April is National Stress Awareness Month. And, in case you didn’t realize it, 2020 was National Stress Awareness Year.
We don’t need to list the many reasons Americans, and people all over the world, are more stressed than usual—that part is obvious. What’s less clear to many of us, is how exactly to deal with stress in a healthy and uplifting way.
Alcohol sales skyrocketed in the last year. But even a seemingly innocuous glass of wine on a regular basis can rob you of your long-term vitality, immunity and your future ability to cope with stressful situations.
And while yoga, meditation and regular exercise are well-known healthy stress busters, they require discipline and practice…something that can be hard to come by in stressful times.
That’s why we compiled this list of simple, easy-to-access, lesser-known ways to help reduce stress and boost your mood, quickly.
These Hacks Help Bust Stress and Boost Mood
Look at fractal patterns— Fractal patterns occur regularly in nature. You’ve seen them when you look at ocean waves, trees, snowflakes…or in spiral patterns like seashells, plant formations, or galaxies. They can also be formed mathematically, creating visually striking images from complex equations. Fractals are defined as infinite patterns repeating themselves at different scales—a property called “self-similarity.” Research shows that looking at fractals can reduce stress by up to 60%. This may be one of the reasons that spending time in nature, which is rich in fractal patterns, is so calming and uplifting.
Blow on your thumb—This method may look funny, but researchers say it can work in seconds to reduce stress. Simply put your thumb in your mouth and block the airway, then try to blow air out (don’t use your nose!). This effort will activate your vagus nerve, which is the longest cranial nerve in your body that stimulates the actions of your heart, lungs, and most of your GI tract. Activating your vagus nerve can have an instant calming effect, reducing blood pressure and heart rate. When you stimulate your vagus nerve, it sends the message to your body that it’s time to relax and destress, and can also lead to long-term improvements in mood, stress response and more.
Apply pressure between your second and third knuckles—According to Traditional Chinese Medicine and other Eastern health systems, pressure points are trigger areas throughout your body can be massaged or stimulated to produce desired health effects, including stress reduction. One point is between your second and third knuckles, close to where your finger and hand joins. If you move your thumb down your middle finger toward your hand, you’ll feel a soft, slightly indented area on the inside of your finger. When you apply pressure on this point, it can activate a nerve that relaxes the area around the heart and reduces nervous flutters.
Fake a smile—As the saying goes, “fake it until you make it.” This is true even for smiles. Research shows that faking a smile can still activate “happy brain chemicals”—neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine responsible for lifting your mood and reducing stress. Results from various studies show that the act of smiling, even if insincere or under stress in the moment, can have physiological as well as psychological benefits.
Do some dishes—Doing chores when you already have a lot on your plate may not seem like the best way to manage stress. But research shows that the act of handwashing dishes can reduce stress and produce a calming mental state similar to mindful meditation. Plus, the gratification of accomplishing simple tasks can also improve mood and reduce stress.
Stand near a plant—It’s no secret that spending time in nature reduces stress and improves mood. And this is true even when we bring the outdoors in. Being around indoor plants is shown to instantly reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and even improve productivity.
Chew gum—We’ve heard it plenty of times before: People just weren’t as chronically stressed in the ‘old days’. While there are many reasons for this, one that you never hear is chewing gum. This once-popular past time seems to have fallen to the wayside, but research shows that chewing gum when stressed can reduce anxiety and improve your mood.
Smart Supplements for Stress, Mood and Cognitive Support
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Stress is a fact of life—and in today’s world the triggers can come from all sides. To continue to thrive, we need to support our inner resilience with strategies that range from foundational—like healthy diet and targeted supplements—to simple “hacks” like these tips listed here.
Afterall, we need all the help we can get.