Lifestyle Tips — Mental health


How to Celebrate Stress Awareness Month... the Relaxing Way 0

Stress Awareness Month
Photo by Samuel Silitonga from Pexels

Whether you have an issue at work, recently argued with a friend, or (as of late) struggle with COVID-19 anxiety, chances are you've been on the wrong side of stress more times than you can count. Heck, you may even be part of the 79% of Americans (1) who experience it daily; so, by now, you two probably co-exist.

However, feeling stressed all the time won't do your mental health any favors, especially if this has been going on for a while. That's why Stress Awareness Month is here to help us learn all about stress and how to beat it. So, if you want to decompress when things feel chaotic, these ten cool ways will help you celebrate Stress Awareness Month the way we all should: chillaxed and poised.

What is Stress Awareness Month?

Held every April since 1992, Stress Awareness Month(2) is a national initiative that aims to inform people about the potential causes and cures for stress, a.k.a. "the health epidemic of the 21st century"(3) (as dubbed by WHO). During its course, mental health professionals from across the country join forces to share their knowledge on the dangers of stress as well as attainable coping strategies to deal with increasing nervousness. In some cases, the experts even brief people on the misconceptions around stress and how those can do more harm than good.

10 Healthy Habits to Build During Stress Awareness Month

1. Roll Out Your Yoga Mat

By now we all know that yoga and beating stress (4) go hand in hand. The combination of deep breathing, mild physical activity, and mindfulness increases the blood flow to the brain, a procedure that stimulates the rewarding pleasure centers while inhibiting the areas that are responsible for fear and aggressiveness. Such an inhibition lowers the heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate, eliminating stress.

Of course, don't feel discouraged if you're not a hardcore yogi. According to research (5), meditation can also do the trick as it improves blood pressure and cortisol levels, giving your body a chance to relax. Scientists (6) have also found that the practice increases the amount of grey matter in the brain, helping you control your emotions (including stress) even more.

2. Head Into the Kitchen

For some, cooking may be a daily chore or a social activity. But, for others, especially those who struggle with stress, cooking may actually be therapeutic. One recent study (7) concludes that cooking can alleviate stress by improving a person's nutritional habits. Believe it or not, when we consume healthy foods, we feel happier and less agitated thanks to all the vitamins and nutrients. So, every time you feel anxious, bust out your pots and pans and start cooking. It doesn't have to be something fancy. A simple banana recipe or a homemade soup is enough to put your mind at ease.

3. Take Deep Breaths

Another useful tool in your battle against anxiety during Stress Awareness Month is your breath. According to experts, shallow, short breathing (8) sends signals of stress and anxiety to your brain, triggering your fight-or-flight response, and putting your entire body on alert mode. On the other hand, mindful, deep breathing (9) stimulates the Vagus nerve, a specific part of the nervous system that is responsible for slowing down stress hormones. Now, inhale, exhale!

4. Laugh it Off

Ever heard that laughter is the best medicine? Well, science (10) also seems to agree as getting your giggles on is linked to chemical changes in the body that ultimately reduce stress. However, note that there's a difference between forced and genuine laughter as the latter doesn't seem to have any effects on a person's psyche. So, call a friend, put on a comedy, or watch a funny animal video. Longevity is a few giggles away.

5. Sip Some Tea

Even though it contains its fair share of caffeine, green tea (11) is one of those beverages that are known for calming people down. That's because its leaves are rich in L-theanine(12), an amino acid that exhibits some strong stress-reducing effects. For better results, researchers (13) suggest adding a spoonful of honey to your cup as the amber elixir comes with some serious anxiolytic properties.

Tip: If you're not a huge fan of green tea, you can also try sipping on a cup of chamomile (14). The herbal brew is linked to reduced stress thanks to its high content in flavonoids and zero traces of caffeine.

