, which boosts your immune system. And a double bonus: Studies show that people who eat more pumpkin seeds have lower levels of cancer.
5. Open your third eye.
Acupuncture is scientifically proven to decrease stress. It works by opening up blocked energy channels within the body. But you don’t need an appointment or needles to benefit from this ancient Chinese healing system.
One acupuncture point for easing tension is right between your eyebrows, where the bridge of your nose meets your forehead. The yogic term for this point is the third eye. You can activate it by pressing your finger on this spot, or massaging it in tiny circles, for anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute.
Bonus: Massaging this spot also improves mental focus and concentration, so give it a try whenever you’re feeling foggy or distracted.
6. Focus on your feet.
When stress comes calling, the tendency is to spend more time in our head. We worry, we ruminate, we think, and we overthink. One quick and easy way to climb out of our racing mind and back into the present moment is through mindfulness–an acute awareness of what’s going on in the here and now. It’s a stress-reliever supported by science.
Try this mindfulness trick: Take a deep breath, and on the exhale, feel the physical sensation of your feet resting on the floor.
Repeat two more times. That’s it. Just three deep breaths, with each exhale feeling the physical sensation of you feet resting on the ground. If you’d like, you can add the silent affirmation: “I am grounded,” with each exhale.
Bonus: This stress reliever can also make you smarter. Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to increase your brain’s gray matter.
So when your stress levels rise, give one of these tricks a try. Think of them as tools in your tension-taming toolbox. And remember, each time you take one out and put it to use building a more stress-resistant self, your body’s getting a bonus.