Now that we know why stress, and its associated hormone, cortisol is so dangerous to health, and how eating carbs, particularly when stressed causes weight gain, the big question is,

How do we lower stress levels?

Well, I have my own ideas, which I’ll share below.  But there is surprisingly very little good research or articles published on simple straightforward ways people can use everyday to reduce stress.

What research is available indicates the following to be helpful:

  • Nature, home gardens (PDF), and even indoor plants, particularly for windowless offices, reduce anxiety and stress. (PDF)
  • Yoga was found to be as effective as relaxation techniques in reducing stress. Source
  • Coaching/counseling may help with workplace stress. (PDF)
  • For hospital patients, “many alternative and complementary therapies including aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, humor, imagery, massage, music, and relaxation can be used successfully as adjunct therapies to help decrease stress.” Source
  • Researchers at the University of Cincinnati found that eating palatable “comfort” foods, drinking artificially sweetened drinks, and having sex all reduce stress markers. Source However I caution turning to high-carb or even fake sugars!
  • As Mark at Mark’s Daily Apple advocates, Play!

My guess on why the research is fairly slim is because (1) stress-relief activities and their results are hard to measure, (2) successful stress-relief techniques are actually very individualized. Nonetheless, I’ll share my recommendations and you can pick and choose and tryout which ones work for you:

  • Sleep
  • Meditate
  • Do Yoga
  • Go walking/hiking or swimming
  • Practice deep breathing (aka pranayama)
  • Talk about it
  • Write freely
  • Spend time with people who bring joy
  • Laugh (seriously, go watch a comedy show or funny movie)
  • Find your source of joy and peace, and go there
  • Visualize a calming, nurturing environment
  • Get a massage, facial, or acupuncture
  • Reduce or eliminate stress triggers in your environment (people, things, activities, situations)
  • Travel, i.e. take a holiday from work
  • Use Balance spray (moderates blood sugar & insulin, eases anxiety and nervousness, and adaptogenic herbs reduce stress response and cortisol production)
  • Perform a self eye massage
  • Engage in something creative or artsy
  • Take adaptogenic herbs which increase tolerance to stress, thus lowering cortisol secretion

Plus, from Mark’s Daily Apple (again) here are 7 Tips to Beat Stress and 9 Forgotten Stress Relief Tips.

Now, what are you best techniques for reducing stress?  And how do you use them effectively to combat stress thus reducing cortisol production and abdominal obesity.

Photo by flickr user:  BLW Photography