6. Listen to Your Favorite Tunes

If you have an old playlist waiting for you in your music library, this is your chance to crank it up! One recent study (15) showed that listening to music can calm your nerves, mainly by dampening the levels of the hormone cortisol, which is related to stress. As for which types of music work best, the study didn't provide us with any suggestions. But, jazz and classical music seem to be the consensus due to their slow tempo and soothing effect. Of course, if these types don't sound like you, just go for any type that makes you feel good. After all, that's the whole point.

7. Take a Nap

Power napping boasts a lot of health benefits, but the most important of them all is stress relief. Why? Simply because the midday habit acts as a countermeasure for all the sleep lost during the night. So, by eliminating the sleep deficit, power napping (16) "buys" your brain and body some time to rest and regulates the production of hormones, including cortisol.

8. Chew Gum

Chomping on a piece of bubblegum may seem like a childish way to deal with stress. But, research (17) shows that chewing gum curbs the production of salivary cortisol, reducing your chances of feeling stressed. It also heightens the activity in specific parts of the brain which are related to serotonin (18) production, a.k.a. the hormone that regulates mood and anxiety.

9. Get a Whiff

Even though science is still not conclusive on the benefits of aromatherapy, several studies (19) prove that sniffing on a pleasant smell can reduce stress. The reason? The odor stimulates certain receptors in your nose, sending feel-good signals to your nervous system, and relieving you from anxiety. However, not all scents are created equal. Lavender (20), rose (21), and citrus(22) are actually your best options.

10. Read a Book

According to a 2019 study at the University of Sussex (23), England, reading can reduce stress by up to 68%! That's because the activity is peaceful enough to slow down your heart rate, calm your mind, and put your body in zen mode. Note, though, that this technique only works if you are reading something you actually enjoy. Don’t force yourself into it. So, pique a book that'll pique your interest and the rest will follow.

How will you cope with stress during Stress Awareness Month? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. https://news.gallup.com/poll/224336/eight-americans-afflicted-stress.aspx
  2. https://stressawarenessmonth.com/
  3. https://hcatodayblog.com/2019/04/30/stress-the-health-epidemic-of-the-21st-century/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4895748/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5862744/
  8. http://calmclinic.com/anxiety/symptoms/shallow-breathing
  9. https://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131734718/just-breathe-body-has-a-built-in-stress-reliever
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125057/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537891/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6213777/
  13. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2014/958721/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26142566
  16. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/04/benefits-slumber
  17. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/04/benefits-slumber
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5864293/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19571632
  20. https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2012-02/lavender-oil-anxiety-and-depression-0
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270653/
  22. https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/19/7/1966
  23. https://worldliteracyfoundation.org/reading-reduces-stress/

7 Amazing Benefits of Having Gratitude 0

Amazing Benefits of Having GratitudeWhen was the last time you sat down and reflected on what you’re grateful for? Thanksgiving is fast approaching. It is that time of the year where people reflect on what they are thankful for. It’s good to celebrate Thanksgiving every year; however, being grateful every day of the year has tremendous benefits. You don’t need to wait for just one day to express your gratitude. It should be an ongoing practice. Cultivating the practice of gratitude every day does not cost much time or any money, yet the benefits are just out of this world. Let’s look at these benefits you can reap by being grateful every day.

Strengthens your relationships

Gratitude has a direct impact on how you socialize with others.1 You tend to be empathetic and are in a position to help others out or give them emotional support.1 A grateful person is kind to others, less likely to be aggressive even when given negative feedback, and rarely have the desire to seek revenge.3  Furthermore, looking at the positive side of others and appreciating the little things they do can make your relationships stronger. Even journaling about your significant other will bring positive outcomes. Showing appreciation helps you to attract new friends. When you express gratitude to a new friend, they are more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.2

Improves your physical health

Grateful people encounter fewer aches and pains and tend to be healthier than other people.3  They are more likely to be conscious of their health and well being. They exercise, eat healthy, and go for regular checkups with their doctors.3

