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13 Stress Less steps vs Smoking
 2017 is the year of self-care. From apps that remind you to drink water (and take a deep breath) to detoxing from everything from social media to sugar, we’re a generation fairly aware of what stresses us out — and what we can do to fix it. In spite of our newfound obsession with wellness, studies find that the stress levels of Americans are at a record-breaking high. With stress seemingly around every corner–whether it be school, money, relationships, family– it can be tempting to fall back on old comforts. If you’re a smoker, you may turn to cigarettes because you think they’re helping relieve your stress—problem is: they aren’t. In fact, it’s been shown that smoking actually creates more stress than it dispels — a 2010 study from The London School of Medicine and Dentistry in the UK revealed that smokers experience higher levels of tension and stress between cigarette breaks, and those levels lower all around when they quit. Learning how to deal with stress without lighting up can be difficult as first. Fortunately, in our wellness-centric society, it’s never been easier to de-stress and stay healthy — and many of these tips don’t require a dime. 1. Breathe Deep Taking a deep breath — maybe a few of them — can do wonders to calm anxiety. An article from Harvard Health recommends taking time to practice breath control 10-20 minutes a day. In yoga, the practice of breath control is called “pranayama,” which breaks down to “prana,” the life force sustaining the body and “ayama,” which means to extend or draw out. 2. Stretch Yo Self Speaking of which, fire-breathing your way through stress not only lowers your heart rate, but, according to a study by the universities of Coventry and Radboud, yoga can actually reverse the molecular reactions in our DNA that cause poor health and depression. 3. Get Into the Groove Anyone who’s spent those last few minutes before the day starts listening to their favorite song knows the power of music in de-stressing. Researchers at Stanford University found that listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication. And, if you need more proof, it turns out that even surgeons listen to “Paint It Black” to chill out a little when they cut people open. 4. Snack Mindfully A filling but healthy snack like a handful of nuts or half an avocado will nourish throughout the day without leaving you feeling too full and sluggish. 5. Unplug Staying constantly connected to people on multiple platforms — scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and reading the news in 2017 — is enough to give even the most even-keeled person stress. Take a break from your phone and laptop every once in awhile. Try 24 hours (a Saturday or Sunday) or even a 72-hour break from social media if you’re feeling really wild. An APA study found that people who are always looking at digital devices reported higher levels of stress compared with their less-connected peers. That’s all the hard science you need to take a break for a little while. 6. Ball is Health Not only is regular exercise good for the obvious health reasons — boosts your energy levels, reduces risk of disease, controls weight, etc. — it does wonders for your mood and stress levels. According to Harvard Men’s Health Watch, “Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.” Exercising every day is recommended; even if you don’t hit the gym, 30 minutes of moderate activity, a brisk walk, for instance, should do the trick. 7. Walk It Out If you spend most of your day in the classroom, it can be hard to get in that necessary natural light to boost your mood. If you have a few minutes to spare during your day, a quick walk or run in your neighborhood or nearest park provides you with that Vitamin D and space to clear your head. 8. Go Somewhere "An activity like watching a movie is the metaphorical equivalent of going to Hawaii,” James Amirkhan, Ph. D., a psychology professor at California State University Long Beach told Women’s Health. "It lets you mentally check out and remove yourself from the problems in your everyday life." When you’re feeling preoccupied by thoughts of work or other issues, get out of the house and experience something that transports you — a movie, comedy show, concert, or trip to a museum (like NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Florida, pictured above). 9. Keep Your Hands Busy For smokers, the physical act of lighting up a cigarette and having it between your fingers is part of the comforting routine. Switch that hands-on activity to something a little more productive. Keeping your hands busy in rhythmic, repetitive motion, something like drawing or even playing video games, keeps your mind quiet. 10. Get a Dog OK, this stress reliever might take up more than just a few minutes, but studies show that pets can help reduce tension and boost your mood. Pets provide a routine, love you no matter what, and petting a dog or cat lowers your blood pressure and heart rates. 11. Meditate If you’re feeling out of whack during the day, a meditation app like Headspace or Calm can provide you with a quick break to restore and balance. “Studies have shown improved ability to [permanently] regulate emotions in the brain,” Stanford University researcher Emma Seppälä, told Huffington Post. “It’s very empowering.” 12. Come Out Dancing You might think dancing has stress relief benefits simply because it’s boosting endorphins similar to exercise, but there might be more to it than that. A study at the University of London found that dancing can reduce stress and lift participants’ moods even more than cycling or being on a treadmill. 13. Write It Down


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