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5 Ways to Lessen Stress Naturally Without Breaking the Bank

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Ah, summer! Usually a time of fun-filled days and carefree moods. But this year, up to 80 percent of us are feeling out of sorts, surveys suggest, due to worries about health and finances. The good news: University of Connecticut scientists say targeting your most troubling stress symptom can cheer you up fast and effectively.

Battling the blahs? Just add herbs.

If a stressful day has left you feeling blue, biting into a meal that’s topped with basil, parsley, cilantro, dill or any other favorite fresh herb could help you feel calmer and more upbeat in as little as two minutes. That’s the word from researchers at Connecticut’s University of Bridgeport, who say the aromatic oils that are released when fresh herbs are chewed boost your formation of calming, mood-lifting alpha brain waves.

Or gaze at the clouds.

Taking a 1-minute break to gaze at pretty cloud formations could sharpen focus for up to two hours. University of Michigan researchers say panoramic views stimulate the cerebral cortex, a brain region that helps you concentrate, even under pressure.

Always anxious? Try this iced tea.

Sipping 24 oz. of iced passionflower tea daily could soothe stress and anxiety as effectively as taking a prescription med like Valium, suggests a study in the journal Phytotherapy Research. Thanks goes to compounds (chrysin and coumerin) that prompt the release of an anxietyending hormone called GABA.

Tense and tired? Relax head-to-toe.

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) involves tensing and relaxing muscles, and research suggests doing it 10 minutes twice daily can cut chronic tension by up to 65 percent, better than muscle relaxants. PMR stimulates the nerves that help you feel relaxed. Apps to try: Progressive Muscle Relax or PMR Lite.

Racing thoughts? Sniff vetiver oil.

Taking slow, deep sniffs of this earthy essential oil can calm an overactive brain as effectively as Xanax, suggests research. Study co-author Rod Manor, M.D., explains vetiver’s aroma prompts the release of focus-enhancing brain waves. Try: Plant Therapy Vetiver Organic Essential Oil, $19.95, Amazon.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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