Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ways to beat stress this year

Kiss Off Stress

Ten ways to beat stress in 10 minutes or less.

By Alison Kotch, Best Life (from http://health.msn.com)

Did you know that the holiday season is the time of the year when you're most likely to die from a heart attack? According to research at the University of California, the deadliest day is Christmas, when you're 5 percent more likely to have a cardiac event. Of course, all the key stressors (finance, family, travel) seem destined to be worse this year (they always do). Since a restful night's sleep or an hour at the gym isn't always possible, here are 10 quick ways to stress less.

One second: Swear

Researchers at England's University of East Anglia Norwich looked into leadership styles and found that using swear words can reduce stress and boost camaraderie among coworkers. Good luck!

Five seconds: Pop fish oil

According to research from the University of Pittsburgh, people with the highest blood levels of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids are happier, less impulsive, and more agreeable. Try a daily supplement of 400 milligrams each of EPA and DHA fish oils.

10 seconds: Eat dark chocolate

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that the flavonoids in cocoa relax your body's blood vessels. Look for low-fat dark chocolate, which has more stress-busting flavonoids than milk chocolate.

30 seconds: Know your hoku

Acupressure is a quick tension releaser, according to researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University who found it can reduce stress by up to 39 percent. For fast relief, massage your hoku (the fleshy part between the thumb and index finger) for 20 to 30 seconds. "This is the universal pressure point for easing upper-body tension," says Patrice Winter, a spokeswoman for the American Physical Therapy Association.

30 seconds: Sit back

Forget what you've been told about sitting up straight to relieve tension in your back. Researchers at the University of Alberta Hospital in Canada found that leaning back at a 135-degree angle is the best sitting position for alleviating back pain.

One minute: Add garlic

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham believe they've figured out why garlic is good for heart health, and their finding implies it's a powerful stress buster too. When you digest garlic's main ingredient, organosulfur allicin, your body produces hydrogen sulfide, which relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow.

Three minutes: Brew tea

In a study at University College in London, 75 men were given tea before completing two stressful tasks. Afterward, their cortisol levels dropped an average of 47 percent, compared with 27 percent for men who weren't given tea.

Five minutes: Take a YouTube timeout

Just the anticipation of laughing decreases the stress hormones dopac, cortisol, and epinephrine by 38, 39, and 70 percent, respectively, according to researchers at Loma Linda University in California. And when researchers at the University of Maryland showed short movie clips to study participants, those who watched funny films experienced a 22 percent increase in blood flow to their hearts.

Eight minutes: Budget wisely

"Money is the biggest source of stress for a man during the holidays," says Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D., author of Financial Infidelity. And with good reason: Men who avoid making budgets spend an average of 36 percent more on holiday gifts than those who don't, according to a 2002 survey. So go easy on your wallet and your heart. Sit down with your wife and quickly calculate how much you two want to spend on gifts this year.

10 minutes: Just do it

Kissing or hugging your wife can reduce stress because it raises levels of oxytocin, the hormone associated with bonding and love, say researchers at the University of North Carolina. And a Scottish researcher found that having sex regularly lowers anxiety, stress, and blood pressure.

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