If you look around at your circle and the people you most interact with, you might realize that many people are experiencing high levels of stress. Numerous global studies and surveys confirm that the world’s population is largely more stressed and more worried than it was 30 years ago. There could be many factors behind this trend such as the new societal pressures that the new generation of millennials is facing. Stress relief and management is a major topic that does not just tie in different psychology-related fields; it affects how people live and interact, how happy they are, and in many cases, their physical health. There are many different techniques that people have been using to manage and lessen their stress. Here are three simple but interesting ones that have been tested and explored in scientific studies.
Researchers at Swinburne University wanted to explore how chewing gum affected people’s levels of stress and anxiety while at work. Their interesting study is published in the journal Physiology & Behavior. They found that the group of individuals who were chewing gum as they multitasked in a high-pressure environment had decreased stress and anxiety levels. Their levels of cortisol hormone, the primary stress hormone, were also reduced. Additionally, these people performed better at the tasks and were more alert than the group that did not chew gum during the same task and environment.
The study was not able to establish the reason behind the findings, but the researchers propose that chewing gum improves blood flow to the brain, which has positive effects on other body functions. They also found that chewing gum can help boost calmness and lessen a negative mood.
Writing It Down
Psychologist L. Kevin Chapman, Ph.D. suggests a process known as ‘objective recording’ to help people process and reduce their stress. Instead of bottling up the stress and negative emotions inside, he challenges people to step outside their heads and put it on paper. Objective recording entails looking at one’s conditions and situation from an outsider’s point of view. To do this, a piece of paper with a line drawn through the middle is required. The person must list the negative things they are currently saying to themselves on the left-hand side of the piece of paper and list the alternatives to each of these on the right-hand column. By processing stress in this way, it often becomes apparent that some of our concerns are unreasonable.
A study looking at the use of expressive writing tasks published in the journal Anxiety, Stress, and Coping found that students who did these activities for two months were less anxious and stressed than the students who did not.
Get Some Air
According to Stanford University, over half of the population now lives in urban areas, and that is set to rise to 70% by the year 2050. Urban life has been linked to greater pressure and greater levels of mental illness. Researchers at the university looked at the importance of getting some outside time to deal with stress. Some of the participants in the study were required to talk a walk in a natural setup for 90 minutes regularly, while another group had to make a similar walk but in a city environment. The natural environment group showed lower levels of repetitive negative thoughts or ruminations. The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
These findings confirm what we have always known but sometimes overlook. Nature and the outdoors are important to our wellbeing. Taking time for outdoor activities such as biking, walking, and hiking can be an important way to refresh and fight stress.