2-Minute Stress Busters

Got stress? Most of us do. In the most recent “Stress in America” survey, conducted by the American Psychological Association, seven in 10 Americans reported experiencing symptoms of stress, such as anger, irritability, and fatigue. [1] Worse: Prolonged or chronic stress can lead to metabolic changes that increase your risk for heart disease. [2] While eliminating stress is the ideal, it’s not always possible, but you can short-circuit it in the moment. Here, five simple ways to unwind in 2 minutes or less.

1. Drink black tea.

In a study from University College, London, participants who drank a cup of black tea before doing stressful tasks had lower cortisol levels (a stress hormone associated with heart disease risk factors) after completing the assignments than the non-tea-imbibers. [3]

2. Swear off stress.

Curse? You? Yes! Research has shown that letting out a strategically uttered expletive (behind your office door, say, or in your car -- not in a meeting or at a dinner party!) helps you blow off steam. [4]

3. Press on.

Researchers at Hong Kong Polytechnic University found that acupressure (when pressure is placed on certain points in the body called meridians) can lower stress more or less instantly. [5] Try it yourself: Press the fleshy area between your thumb and forefinger for 20 to 30 seconds. [6]

4. Have a laugh.

A hearty belly laugh makes you feel happier instantly, and recent research found that even anticipating laughter may lower levels of stress hormones.[7] Go to YouTube and search for funny animal videos, or clips from your favorite sitcoms or comedians -- whatever reliably gets you giggling.

5. Switch lanes.

Other drivers got you boiling? Resist the urge to speed past or worse. Instead, switch to the slow lane and breathe. [8]

SOURCES:

1. APA Stress in America Report

http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/full-report.pdf

Accessed 7/31/2013

2. American Heart Association: Stress and Heart Health

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Stress-and-Heart-Health_UCM_437370_Article.jsp

Accessed 7/31/2013

3. Steptoe AGibson ELVuononvirta RWilliams EDHamer MRycroft JAErusalimsky JDWardle J.

The effects of tea on psychophysiological stress responsivity and post-stress recovery: a randomised double-blind trial.

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2007 Jan;190(1):81-9. Epub 2006 Sep 30.

4. Yehuda Baruch, Stuart Jenkins

Swearing at work and permissive leadership culture: When anti-social becomes social and incivility is acceptable

 Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 28 Iss: 6, pp.492 – 507

5. Yip YBTse SH.

An experimental study on the effectiveness of acupressure with aromatic lavender essential oil for sub-acute, non-specific neck pain in Hong Kong.

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2006 Feb;12(1):18-26. Epub 2005 Nov 8.

PMID: 16401526

6.Accupressure Point LI-4

http://exploreim.ucla.edu/chinese-medicine/acupressure-point-li4/

Accessed 8/01/2013

7. Lee S Berk,  Stanley A Tan,  and Dottie Berk

Cortisol and Catecholamine stress hormone decrease is associated with the behavior of perceptual anticipation of mirthful laughter

FASEB J April 5, 2008 22:946.11

8. American Heart 4 Ways to Deal with Stress

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/StressManagement/FourWaystoDealWithStress/Four-Ways-to-Deal-with-Stress_UCM_307996_Article.jsp

Accessed 7/31/2013 

Five Ways to Support Heart Health

Yes, you can check your blood pressure at home, don a heart-rate monitor, and sidestep saturated fat, but there are other healthy lifestyle changes that can do your heart good—and that are much more fun. Read on for some unexpected ways to help protect your ticker.

1. Move Your Daily Walk to the Afternoon

Exercising at any time of day can strengthen your heart by helping lower bad LDL cholesterol, raise good HDL cholesterol and reduce inflammation. [1,2] But studies show that shifting your regular workout to sometime between lunch and dinner may help your heart even more. That’s because your muscles are warmer and more flexible in the middle of the day, so pushing your pace will feel easier. [3] It follows, then, that you’ll be more likely to exercise more vigorously and frequently—two of the keys to a healthier heart. [1,2] If your schedule only allows for a morning walk, experts say you can mimic the midday effects by including a 10-minute warm-up. [4]

2. Go (a Little) Nuts

All nuts contain some heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain plant sterols, which can help limit the amount of dietary cholesterol the body absorbs. When the 3 o’clock slump hits, consider munching on a 1-ounce handful of unsalted nuts to hold you over until dinner. (do your waistline a favor by seeking out raw or dry-roasted varieties.) But easy does it: The bite-size nutritional powerhouses are also high in fat and calories, so make sure your handful doesn’t become a fistful. [5,6]

3. Let Go With Friends

Friendships are a powerful — yet often overlooked — tool to help manage stress, which is one of the preventable causes of heart disease. [7] Simply picking up the phone and talking with a friend after a tough day can signal the body to release oxytocin, according to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. A feel-good hormone that compels people (especially women) to nurture and be with their loved ones, oxytocin not only puts the mind at ease, it’s also a powerful antidote to the better-known fight-or-flight response, which is marked by the production of the heart-damaging stress hormone cortisol. [8,9,10]

4. Turn In Earlier

Getting fewer than six hours of uninterrupted sleep may make you more likely to have a heart attack, research shows. Why? Short-changing your sleep needs may elevate your body’s natural response to stress, namely by releasing hormones that speed up your heart rate and raise your blood pressure. [11] To make sure you’re not sleep deprived, aim for seven to nine hours of z’s each night. [12] If you regularly have trouble falling asleep, try turning in at the same time each night, skipping caffeinated beverages in the evenings and dimming the lights about an hour before bedtime. [12]

