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Serenity Now! 13 Surprising Ways to Reduce Stress

These surprising strategies can teach your body to handle stress more effectively

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    Stress Busters

    En español | Whether your heart is pounding before an important presentation or you’re dealing with dangerous chronic stress, these 13 tactics will help bring well-deserved calm to your life.

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    Find a Green Space

    Walking in nature relieves tension, decreases frustration and increases calm feelings. No time to find a park? Even five minutes outside boosts mood.

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    Take a YouTube Break

    Just make sure it’s funny. A good belly laugh increases oxygen intake, relaxes muscles, lowers blood pressure, reduces cortisol levels and releases natural painkillers. Even a few minutes of laughter is a terrific stress reliever.

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    Breathe Like a Lion

    Try this yoga breath to immediately relieve tension in the jaw, chest and face. Take a deep breath through your nose, filling your chest and belly with air, then stick out your tongue as far as possible toward your chin — à la Mick Jagger — and exhale with a loud “ha” sound. Extra perk: It helps prevent neck wrinkles.

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    Give a Bear Hug

    A nice big squeeze will reduce your heart rate and cortisol levels, and trigger the release of the warm and fuzzy love hormone oxytocin. Muscles relax, and nerves are soothed. No hug-worthy friends close by? Shaking hands works, too.

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    Hang With Friends

    Buddies buffer stress by reducing cortisol and increasing the body’s natural opiates. Regard being with pals as a daily medication.

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    Get It On

    Sex releases the pleasure hormones oxytocin and endorphins. Muscle tension and worries temporarily disappear. Kissing, hugging and holding hands work, too.

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    Eat a Square of Chocolate

    Not only is it rich in healthy flavonols, but cocoa consumption also increases nitric oxide in the blood, opening blood vessels and reducing blood pressure. What’s more, it causes the brain to release feel-good endorphins.

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    Pet Your Pet

    Stroking a furry friend reduces blood pressure and stress levels. No pets at home? Volunteer at an animal shelter.

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    Give Back

    People who engage in meaningful and purposeful activities — such as helping others — have improved immunity and lower levels of inflammation.

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    Get Dirty

    The good bacteria in dirt increase the release of serotonin and improve mood in the same way antidepressants do, research finds. So plant something beautiful this spring. Your stress levels will drop as your garden blooms.

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    Get Good Zzz’s

    Too much cortisol contributes to nighttime wakefulness and worries that keep your brain awake. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, set regular sleep and wake times, and keep the room dark.

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    Get Moving

    Exercise pumps out feel-good endorphins, improves mood, aids sleep and acts as moving meditation. A good workout can blunt the stress response for a full day.

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    Go For It!

    The rush of riding a roller coaster, diving into a cold pool or even putting a little extra spice on your burger can help reset stress levels, says therapist Christy Matta, author of the Stress Response.

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