Ten Ways to Reduce Stress

10 ways to a healthier state of mind

Woman holding temples and looking stressed
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In times of adverse and demanding circumstances, we experience the feeling of stress.  Family, work, relationships, finances, school, and health conditions can all contribute to a feeling of unmanageable stress.  Stress may initially help someone to become more productive, but at a certain point, we become fatigued, exhausted, and even have declining health.[1] Stress is mediated by a hormone produced by our adrenal glands called cortisol and can have detrimental effects throughout the body and mind.  In fact, skin conditions such as psoriasis,[2,3] acne,[4] and eczema[5] have been associated with high levels of stress. Change, conflict, frustration, and pressure are all types of stress that someone may feel. Everyone experiences stress differently, so it is important to find your own personal method of managing and reducing stress to improve overall health and wellness.  Below are 10 ways that may help reduce stress:

1. Talk or Write It Out.  Try speaking about your stressors to friends, family, or a therapist. Several studies have found that discussing acute stressors with others can help to adapt to stressful situations through reasoning and validation.[6,7] Writing about your stress in a journal may also help to understand your own feelings and perception of the stressful circumstances.

2. Exercise.  Participating in regular physical activity can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and may also improve mood disorders.[8] Studies have shown that exercise can increase a chemical in the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which can help the brain to adapt to changes and stressful situations.[9] 

3. Meditate.  Meditation is an ancient and spiritual practice, with its earliest records found in old texts of Hinduism called the Vedas, and later developing in religions such as Buddhism and Taoism, all with a focus of spiritual growth and ultimate concentration.[10] The term mindfulness is used to describe a type of meditation “where you bring your full mind to an object…and where following your breath improves your awareness of being in the present,” says meditation teacher and author Lodro Rinzler.  Clinical studies have found that mindful meditation may be an effective modality for reducing stress.[11,12] 

4. Massage. Studies have demonstrated that massage may be an effective mind-body therapy for reducing stress and chronic pain.[13,14] One study even demonstrated that perceived stress and blood cortisol levels were significantly reduced following classical massage therapy.[14] There are many different massage techniques, including Swedish massage, deep tissue, hot stone, reflexology, acupressure, Ayurvedic massage, Shiatsu, aromatherapy massage, and others.

5. Yoga. Yoga consists of combining poses, breathing, and relaxation or meditation. It is a well-known practice to reduce stress.  Not only can yoga reduce stress,[15] but may help with sleep, reduce blood cortisol, lower blood pressure, and improve fitness.[16]

6. Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy uses essential plant oils, such as lavender, jasmine, chamomile, and peppermint to promote wellness in a variety of ways.[17]  These oils may be diffused into the air or used in massage to promote relaxation, stress relief, and even to alleviate skin disorders such as acne.  Studies have found that aromatherapy inhalation was an effective stress management method and improved overall mental health.[18,19] 

7. Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a practice in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) used to balance or unblock your energy, or “Qi” (pronounced chee) and reduce illness. Acupuncture may be an effective modality to reduce stress.[20,21] It has even been used to improve symptoms in skin conditions such as acne and wrinkles.  

8. Music. Listening to music may help you relax your mind and allow your stress level to ease.[22] In fact, one study found that after 20 minutes of listening to classical music, subjects not only reported lower stress, but they actually had lower blood pressure.[23] Listening to music you enjoy may be a simple way to lessen anxiety and take a breather from a stressful situation.

9. Crafts or Hobbies.  Activities such as knitting, painting, and carpentry are all examples of activities that may help you tap into better emotions and remove yourself from chronic stress.  Trying new things or doing hobbies with friends are great options for reducing stress.

10. Sleep.  How many hours of sleep are you averaging per night? This could be a major factor influencing stress.  In fact, one study reported that adults who typically slept less than 8 hours per night reported significantly higher levels of stress than those who slept 8 or more hours per night.[24] Improve sleep hygiene by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day, and avoid the vicious stress and sleep cycle.  Sleep deprivation and poor quality of sleep may lead to dysregulation of our hormones, including excess cortisol that can worsen stress.[25]

 

* This Website is for general skin beauty, wellness, and health information only. This Website is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. The information provided on this Website should never be used to disregard, delay, or refuse treatment or advice from a physician or a qualified health provider.

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References

1.    Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Preacher KJ, MacCallum RC, et al. Chronic stress and age-related increases in the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.2003;100(15):9090-9095; PMID: 12840146.

2.    Ferreira BI, Abreu JL, Reis JP, et al. Psoriasis and Associated Psychiatric Disorders: A Systematic Review on Etiopathogenesis and Clinical Correlation. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol.2016;9(6):36-43; PMID: 27386050.