Improves your mental health

Grateful people who have a positive outlook on life tend to be happy.2 Gratitude reduces the release of toxic emotions such as envy, frustration, and resentment; therefore, gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.3 According to research, teenagers who were positive were better behaved in school and more hopeful about life.2 Grateful schoolgoers also had better performance in school than their unappreciative counterparts. This is because they were less depressed and more satisfied with life.2

Good for your heart

Gratitude boosts your well being and has a direct impact on your heart health.1 Being appreciative triggers the release of positive emotions that improve the heart rate.2 Having a positive outlook on life lowers your blood pressure.1 Therefore, gratitude can be beneficial to the treatment of hypertension.3 It can also reduce the likelihood of sudden deaths of patients with congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease. According to a study, grateful people had better heart health, owing to reduced inflammation and healthy heart rhythms.3

Better immune system

Being grateful improves your immune function. There is less inflammation and fatigue, which is aggravated by high stress levels and pessimism.2 Research shows that stress hormones, such as cortisol, are 23% lower in people who express gratitude. Being grateful levers positive emotions that have direct benefits to the immune system.1 A study revealed that optimistic law students, from the University of Utah, had more immune-boosting blood cells than those who were pessimistic.2

Boosts your mood

Being grateful has a lot to do with the way you perceive and interpret life, especially if you’re rarely in a depressed mood.1 According to research, when you think about what you are grateful for, it triggers the calming part of the nervous system. In return, it releases feel good hormones, such as serotonin and oxytocin, and reduces stress hormones, such as cortisol.1  The feel good hormones improve your mood and help you bond with others. Gratitude helps boost the feeling of belonging and decreases stress levels.2

Make you sleep better

Losing sleep and you don’t know why? Check out your gratitude levels, because gratitude facilitates a good night’s sleep.1  Writing down what you’re grateful for before you drift off to sleep, can help fall asleep faster and sleep longer.2 Spend 15 minutes each day to write a few grateful sentiments before going to bed.3
Now that you know the benefits, what’s next?
The majority of us may need to learn to express gratitude; so, don’t beat yourself up if you have been grumpy, always complaining, and looking at the unfavorable side of things. The habit of gratitude can be learned.1 Here’s how to go about it.

Stop comparing yourself to others

Comparing what you do or who you are with other people is a recipe for unhappiness. Let’s face it, there will always be someone who is better than you or more advantaged than you.1 All you need to do is to count your blessings. It could have been worse. Be thankful for what you have, and build up slowly to what you what to become.

Have a gratitude journal

Journaling is a great way to learn gratitude. It may be difficult at first, but it will be worthwhile.4 You may feel that you have nothing to be grateful for. Just find one little thing every day that you appreciate and focus on just that. Pen it down and forget all the bad.
Writing down positive events every night before you sleep lowers your stress levels and gives you a sense of calmness. Do this every night until it becomes a habit.4 On the days that you feel depressed, go back to read your journal and you’ll feel better. Continue with this every day, and you’ll be surprised how gratitude can transform your life.1

Have a gratitude ritual

At the end of each day, reflect on what you’re grateful for. Set aside 15 minutes every day for this. Note down 5-10 things that you’re grateful for in your gratitude journal. At the end of every end week, go through what you have noted throughout the week. You can go to a quiet place for this. Repeat this every month to create a gratitude ritual. By the time Thanksgiving comes, the culture of thanksgiving will be deeply embedded in you.
There many benefits of making gratitude a daily practice: from improving your overall well being, to improving your immune system, to enhancing your relationships. It is an overlooked tool that can enhance the quality of your life. This Thanksgiving take a few minutes to focus on what you have, and stop complaining about what you don’t have. You’ll see an improvement in your satisfaction with life. If you need just one reason for gratitude, take this and run with it; gratitude makes you sleep better and longer.
What are you grateful for this year? Express it in the comment section below.
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  1. https://www.today.com/health/be-thankful-science-says-gratitude-good-your-health-t58256
  2. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/21/gratitude-healthy-benefits_n_2147182.html
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#46a755a8183c
  4. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-jessen/gratitude-journal_b_7745854.html