7 Souped-Up Stress Busters

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Stress Busters 4-6

Stress Buster 4: "I reach for ice cream."
Nothing lulls you into a state of relaxation quite like a bowl of rocky road.

Even better: Indulge in healthy fat.
There's a reason we feel an urge to reach for goodies high in fat and sugar when we're under stress: Eating these foods triggers the release of serotonin, a feel-good chemical, in the brain. The problem is that even on a good day, most of us have a hard time drawing the line at just one scoop. Add stress to the equation and portion control becomes even more challenging. Indulge your ice-cream cravings with a low-fat variety and top it off with a healthy fat, such as walnuts, which will prompt the release of stress-soothing serotonin. Plus, walnuts are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, another known mood enhancer. Keep in mind that the recommended serving size for ice cream is half a cup (about the size of a lightbulb). Scooping it into a teacup or ramekin will make portion control easier.

Stress Buster 5: "I tidy up the house."
Your weapons of choice against stress are a vacuum and a to-do list.

Even better: Make cleaning symbolic.
Your home is often a metaphor for your life, according to Vivien D. Wolsk, PhD, a clinical psychologist in New York City who leads a workshop called Shape Up Your Psyche: Relieving Stress Through Everyday Chores. "Cleaning and putting stuff back where it belongs relieves tension by giving you a feeling of control and a sense of accomplishment," she says. Dr. Wolsk says you can maximize those positive effects -- and clarify what's causing stress -- by attaching meaning to specific chores. Doing the laundry? Tell yourself you're washing away all the negativity surrounding you. Straightening up living-room clutter? Consider it clearing out space for new experiences to enter your life.

Stress Buster 6: "I treat myself to some retail therapy."
Purchasing a pair of shoes calms every anxiety.

Even better: Splurge on something soothing.
Rewarding yourself during tense times -- even with something as small as a new lipstick -- can make you feel better, but there's a catch: "Stress-induced shopping can lead you to spend more than you can afford and acquire things you don't need," says Dr. Wheeler. "Both add stress to your life rather than reduce it." If you're going to spend some dough, put it toward something that's truly calming and beneficial to your overall health. A massage, for example, is the perfect indulgence. It relaxes muscles and lowers blood pressure and heart rate. Physical contact from the massage therapist sparks an endorphin response.

Continued on page 3:  Stress Buster 7


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