Tomorrow is National Relaxation Day, so we thought we’d jump-start your R&R by offering a list of quick stress relievers. The next time you just want to crawl under your desk or scream in frustration, try one of these science-approved tactics to ease your way into a more relaxed state.
Dab on Lavender Oil
Breathe away your stress simply by getting a whiff of lavender. A study found that moms who bathed their baby in lavender-scented bath oil were more relaxed and smiled more. Lavender also calmed the infants, who cried less and slept longer post-bath. The mothers’ and babies’ levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, were both shown to decrease, too.
Take Your Dog to Work
The sight of a puppy may make our hearts melt, but it also make us more productive and happier in the workplace. A study published this year found that employees who brought their dogs to work had reduced stress levels as the day wore on. On the other hand, those without pups became more stressed throughout the day, as did dog owners who left their pet at home.
Drink Chamomile Tea
Chamomile, an herb that comes from the daisy family, has long been touted for its ability to treat various remedies, including stomach cramps and migraines. Now you can add stress reliever to the list. A study found that people who suffered from generalized anxiety disorder experienced a significant reduction in their stress levels after ingesting chamomile extract.
Eat Dark Chocolate—Every Day
There’s a scientific reason we turn to chocolate when we’re upset—it actually helps us calm down. Results from a clinical trial published in the Journal of Proteome Research recommend eating 40 grams of dark chocolate for two weeks to reduce stress; the participants reported reduced cortisol levels after doing so.
Turn Up the Music
A lot of our stress comes from being in the car, thanks to that aggressive driver who cut us off or the endless traffic on the Beltway. Next time, blast some tunes and let the music ease your nerves, say researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center. They found that when people listened to their favorite songs, their blood vessels opened wider, which is good for blood pressure, heart rate, and mental state. But note: Most people experienced more positive effects when listening to country music and felt anxiety when listening to heavy metal.
Play a (Violent) Video Game
One might associate violent video games with higher stress, but somewhat controversial research shows that playing them does the complete opposite. Turns out that young adults who play violent video games become less depressed and hostile, and deal with stress better than those who don’t play games at all.
Grin and Bear It
There’s some truth to this common phrase. People who smile while performing a stressful task are more likely to have lower heart rates afterward, according to a recent study published in Psychological Science. That goes for fake smiles, too; those who were forced to smile (using chopsticks, of all things) also reported a positive effect afterward.