From the Magazine

6 Ways to Avoid Common Stressors and Get the Most Out of the Last Days of Summer

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We’re in the dog days of summer and as much as we cherish these last beach days, weekend getaways, and road trips, they are often not without some hiccups. From the stress of traffic to heat-induced headaches, we’ve put together some simple tips that will help you get the most out of these last days from your summer fun by sidestepping these common travel mishaps. 

Erase stress with a good laugh.

Getting caught in a beach-bound traffic jam doesn’t have to bring your mood down as long as you’re laughing along to a feel-good podcast, like Ellen DeGeneres’ “Ellen on the Go,” or a funny audio book, like Bossypants by Tina Fey ($17.82, Amazon). Relaxing with good humor can send your stress levels plunging by 60 percent in 30 minutes. University at Buffalo researchers say that comedy tamps down the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, putting you at ease wherever you are.

Or go in for a hug: Hotel mixed up your reservations? Take a deep breath and give your traveling companion a hug. A study in the journal PLOS ONE found that embracing someone during a difficult situation helps you feel less stressed in the moment and prevents tension from lingering into the next day.

Increase energy by standing this way.

A busy day strolling around new surroundings and taking in all the attractions can leave you feeling drained by mid-afternoon. Luckily, a quick posture shift is all it takes to send your stamina soaring! To get the benefits, pull your shoulders back and stand up tall as you continue on your way. After five minutes, you’ll feel 122 percent less fatigued, according to research in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychology. That’s because adopting an upright posture speeds the production of energizing hormones. What’s more, it allows you to breathe deeper, improving the flow of invigorating oxygen-rich blood throughout your entire body.

Or pop a piece of gum: When you’re in need of a mental pick-me-up, look no further than your purse. Multiple studies have proven that simply chewing a stick of gum sharpens your alertness and reaction time by improving the flow of nutrient-rich blood to your brain.

Prevent headaches with coffee alfresco.

Instead of drinking your cup of joe in a coffee shop or hotel room, find a sunny spot outside to savor every sip. Research in the journal Scientific Reports found that people with the highest levels of vitamin D (the “sunshine vitamin”) were 113 percent less likely to suffer from frequent headaches than those with the lowest levels of the nutrient. Just 15 minutes a day outdoors sans sunscreen is all you need to up your levels of vitamin D, which works by calming headache-triggering inflammation.

Or lie in the grass: When a headache strikes, halt it by relaxing in the park. Australian scientists say breathing in the aroma of grass encourages the release of pain-soothing beta brain waves in 60 seconds.

Soothe a stomachache by giving thanks.

One of the best parts of traveling is trying new or regional foods. But abrupt changes in your diet can trigger stomach pain, especially in women over 50, who have lower levels of digestive enzymes. To keep your belly happy, pause for two minutes pre-meal to give thanks. Georgetown University Medical Center scientists say gratitude releases painkilling endorphins and ups the production of digestive enzymes, reducing belly pain by 70 percent.

Or snack on popcorn: Air-popped popcorn stimulates intestinal muscle contractions, relieving constipation in as little as 40 minutes, Finnish researchers say.

Sleep soundly with earplugs.

If you toss and turn when you’re not in your own bed, pop in foam earplugs. They can help you increase deep sleep by 40 percent and cut overnight awakenings by up to 65 percent, research in the journal Critical Care shows. Creating quiet calms the mind — which goes into overdrive in unfamiliar places — and blocks sleep-disrupting noises.

Or unwind in the tub: Allergies keeping you up? Research shows that a 15-minute soak cuts allergy-intensifying cortisol and stimulates the release of sleep-inducing melatonin.

Quell queasy in minutes with ginger.

If long hours in the car make you feel nauseated, here’s an easy fix: Stash a rollerball of ginger essential oil in your purse and rub it on your pulse points at the first sign of motion sickness. A study in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that taking six deep breaths of the scent calms the brain’s nausea center, easing carsickness in as little as two minutes.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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