The Wonderful Mental State That Reduces Stress (M)

The state can reduce the effects of stress, such as those felt by people during a quarantine.

The state can reduce the effects of stress, such as those felt by people during a quarantine.

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A Diet That Protects Against Stress (M)

Switching to the diet  could help lessen the physiological effects of stress.

Switching to the diet  could help lessen the physiological effects of stress.

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One Of The Best Ways To Reduce Stress

Cortisol, the stress hormone, was reduced in just 20 minutes.

Cortisol, the stress hormone, was reduced in just 20 minutes.

A 20-minute stroll in nature is the most efficient way to reduce stress levels, new research finds.

Just 20 to 30 minutes provided the biggest drop in levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Critically, taking a ‘nature pill’, as the researchers call it, involves not using phones at all, not talking to anyone, or reading…

…just being in nature.

Dr MaryCarol Hunter, the study’s first author, said:

“We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us.

Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.”

Over 8 weeks, 36 people living in the city were asked to take a walk in nature of at least 10 minutes.

They had their cortisol levels measured before and after.

Dr Hunter explained:

“Participants were free to choose the time of day, duration, and the place of their nature experience, which was defined as anywhere outside that in the opinion of the participant, made them feel like they’ve interacted with nature.

There were a few constraints to minimize factors known to influence stress: take the nature pill in daylight, no aerobic exercise, and avoid the use of social media, internet, phone calls, conversations and reading.”

Participants were free to walk where they wanted, for however long they wanted, said Dr Hunter:

“Building personal flexibility into the experiment, allowed us to identify the optimal duration of a nature pill, no matter when or where it is taken, and under the normal circumstances of modern life, with its unpredictability and hectic scheduling.”

The results showed that just 20-30 minutes was the optimal period for de-stressing in nature.

Walking for longer de-stressed people more, but the rewards declined after 30 minutes.

Dr Hunter said the study…

“…provides the first estimates of how nature experiences impact stress levels in the context of normal daily life.

It breaks new ground by addressing some of the complexities of measuring an effective nature dose.”

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Hunter et al., 2019).

The 10-Minute Activity That Reduces Stress (M)

It activates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which slows breathing and heart rate as well as increasing digestion.

It activates the body's parasympathetic nervous system, which slows breathing and heart rate as well as increasing digestion.

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Stress Can Be Reduced By Combining These 2 Therapies (M)

The advantage of the approach is it is quicker and cheaper than a standard intervention.

The advantage of the approach is it is quicker and cheaper than a standard intervention.

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Stress Has Risen In This Age Group More Than Any Other (M)

Even before the pandemic, this age group were reporting record levels of levels.

Even before the pandemic, this age group were reporting record levels of levels.

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The 3 Best Ways To Cope With COVID-19 Stress

Research into previous mass traumas reveals the best ways of coping with stress of COVID-19.

Research into previous mass traumas reveals the best ways of coping with stress of COVID-19.

Coping activities that increase the sense of control, coherence and connectedness are key to dealing with COVID-19 stress, new research concludes.

Typical coping activities include checking in with friends and loved ones, filtering news intake and planning daily activities.

All of these are ways of regaining control.

Planning daily activities, for example, helps reduce the sensation of drifting along without structure or purpose.

Other techniques that help regain control include making post-pandemic plans and journaling.

Feeling in control is one important way of coping, along with increasing coherence and connectedness, the researchers explain.

Increasing the sense of coherence means trying to make more sense of the world.

One way of doing this is to practice ‘acceptance-based coping’.

This involves using mindfulness to observe fears, anxieties and other emotional responses as they pass through the brain.

Finally, connectedness can be difficult to achieve given social distancing regulations.

However videoconferencing, telephone calls and social media can all help to keep in touch with others.

Even meditating by oneself, directing loving kindness towards the self can help increase the sense of connection to others.

Part of being compassionate towards the self is accepting that our own struggles are connected to others as we are going through the same thing together.

All these strategies have been found to help people deal with stress and bounce back.

These recommendations were inspired by research into how people dealt with other mass traumas, such as the 9/11 terror attacks.

Mr Craig Polizzi, the study’s first author, said:

“We also drew inspiration from our previous work with clients who have experienced traumas and how they have coped with traumatic events.”

People cope with traumas in different ways, so the strategies they use should be personalised, Mr Polizzi said:

“People are unique and the way they cope should be consistent with their needs and values.”

In the future, the research team hope to look at what psychological strategies people used to deal with the pandemic, along with their effectiveness.

Mr Polizzi said:

“It is also important to test the coping strategies we proposed in our article to see if people did use them to reduce distress during the pandemic, as well identify additional techniques individuals used to cope with stress to enhance recommendations for coping during future mass traumas.”

The study was published in the journal Clinical Neuropsychiatry (Polizzi et al., 2020).

A Loving Way To Reduce Stress In A Crisis (M)

People were given a stress test involving putting their hand into cold water.

People were given a stress test involving putting their hand into cold water.

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