Ten 10-Second Stress BustersBy Sarah Stevenson
Have you ever pulled up for a first date or super-important business meeting with just seconds to pull yourself together for a good first impression? Traffic was awful, you spilled coffee on your shirt, your kid's Barney CD is stuck on a permanent loop in your stereo. You. Are. Stressed. And you need to decompress, pronto! If moments like these can make you look more like an anxious fool rather than "oh so cool," here are 10 super quick easy ways to help you de-stress when all you have is 10 seconds.
- Deep breaths. Sometimes all you have time for is a deep breath—sometimes that's all you need. Inhale for five seconds, filling up your lungs to full capacity. As you take your breath in, tempt the breath to reach the deepest part of your lungs, allowing your belly to expand outward. To exhale, open up your mouth and empty your lungs. You can even add a little mantra to enhance the breath. On your inhale, recite internally a word that reminds you of calmness or peace, and as you exhale, release the word "stress" or "worry."
- Laugh out loud. Have you ever had a really good laugh that brought tears to your eyes? Afterwards it feels like you have taken 20 deep breaths of fresh, pure mountain air. That's because laughter is known to release the "happy chemicals" dopamine and endorphins in your system. In March 2003, a survey of rural Midwestern cancer patients revealed that humor was one of the most frequently used, successful forms of therapy to reduce stress and increase immunity. People who attend the guru Yogi Ramash's Laughing Yoga classes are said to be significantly happier than before entering the class.
- Put a smile on your face. The simple act of smiling releases chemicals that not only reduce stress but also promote a healthy immune system. Thich Nhat Hanh, author of Peace is Every Step, says, "Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." And guess what? When you smile at someone they typically smile back—also a great stress reliever and positive reinforcement for you to smile more.
- Aromatherapy. The Department of Health Science at Osaka Kyoiku University conducted a study in December 2001 testing the effectiveness of aromatherapy on stress. Lavender odorants were associated with significant levels of reduced stress. You can purchase a little jar of lavender oils or a little sachet at most health food stores. It's easy to keep in your purse, car, office, or home. Bring it close to your nose, take a deep breath in, and breathe out the tension and stress in your body.
- Give someone a compliment. March 1st is World Compliment Day. But you don't have to wait until spring to receive all the benefits of making another person's day. It doesn't take very long to find something good in another. It takes your mind off of your stresses. The great thing about this is the more often you do it, the easier it gets. Who knows, you may be able to throw out two compliments in 10 seconds if you keep it up.
- Imagine the person you're with in their underwear. This can either be incredibly stimulated or absolutely hilarious. If it worked for Marcia Brady, it'll work for you.
- Five jumping jacks. The Mayo Clinic's Stress Management team says, "One way to take control of the stress in your life is through physical activity. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries." Research proves time and time again that one of the best behavioral techniques to combat stress and anxiety is to engage in physical activity. If you only have 10 seconds, jumping jacks are the perfect full-body movement to sneak in. Jump away.
- Kiss someone. (Preferably someone who would like to be kissed.) Kissing a stranger may get you a slap in the face—which would be counter-productive in relieving stress. American psychologist Harry Harlow conducted some very famous controversial studies in the late 1950s with monkeys to determine the efficacy of touch and the symptoms of a lack there of. Although these studies perhaps lacked ethical wisdom, he found out some amazing information regarding touch. Monkeys who were unable to connect to another with touch showed not only insurmountable levels of anxiety and stress, but they also had a failure to thrive. Kissing and touching loved ones help you feel connected, safe, and less stressed.
- Tell a quick joke. You're multi-tasking here by covering tips two and three while you're at it. The only better thing than laughing by yourself is laughing with someone else. As Victor Borge, the American entertainer, once wrote, "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." Even dumb jokes can get a chuckle. Here's a quick 10-second joke you can try out.
You: Want to hear a clean joke?
You: Tommy took a bath with bubbles . . . Want to hear a dirty one?
You: Bubbles is a girl.
- SCREAM!!!! Yup that's right. YELL your loudest. Imagine, if you will, a teapot. The water gets warmer and warmer until eventually it starts to boil. That poor little kettle can't hold it in any longer and it has to scream!!!! Once it screams you turn off the heat and viola! You get to enjoy a nice hot cup of chamomile. See yourself as that teapot. When you feel like you just can't take it any longer let out a loud SCREAM! Rachel Gray Safyurtlu, Grief Counselor (MFT), Yoga instructor, and mother of two, suffered a devastating loss of her son Dylan, six months into her pregnancy. One of the ways she dealt with the anger, frustration, and emotional pain was to drive to a parking lot under a freeway overpass (where no one could hear) and scream her lungs out until she felt a release. Rachel states, "We all experience stress and loss in some form. Whether we are conscious of our own stress or not, screaming is a great way to release tension." So get out there and SCREAM!
Often times it's hard to know how you feel. People survive their busy lives by living on autopilot, zoned out, not even remembering how they got home from work. Consumed with this stressful life, we sometimes go days without realizing that our shoulders are big rocks sitting next to our ears. The key to combating stress is to be aware of your body and how it feels. Check in with yourself several times throughout the day—even more on high stress level days. Integrate these simple 10 second stress busters and you're on your way to a calmer, happier, and healthier you.
- Bennett MP, Zeller JM, Rosenberg L, McCann J. The Effect of Mirthful Laughter on Stress and Natural Killer Cell Activity. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, March-April 2003.
- Laughing Yogi: http://laughingyogi.org/home.html
- Motomura N, Sakurai A, Yotsuya Y. Reduction of mental stress with lavender odorant. Percept Mot Skills. 2001 Dec;93(3):713-8.
- Freud, S. The development of the sexual function. In, S. Freud (Ed.) An Outline of Psychoanalysis, New York: Norton, 1949.
- Harlow, H.F. The nature of love. American Psychologist, 1958, 13, 673-685.
- Harlow, H.F. Lust, latency, and love: simian secrets of successful sex. The Journal of Sex Research, 1975, 11, 2, 79-90.
- Harlow, H.F. & Harlow, M.K. The effects of rearing conditions on behavior. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 1962, 26, 213-224.
- Rachel Safyurtlu: www.theprojectlotus.com
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