"Stress is our perception of what's happening outside of us and the power we give it", says Lauren E. Miller, author and stress expert.
I was especially thankful for my hot tub - and my husband - this week. Back from a peaceful, restorative, and internet-free mountain retreat, I returned to work donning an invisible super-woman cape and an “I can do it all” attitude. By mid-week, those magic powers waned against the forces of too many deadlines and to-do lists. My super sweet husband rescued me on Wednesday with a healthy dinner—grilled salmon, yum!—and a pre-bedtime hot tub retreat. That did the trick; I returned to work renewed and ready to tackle the rest of the week.
It's no secret that relaxing in a hot tub helps relieve the symptoms of stress: People have celebrated the benefits of hydrotherapy—or soaking in warm water—for centuries. The trick is to make space in your life to do it often. According to Dr. Bruce Becker of Washington State University, 20 minutes or so of sitting in a 102F degree hot tub produces changes to the autonomic nervous system on par with other stress and anxiety reducing activities—like exercise. Dr. Becker says regular hot tubbing even has a positive effect on problem solving, so that's one giant reason for me to get in the spa more often.
Here are three more super quick stress busting tips I use to manage my stress:
- Think positive. I'm not being Pollyannaish, it's just that I've found being optimistic can have a seriously healthy effect on my body's stress level, and according to a study in Health Psychology I'm not alone in my hunch.
- Take a deep breath. Breathing exercises will help lower tension often caused by stress.
Eat wisely. Choose food that helps fight stress. Here are eight foods that tame hunger and help lower anxiety:
- Dark chocolate. This treat contains flavonoids, which is known for its relaxing properties, and phenethylamine, a mood-enhancing chemical. Look for chocolate bars that are at least 70% cacao.
- Skim milk. Mom may be right that a class of warm milk is calming.
- Oatmeal. Carbs help you produce serotonin, a hormone that fights negative effects of anxiety.
- Salmon. The omega-3 fatty acids in the fish can help reduce the reduction of anxiety producing hormones.
- Walnuts. This nut has been shown to help lower blood pressure - perfect for when adrenaline makes your heart work overtime.
- Sunflower seeds. Folate in the seeds helps produce dopamine - a pleasure inducing brain chemical.
- Spinach. This healthy green contains magnesium which improves the body's response to stress. Get an extra dose by adding a handful to your smoothie!
- Blueberries. Their antioxidants counteract the effects of stress hormones.