Life Lessons

Life Lessons: How to reduce stress

Forty-four percent of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago, and one in five report feeling extreme stress. So what can you do to be stress free?

First, avoid foods with alcohol and caffeine. Even small amounts can cause anxiety and irritability.

Next, take deep breaths to calm down. Breathe in slowly through your nose while counting to six. Pause for a couple of seconds and then exhale slowly through your nose.

Another trick: listen to music. Hearing your favorite tune can lower blood pressure and help you regulate your emotions.

Also, check your email less often. One study found people who limited checking their email to three times a day reported being less stressed.

Research shows owning a dog reduces stress. But if you aren’t ready for a furry friend, simply watching a video of a cute animal can lower your heart rate and blood pressure in less than a minute.

For a quick fix, splash cold water on your face. Sudden cold water can slow down your heart rate by indirectly stimulating your vagus nerve.

Lastly, smile, even if you don’t feel like it. A study published in psychological science found the act of smiling can reduce stress.

Daily exercise and getting enough sleep are also key to lowering stress levels. It’s important to control stress because it increases the risk of heart disease by 40 percent, heart attack by 25 percent and stroke by 50 percent.

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