Words: Vanessa Salvia
We’ve all seen the stress reliever balls that are soft and squeezable. Maybe the ball has a face and when it’s squeezed the eyes pop out. Do these really work? If it brings you a smile or a laugh, then yes. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter decreases stress hormones and increases the body’s immune system response, which improves your resistance to disease. Laughter releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
So if squeezing a stress ball works for you, do it! But many times, stress reliever gizmos like this end up in our desk drawer and we never take them out. Any activity that you enjoy that brings a smile to your face can relieve stress, but there are also lots of ways to relieve stress that are beyond the typical advice you might hear to exercise, meditate, or drink more water. So if you’re looking for some unusual ways to relieve stress, look no further than the suggestions below that might not be on your radar.
Drink Orange Juice
If no one has ever told you to drink orange juice to relieve stress, that’s too bad! Drinking a glass or two of orange juice just might be one of the simplest things you can do. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from damage. The body also uses vitamin C to make collagen, which helps wounds heal. A January 2015 study in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences concludes that “study results not only provide evidence that vitamin C plays an important therapeutic role for anxiety but also point [to] a possible use for antioxidants in the prevention or reduction of anxiety.”
If you’ve ever noticed football coaches chewing gum during big games, there could be a good reason for that. For decades, science has known about stress relief effects from chewing gum and has even studied the phenomenon. Chewing gum appears to work, for a variety of reasons that aren’t well-understood. A June 2016 study in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Research concludes that “chewing gum has been found to reduce self-reported, naturally occurring stress when chewed over a relatively long period of time.” Chewing gum just for one-day works, but not as well as longer uses. So buy a few packs of sugar-free gum and find your favorite flavors. As an extra bonus, chewing gum may reduce withdrawal symptoms from cigarettes.
Warm Up Your Hands
When your body is in dress mode, it tries to compensate and protect your most important organs by sending most of the body’s blood flow to your torso. This can leave your hands and feet feeling extra cold. Try warming them up around a mug of hot tea or use a heating pad. This can relieve a little of your body’s stress mechanism and also just feels good. While you’re at it, take your warm hands and place them over the cheeks and eyes and just close your eyes and relax for a minute.
Install an Aquarium
Watching fish swim has been shown to have stress relief benefits. A 2015 study done by the University of Exeter showed that viewing aquarium displays led to noticeable reductions in blood pressure and heart rate. They also found that the more fish, the better. More fish held people’s attention for longer and improved their moods. If you can’t spare the space or budget for an aquarium, try setting up a goldfish in a bowl or even installing a virtual aquarium as a screensaver on your computer, add an aquarium channel on your smart TV, or watch some aquarium videos on YouTube.
Start Hoarding Bubble Wrap
Would you believe that popping Bubble Wrap for just more than a minute provides stress relief equivalent to a 33-minute massage? Back in 2012, Sealed Air Corporation, the makers of Bubble Wrap, conducted a poll and they found that popping bubble wrap really helped with stress. They also found that Americans who have popped Bubble Wrap in the last seven days are less stressed about their health than those without recent Bubble Wrap popping.
Find An Animal Friend
Even if you don’t have your own pets, spending time with someone else’s dog, cat, or horse can really help calm your mind. Dogs, especially, are known to help reduce stress in humans because they are such close companions to us and understand our emotional states. Animals in general provide unconditional love and acceptance that we sometimes can’t get from other humans. Perhaps a neighbor has a rowdy dog that could benefit from an extra walk each day. Visit the animal shelter and hang out for a while in the “get to know each other” room, even if you don’t plan on adopting an animal. Several studies show that animal-assisted therapy eases anxiety and depression and lowers blood pressure.
Listen To Your Favorite Music
Listening to music you like is an instant way to feel better. If it makes you feel like dancing, even for just a minute, even better. Music helps runners run faster, listening to classical music can help you fall asleep, and listening to music while in the car can make your morning commute less stressful. Research from Dawn Kuhn, a music therapist at Willamette University, shows that listening to music reduces the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Use earphones and listen to music at work if you can safely do so. Play a favorite tune from decades ago or one you just discovered on the radio.
Phone A Friend
Give a friend a call. Even if you don’t talk about anything that’s bothering you, just hearing the voice of someone you’re close to that you care about can have a positive effect on your well-being. If you do have someone you feel comfortable sharing your struggles with, go ahead and talk about your emotions out loud. That can go a long way toward releasing fears and anxiety.
Eat Something Crunchy
It’s common for many people to want to reach for food when they’re stressed out. Eating some comfort food can help — that’s why things like macaroni and cheese, chocolate, or chicken and dumplings are called “comfort foods,” after all! But not only does that strategy usually involve lots of fat, sugar, and calories that most of us don’t need, it might not be the right texture to actually reduce your stress. Nutritionist Jodi Greebel says that eating something crunchy reduces stress because the act of crunching releases tension from your jaw, face, and neck muscles. Instead of reaching for a bag of potato chips, try crunching on carrot sticks, nuts, or crackers. Grebeel says lightly salted air-popped popcorn also works and doubles as a whole grain.
Do Something You Enjoy
This one isn’t actually strange, if none of these unexpected stress busters seem right for you, then pick something you do like and do that for five minutes. St in the grass, go for a quick walk, rub your favorite good-smelling lotion on your hands and face, or something else that makes you feel good. Feeling good is the first and best defense against letting stress take over.