Just another reason to figure out the best ways to reduce stress naturally: A new Penn State study reveals that while men are most at risk of heart disease if they overexert themselves physically, women’s hearts are more likely to be damaged by stress — particularly, the hormone it produces: cortisol. To cut your stress levels and prevent cortisol surges from harming your heart, experts advise the following steps.
Soothe your nerves with krill oil.
No matter how hectic your schedule, a recent Canadian study suggests that simply taking a 500-mg. krill oil supplement daily could increase your feelings of contentment and calm 51 percent, plus boost your energy and erase any brain fog. Krill oil is loaded with unique and very healthy fats that soothe your adrenals, quickly reducing their output of stress hormones. Krill oil — which comes from shrimp-like creatures that live in the Antarctic — is available in health-food stores; reputable brands include Source Naturals ($12 for 30 softgels, Amazon.com) and Jarrow Formulas ($17 for 60 softgels, Amazon.com.). Important: Always check with your doctor before starting a new supplement.
Turn off worry with a few steps.
Ever find that once you start thinking about something troubling, it’s hard to stop thinking about it? This study-proven trick can clear your mind: Get up and slowly walk into a different room! According to a recent study at Indiana’s University of Notre Dame, crossing a threshold literally makes us think new thoughts — and the effect is so powerful, it can dampen your production of heart-damaging cortisol in as little as two minutes!
Invite peacefulness by cutting fats.
Facing a stressful evening? In a new Ohio State study, women were able to avoid cortisol surges by eating a low-fat dinner of lean meats, whole grains, veggies and fruit beforehand. Being frazzled revs cortisol production, and if there’s lots of fat in your bloodstream, your body makes even more of this damaging hormone, says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., of Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.
Feel calmer by going barefoot.
Spending 10 minutes walking shoe and sock-less on soft carpeting, grass, sand or other textured surfaces can cut your cortisol output 25 percent for two hours, studies suggest. Going barefoot stimulates pressure points on the soles of your feet that signal your brain to release the calming hormone dopamine, says Elaine Wilkes, Ph.D., author of Nature’s Secret Messages.
Activate GABA production with a citrus scent.
Repeated stress surges—the sort of thing that happens when well laid plans keep going awry — can quickly deplete your brain of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that keeps folks calm even in the midst of chaos, say Stanford University researchers. To the rescue: tangerine essential oil! Inhaling its citurs, tangy aroma quickly soothes the central nervous system and prods the brain to make more GABA. One option: Tangerine Essential Oil, $8.99 for 10ml at Amazon.com. For best results, warm the oil by rolling the bottle between your palms for a few seconds, then open it and inhale deeply.
Tame tension with limas.
Add 1/2 cup of lima beans to your daily diet and you could quell even chronic anxiety in as little as 72 hours, says psychiatrist Harold Bloomfield, M.D. Each 1/2 cup serving of lima beans contains almost 500 mg. of potassium, an essential mineral that USDA researchers say calms the cortisol producing adrenal glands. Other potassium-rich picks: raisins, baked potatoes and green soybeans (edamame).
Relax fast by brushing your skin.
Sure, dry brushing your skin is a speedy way to slough off flakes and boost circulation. But cut anxiety by 25 percent? Yes! Stanford University doctors have discovered that simply using a firm-bristle body brush ($12 at Amazon.com) to stimulate the thousands of nerve endings on your arms, legs and back for five minutes can create a sense of calm that lasts up to three hours! To do: Using a long-handled body brush, apply short, firm strokes to your skin starting at your extremities and moving toward your heart.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.