10 Ways to De-Stress

Sure, we all SAY we’d like less stress in our lives, but so many of us just ignore it, thinking that being perpetually frazzled is normal. But did you know that stress can actually hinder your efforts to lose weight? 

Every time you tense up, you set off your body’s “Emergency!” alarms. Your metabolism grinds to a halt. Cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, oh-so-helpfully orders your body to stockpile plenty of belly fat.

To break this cycle, here are 10 calm-down strategies that really work:

1. Take a deep breath. Now another. Deep breathing instantly floods your body with oxygen, slows your heart, and lowers your blood pressure.

2. Have a snack. Low blood sugar freaks out your stress hormones. Snack every three to four hours on healthy, real foods to keep everything on an even keel. You’ll feel calmer.

3. Laugh. Watch a comedy, read jokes your friends email you—whatever works. If you have kids, jot down hilarious things they say; when you feel frazzled, read the list and immediately get your perspective back.

4. Crank some tunes— Choose music that never fails to put you in a better mood.

5. Walk around the block. Exercise puts the lid on stress hormones, subbing feel-good endorphins in their place. Getting outside on a nice day really does the trick. If you’ve got time for a workout, go for it: 20 to 30 minutes of exercise every day helps keep stress at bay for good.

6. Stretch out. Stress tenses your muscles, as well as your mind. Roll your shoulders, reach your arms to the sky, touch your toes to work out the kinks. Daily stretching or yoga can ease stress and help you sleep better.

7. Get a massage. Trade backrubs with a friend or significant other, or try a massage school—they often give free or inexpensive massages by students.

8. Skip coffee. To calm down, go caffeine-free. Caffeine actually prompts our bodies to pump out more belly-fattening cortisol—the last thing we need.

9. Turn in early. Just two days of too-little sleep boosts (you guessed it) cortisol, researchers at the University of Chicago found. In fact, subjects who slept just four hours a night showed physical signs that mimic aging—after just 6 days! To wind down before bed, try soaking in a warm bath with a few drops of lavender oil.

10. Say “no.” When we overextend ourselves, that’s when stress strikes. If your too-crammed schedule is stressing you out, the Mayo Clinic offers great advice on why, when and how to say no.