Do you worry more than you used to? You’re not alone. Up to 80 percent of us report feeling more stressed and anxious than usual these days, and it’s no wonder. After months of disruptions, we’re still waiting for life to return to normal, and can’t help worrying about the future. The good news: No matter when you’re feeling on edge, these science-proven de-stressors restore calm fast.
Wake up worried? Linger in the shower.
Your brain’s production of mood-boosting serotonin naturally dips in the morning, but too-low levels up the risk of anxiety. The fix? Start your day with a relaxing 10-minute shower, and you’ll feel 60 percent calmer and happier all morning long. Columbia University researchers say running water prompts the formation of negative air ions, tiny molecules that boost serotonin production.
Feel edgy midmorning? Munch on a pretzel.
A sodium shortfall in the morning will disrupt your nervous system, tamping down the mood-steadying hormone oxytocin. To tame a tension flare fast, reach for a handful of mixed nuts or a soft pretzel with a crunchy salt topping. Harvard researchers say even a small dose of sodium can boost oxytocin levels by 25 percent, nixing nervousness and worry in as little as five minutes.
Tense after lunch? Step into the sunshine.
Take a midday break to soak up 15 minutes of sun, and your risk of anxiety could plunge by 65 percent in 48 hours. Production of the stress hormone cortisol is supposed to drop after lunch, but hectic days cause cortisol to creep up, explains endocrinologist Tom Kino, M.D. The good news? “Midday sun exposure signals your adrenal glands to reduce afternoon cortisol release.”
Can’t relax at night? Try passionflower.
Taking 350 mg. to 700 mg. of passionflower extract one hour before bed can tame evening anxiety as effectively as Valium and will help you sleep 72 percent more soundly, suggests a new study. Explains study co-author Russ Conduit, Ph.D., passionflower is a natural sedative that boosts calming brain chemicals. (Check with a doctor before supplementing.) One to try: Gaia Herbs Calm A.S.A.P (Buy on Amazon, $21.44)
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.