9 Ways You Didn’t Know You Could Relieve Stress

That don’t involve Hulk rage or rampant drug use.

1. Take a ride on the complain train.

People of a feather should complain together. If you’re as pissed off about something as another person, talking about it with someone who’s reacting the same way emotionally can take some steam out of your ears.

2. Drop that F bomb.

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If complaining isn’t the guacamole for the chip on your shoulder, using some slightly more colorful language can help build work relationships and reduce stress, too.

3. Plug your ears.

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Cortisol loves noise. When a Chatty Cathy talks in the movie theater or your upstairs neighbors sound like they’ve got bricks for feet, your stress-hormone levels increase.

4. Step away from the news.

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Violent events keep us glued to the media. But did you know that too much coverage can be more stressful than being at the event?

Exposure to six or more hours of Boston Marathon bombings coverage was linked to more stress than being near the marathon, so stay informed but cap your media time to diminish potentially health-harming distress — especially since a lifetime of exposure to other tragedies can shorten your stress fuse.

5. Don’t beat yourself up about reaching for food.

Even though stress eating is condemned by the health gods, roughly half of us still do it. But before another women’s magazine makes you feel bad, consider this: Emotional eaters can naturally compensate for stress eating by eating less when times are good. Conversely, people who skip eating in times of stress can show the reverse pattern and eat more after a good experience.

(Common-sense note: This doesn’t mean eat all of the things.)

6. Smile, even if it’s a yearbook smile.

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Forcing a grin, whether you just engage your mouth or work those crow’s feet, can lower your heart rate more than if you’re in your neutral grump expression. (Researchers found this out when they tricked participants into smiling using chopsticks. Chopsticks! You don’t need chopsticks.)

7. Blow some bubbles.

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Chewing gum can perk up your alertness and reduce your anxiety — and levels of your stress hormone cortisol. How? Munching improves your brain’s blood flow, which boosts its overall function. On a more sentimental note, it might also remind you of the relaxation of sitting down for a meal.

8. Embrace it!…for now.

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Chronic tension erodes your health, but short-lived stress can amp up your alertness and mental function. When examining rats, researchers found short stressful events made their brain stem cells grow new cells. When those matured, the rats had better memories! (Tiniest game of Memory ever?)

9. Let it all out, man.

Flickr: yoshimov / Creative Commons

There are three kinds of tears: the ones that keep your eyes twinkly (basal), the ones you need to get all the junk out of your eyes (reflexive), and boo-hoo tears (psych). Though researchers contend about the catharsis of crying, one prevailing theory suggests emotional tears contain stress hormones, suggesting bawling can rid you of toxins that have accumulated from stress — but, most importantly, make you feel better.

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