Are you stressed much? A recent survey showed that many Americans report feelings of high stress, and more than 20 percent rate their levels between 8 and 10 on a 10-point scale. In the same study, 39 percent of adults said their stress has increased over the past year.
Chronic stress may lead to high blood pressure and a weakened immune system, as well as contribute to anxiety, depression and sleep problems. A new review of research reports that high-stressed people are more likely to develop heart disease. Here are a few less-expected, yet effective, strategies that may reduce stress:
Hang with your furry friend. Research suggests that when it comes to managing stress, pets may be just as, if not more, soothing than your favorite people. One study found that when people were asked to perform tough math problems, those in the company of pets had significantly lower heart rate and blood pressure levels, and made fewer mistakes.
Try mindful meditation. This doesn't involve chanting "om" or repeating mantras. Instead, it's about being present in the moment and paying attention to thoughts and emotions without passing judgment. A study in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity suggests that mindful meditation may help reduce feelings of loneliness in older adults and cut the body's inflammatory response to stressful emotions.
Have sex. Research suggests that sexual intercourse will help you respond better to stressful situations. It also has been shown to reduce blood pressure. A little cuddling has a similar effect: A quick hug and 10 minutes of handholding with a loved one can reduce physical effects of stress, says one study.
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