Today's subtle stressors can not only make you feel spent come eveningÃ¢â‚¬”they can affect your health 10 years from now. We asked Rachael Ross, M.D., Ph.D. and Travis Stork, M.D., both experts from the show The Doctors, to share different strategies to help you stress less. Starting tomorrow, practice these tension tweaks to stop your stress levels from swelling throughout the day.
"A deafening, abrasive alarm throws your body straight into fight-or-flight mode, as if you're preparing for war," says Ross. Hitting the snooze button will only double that stress-hormone rush. Set your clock to soothing music instead.
Likewise, blasting Top 40 tunes during your commute could backfire, says Ross. Studies show that loud or high-tempo beats can unleash stress hormones. Save the jams for the late afternoon, when you really need a hit of energy.
At work, don't dive right into your e-mail in-box (stress!). Instead, spend your first few minutes clearing clutter and opening blinds to let mood-lifting sunshine in, says Stork. No window? Buy a lamp with a balanced-spectrum lightbulb that mimics the sun's effects.
"Before big meetings, many of us cram or run around saying how unprepared we are," says Ross. Instead, take a few deep breaths and repeat to yourself: I've got this.
You might think fielding e-mails over lunch keeps stress at bay, but you must give your brain a break. "Spending 20 minutes outdoors can give you a big energy boost," says Stork. "If you have to, get a hands-free headset and take your calls outside."
Social media sites make for ideal midafternoon breaksÃ¢â‚¬”but not if you're a jealous or competitive person, says Ross. Instead, do some face-to-face gossiping, which research shows can lower stress levels.
Now would be a good time for that rocking music, or for some light stretching. Skip the coffee; it will raise your blood pressure and stress hormones (not to mention mess with your sleep later on), says Stork.
This is the critical hourÃ¢â‚¬”if you don't relax now, you'll stay wound up through bedtime, says Stork. Cut out any "What's for dinner?" stress by planning meals or dinner dates in advance.