5. Find Your Personal Exercise Equation

Your heart needs about 150 [13] minutes of exercise a week to keep it strong. It sounds overwhelming, but studies show that you can accumulate those minutes in any combination you like and still reap the health rewards. You can work out an hour at a time, in 10-minute bursts over the course of a day or in some other mix-and-match combo that suits your lifestyle. The goal is to fit in exercise whenever it’s most convenient for you so you’re more likely to stick with it. [13,14,15]

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SOURCES:

1. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/StartWalking/American-Heart-Association-Guidelines_UCM_307976_Article.jsp

2. American Heart Association: Physical Activity Improves Quality of Life:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/StartWalking/Physical-activity-improves-quality-of-life_UCM_307977_Article.jsp

3. American Council on Exercise: Best Time to Exercise

http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy_living_fit_facts_content.aspx?itemid=53

4. American Council on Exercise: Warm Up to Work Out

http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy_living_fit_facts_content.aspx?itemid=2629

5. Mayo Clinic: Cholesterol:Top 5 Foods to Lower Your Numbers

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/CL00002

6. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: Phytosterols

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/sterols/

7. American Heart Association: FAQ’s About Stress

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/FAQs-About-Stress_UCM_307982_Article.jsp

8. Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight.

Taylor SE, Klein LC, Lewis BP, Gruenewald TL, Gurung RA, Updegraff JA.

Psychol Rev. 2000 Jul;107(3):411-29. Review.

http://www.updegrafflab.org/files/5713/3886/8266/TKLGGU-00.pdf

9. Shelley E. Taylor

Tend and Befriend: Biobehavioral Bases of Af´Čüliation Under Stress

CURRENT DIRECTIONS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCEVolume 15—Number 6 2006

http://pathwayshrc.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Tend-and-Befriend-beobehavioral-Bases-of-Affiliation-Under-Stress.pdf

10. Ganz FD.

Tend and befriend in the intensive care unit.

Crit Care Nurse. 2012 Jun;32(3):25-33; quiz 34. doi: 10.4037/ccn2012903

http://ccn.aacnjournals.org/content/32/3/25.long

11. Cappuccio FP, Cooper D, D'Elia L, Strazzullo P, Miller MA.

Sleep duration predicts cardiovascular outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies.

Eur Heart J. 2011 Jun;32(12):1484-92.

http://eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/02/03/eurheartj.ehr007.full.pdf

12. National Sleep Foundation: How much Sleep Do We Really Need?

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

13. American Heart Association: Recommendation for Physical Activity in Adults

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/StartWalking/American-Heart-Association-Guidelines_UCM_307976_Article.jsp

14. CDC: Physical Activity

http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html

15. Bhammar DMAngadi SSGaesser GA.

Effects of fractionized and continuous exercise on 24-h ambulatory blood pressure.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Dec;44(12):2270-6.

7 Sneaky Foods That Fill You Out

You’ve worked hard to stay trim all year, but lately, you may have been seeing the numbers on the scale creep up. Blame it on the gatherings and vacations that put tempting nibbles within easy reach the past few months -- bites that may not even seem sinful at first glance! To reverse weight gain, skip these party foods that can sabotage your waistline and choose healthier options instead.

1. Sugar-Free Ice Cream
You think you’re making the right choice by selecting the frozen treat with no added sugar, but it may feel less satisfying and make you dig deeper into the tub. “Have 4 ounces of regular ice cream rather than sugar-free, and limit it to once a week,” says Beth Warren, a registered dietitian based in New York City.

2. Buttered Corn on the Cob
It’s not the ear itself that gets you in trouble: It’s the butter you slather on top of it that can double or even triple the total amount of calories you're consuming. Season this summer staple with herbs and spices, like rosemary or paprika, instead.

3. Guacamole
Avocados are a source of heart-healthy fats, but just one avocado -- an easy amount to consume when you’re dipping -- can pack more than 300 calories and half your daily requirement of fat! Eat no more than a quarter of an avocado per day (equivalent to just a few dips) or skip this dip altogether and opt for a lower-calorie fresh salsa instead, says Warren.

4. Potato Salad
Potatoes themselves are a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C, but if you add mayonnaise, you ratchet up the fat and calories. A better bet if you’re making the potato salad yourself: Mix with a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic powder and cumin instead of mayo, says Warren. Be sure to leave the skins on for maximum nutrition.

5. Salad Toppings
You may already know to watch out for fattening salad dressings, but the bacon, cheese and croutons you toss into your dish add both calories and saturated fat. Keep your greens lean and healthy by topping them with grilled chicken, eggs and an assortment of seasonal veggies instead.

6. Baked Beans
You think you’re being savvy by shunning the rack of ribs and choosing protein-packed side dishes instead, but canned baked beans may contain added sugar. For your next shindig, make your own fresh bean salad with black, kidney, cannellini or garbanzo beans, says Warren.

7. Cold Drinks
A glass of lemonade, an ice-cold beer or a fruity sangria are all refreshing, but it’s easy to forget how many calories you are consuming through liquids. If ice water doesn’t excite you, touch it up with slices of lemon, lime or oranges, and top it with a little bit of seltzer.

Alternatively, if you’re someone who loses control around these fiesta-inspired snacks (we totally understand!), be sure to eat a snack or small meal beforehand so you don’t arrive ravenous. A small bowl of cereal with milk or yogurt is healthy and filling, and it might just do the trick to keep you lean all season.