By Jessica Migala
Truth: Everyone experiences stress daily. And while a little bit can provide drive and motivation to do things well, chronic stress has serious health consequences, from headaches to digestive issues and even heart disease. If a two-week yoga retreat isn’t in the cards just now, don’t worry—here are a few easy ways to chill out in your everyday life.
Bust a move
Got moves like Britney? Recreational dancers can experience an energy and mood surge right after getting their groove on, according to a small study in the European Journal of Sport Science. So go ahead, turn on your favorite song and pretend your bedroom is the hottest club in town.
Watch a cat video
It’s hard to believe, but this has real science behind it. In an Indiana University study, researchers found that people reported more positive emotions and increased energy after watching, yes, cat videos. So when it all feels like too much, fire up YouTube.
Ask for a hug
The unfortunate reality is that stress affects every part of the body—including your immune system. One way to stay healthy: Hugs. They provide stress-buffering social support that can prevent a virus from taking hold in your system, according to a study published in Psychological Science. So grab your significant other or bestie and give ‘em a squeeze.
Care for your gut
A healthy gut is directly related to your mood (some even call the gut your “second brain”). No wonder boosting your gut health can help calm you. A study at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA found that women who ate a probiotic-rich yogurt for a month showed favorable changes in the way their brains responded to emotions compared to those who didn’t. Improve your gut health with foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and kimchi; probiotic and collagen supplements are also super-convenient.
If your mom told you to take a deep breath when you were wound up as a kid, guess what: She was right (again). Taking shallow breaths when you’re stressed limits the amount of oxygen that circulates to your lower lungs, which can make you feel tense and anxious. Taking a deep enough breath so that your lungs fill and your belly expands can slow your heartbeat and help stabilize your blood pressure. Think you’re too tough for deep breathing? Nope–the Navy SEALs teach a method called Combat Tactical Breathing, in which you breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 4 counts, then exhale for 4 counts.
Hold the door open for someone. Give a stranger a compliment. Buy coffee for the person in line behind you. Performing random acts of kindness can help moderate stress response, and serve as a tool in reducing stress, according to research from UCLA and Yale. Besides, this approach will make you feel far better than snapping at someone, right? Kindness always wins.