5 Simple Stress Busters

From playing a tune to hanging out with a pet, a time-out can help you banish the buzz of anxiety.

1. Play an instrument

Listening to music reduces the stress hormone cortisol in the body andlowers blood pressure. But creating your own is even more beneficial, a study by the US Mind-Body Wellness Center reveals. “Playing music allows you to tune in to different senses,” psychologist Dr Rachel Upperton says. “It’s also a great way of expressing yourself. When you focus on [playing] you can switch off from anything else that might be going on in your life.”

2. Talk to your mum

Feeling frazzled? Your mum’s voice can calm you. Stressed women who call Mum produce the same levels of the anti-stress hormone oxytocin as those who receive a hug, research by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US shows. “[It] appears to act as a way of connecting you, therefore helping you de-stress,” researchers say. Talking to a friend is effective, too, Upperton says, adding that “distracting yourself by chatting about something else can be great for stress reduction”.

3. Read a novel

Reading for just six minutes a day can reduce stress levels by 68 per cent as it causes the heart rate to slow and muscle tension to release, according to researchers at the University of Sussex. “Concentrating on something escapist like a good book allows you to switch off from your everyday life and lets your body relax,” the authors say, adding that the book can be any genre.

4. Get a pet

Hanging out with an animal can reduce your blood pressure, help you better cope with stressful situations and boost your levels of the “happy hormone” serotonin, University of Missouri-Columbia research shows. “This is likely to be an emotional response to the fact a pet is always happy to see you,” Upperton says. “Pets don’t judge. When someone is accepted for who they are, they feel happy and calm, therefore reducing stress.”

5. Chew gum

A study by Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology found that chewing gum while anxious was shown to lower stress levels by 17 per cent, as well as improve performance and alertness. Upperton says this is likely because doing something mindless like chewing takes your mind off the problem. However, findings by UT Southwestern Medical Center in the US show very stressed people chew more vigorously, which can lead to jaw pain.

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