3.    Heller MM, Lee ES, Koo JY. Stress as an influencing factor in psoriasis. Skin Therapy Lett.2011;16(5):1-4; PMID: 21611682.
4.    Zouboulis CC, Bohm M. Neuroendocrine regulation of sebocytes -- a pathogenetic link between stress and acne. Exp Dermatol.2004;13 Suppl 4:31-35; PMID: 15507110.

5.    Mitschenko AV, Lwow AN, Kupfer J, et al. [Atopic dermatitis and stress? How do emotions come into skin?]. Hautarzt.2008;59(4):314-318; PMID: 18389157.

6.    Lepore SJ, Ragan JD, Jones S. Talking facilitates cognitive-emotional processes of adaptation to an acute stressor. J Pers Soc Psychol.2000;78(3):499-508; PMID: 10743876.

7.    Mendolia M, Kleck RE. Effects of talking about a stressful event on arousal: does what we talk about make a difference? J Pers Soc Psychol.1993;64(2):283-292; PMID: 8433274.

8.    Rosenbaum S, Tiedemann A, Sherrington C, et al. Physical activity interventions for people with mental illness: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Psychiatry.2014;75(9):964-974; PMID: 24813261.

9.    Cotman CW, Berchtold NC. Exercise: a behavioral intervention to enhance brain health and plasticity. Trends Neurosci.2002;25(6):295-301; PMID: 12086747.

10.    Bushak L. Mindfulness Vs Meditation: The Difference Between These Two Pathways To Well-Being and Peace of Mind. 2016; http://www.medicaldaily.com/mindfulness-meditation-differences-377346. Accessed August 19, 2016.

11.    Sharma M, Rush SE. Mindfulness-based stress reduction as a stress management intervention for healthy individuals: a systematic review. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med.2014;19(4):271-286; PMID: 25053754.

12.    Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EMS, et al. AHRQ Comparative Effectiveness Reviews. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2014.

13.    Plews-Ogan M, Owens JE, Goodman M, et al. A pilot study evaluating mindfulness-based stress reduction and massage for the management of chronic pain. J Gen Intern Med.2005;20(12):1136-1138; PMID: 16423104.

14.    Listing M, Krohn M, Liezmann C, et al. The efficacy of classical massage on stress perception and cortisol following primary treatment of breast cancer. Arch Womens Ment Health.2010;13(2):165-173; PMID: 20169378.

15.    Michalsen A, Grossman P, Acil A, et al. Rapid stress reduction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a consequence of a three-month intensive yoga program. Med Sci Monit.2005;11(12):Cr555-561; PMID: 16319785.

16.    MayoClinic. Yoga; Fight stress and find serenity.  http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/yoga/art-20044733. Accessed August 19, 2016.

17.    Setzer WN. Essential oils and anxiolytic aromatherapy. Nat Prod Commun.2009;4(9):1305-1316; PMID: 19831048.

18.    Seo JY. [The effects of aromatherapy on stress and stress responses in adolescents]. J Korean Acad Nurs.2009;39(3):357-365; PMID: 19571632.

19.    Eguchi E, Funakubo N, Tomooka K, et al. The Effects of Aroma Foot Massage on Blood Pressure and Anxiety in Japanese Community-Dwelling Men and Women: A Crossover Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS One.2016;11(3):e0151712; PMID: 27010201.

20.    Cheng C, Zhu Y, Wei Q, et al. [Acupuncture and stress]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu.2015;35(4):397-399; PMID: 26054156.

21.    Reilly PM, Buchanan TM, Vafides C, et al. Auricular acupuncture to relieve health care workers' stress and anxiety: impact on caring. Dimens Crit Care Nurs.2014;33(3):151-159; PMID: 24704740.

22.    Linnemann A, Ditzen B, Strahler J, et al. Music listening as a means of stress reduction in daily life. Psychoneuroendocrinology.2015;60:82-90; PMID: 26142566.

23.    Lee KS, Jeong HC, Yim JE, et al. Effects of Music Therapy on the Cardiovascular and Autonomic Nervous System in Stress-Induced University Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Altern Complement Med.2016;22(1):59-65; PMID: 26669417.

24.    APA. Stress and Sleep. 2013; The sleep-stress cycle. Available at: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep.aspx. Accessed August 19, 2016.

25.    Hirotsu C, Tufik S, Andersen ML. Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions. Sleep Sci.2015;8(3):143-152; PMID: 26779321.