Stress seems to be just a part of life these days. Whether it’s at work or at home, or on the commute between the two, stress can be unavoidable. A little stress is natural, but when it weighs on us heavily, it can be dangerous for our health. High stress increases our susceptibility to all sorts of dangerous health conditions. Knowing the best ways to relieve stress can be lifesaving.
Sometimes, when the usual techniques aren’t enough, you have to try some more unexpected ways to relieve that stress.
Unexpected Ways to Relieve Stress
Put on A Fake Smile
It seems there is some science behind the idea that you can “fake it ‘til you make it”. Smiling is a way to relieve stress and it works by convincing your body that you aren’t stressed at all. When you smile, you create the face shapes we naturally make when we’re happy. When you’re faking it, you trick your brain into reducing your stress levels. While it’s not recommended to hide your feelings, sometimes, you just have to get through it.
This study has proven that when we smile through stressful situations the intensity of our stress response will reduce. It is especially beneficial for our cardiovascular systems, including the heart. In this particular study, they also tested different kinds of smiles. They showed that full-face smiles, known as a Duchenne smile, are an even more beneficial way to relieve stress.
Some scientists also explain that our brains are wired for socializing. Mirror neurons in our brains make us want to recreate what other people do. This means what if we see another smile, we want to do it too. We can use our smile as a way of relieving the stress of others. By flashing someone a bright smile and letting them do it back, you might be helping them through a tough time.
Look at Fractals
Our brains love soothing patterns, but did you know they were a great, and rather unexpected, way to relieve stress? A fractal is a pattern that repeats identically or at least similarly. These could be created in paintings or drawings, like a mandala. Fractals can also be seen in nature, in places such as leaves, snowflakes, and seashells.
A number of studies have been done by tracking eye movements and using fMRI scans to show our biological response to fractals. They’ve proven that simply looking at fractals is a good way to relieve stress and can even reduce it by up to 60%.
There’s still some confusion about why this relieves stress, but some scientists suggest it should be due to the subconscious concentration that they require, or the repetition involved. Repetition is a great way to relieve stress naturally.
Use Your Thumbs
Unexpected is definitely the operative word. You can actually use your thumbs to relieve your stress. Doctors believe that if you put your thumb in your mouth and seal it, then blow, you can calm yourself down.
The theory goes that this will activate your Vagus Nerve, which is connected to your nervous system, responsible for the stress response. By blowing out in this way, you can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, which are both heavily affected by stress. This way to relieve stress can even help to treat mild mood disorders.
If you aren’t in a position to put your whole thumb in your mouth, there is also a way to relieve stress by simply blowing on it. Your thumb has its own pulse, so by cooling it down, you can slow your heart rate and feel calmer.
Even eastern medicine has a way to relieve stress using your thumb. Apply pressure, using your thumb, on the side of your middle finger. Do this right at the base of your finger, where it meets your knuckle. This method is said to activate a nerve which loosens the muscles around the heart, helping you to relax.
There have been countless studies done that show that chewing gum is a great way to relieve stress. The researched showed reduced stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression in the participants. These studies involved collecting data and samples from volunteers, including saliva, before and after they took on stressful tasks, with and without chewing gum. The results showed measurable differences in their stress levels.
Ancient societies are also known to have chewed as a way to relieve stress. The Mayans and the Greeks would chew tree sap.
Do Some Chores
Deep down, we all know that procrastinating only creates more stress, but it doesn’t stop us from doing it. Research has now shown that putting off tasks is bad for our health! Cleaning, in particular, can be a great way to relieve stress. This study recommends washing dishes. Despite finding it hard to motivate ourselves to do it, once we start cleaning, our stress levels do decrease rapidly.
Scientists believe this could be down to the repetitive nature of the movements that cleaning requires. When we repeat an easy action over and over again, we start to do it on autopilot, allowing our minds to switch off and rest.
Sometimes, the world can seem a little out of control. Scientists have suggested that cleaning and organizing our own spaces can help us to feel some element of control. Finding a sense of control is a good way to relieve stress.
Be Near Plants
We all know that being in nature is a great way to relieve stress, but studies show that simply being in the presence of a plant is good enough. A study carried out at Washington State University proved that having plants around makes workers more productive and feel more focused on their work. They even recorded participants’ blood pressure lowering in the presence of plants.
Studies have shown that employees’ attendance rates rose when plants were introduced to the workplace and they often report feeling that the space was larger.
A study has also been carried out into the effects of plants on hospital patients’ healing. The presence of plants in a medical environment improves patients’ well-being and does help to speed up recovery. Even seeing photos of plants relieve stress.
Scientists have theorized that plants are a way to relieve stress because of their association with fractals and their ability to improve air quality.
As you have seen from the above, stress can be relieved in many ways, no matter how incredible they may sound at first. Do you have your own tricks that help you cope with daily stress and release tension? Share them with us in the comments below!
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