Dec. 27, 2011 at 12:24 PM ET
By Steve Calechman
It's hard to say, exactly, what the worst part about stress is. Is it the tightness that starts somewhere around your solar plexus, then extends out to your toenails, earlobes, and cerebellum? Is it randomly snapping at innocent -- and, occasionally, quite guilty -- coworkers and loved ones? Is it sobbing quietly behind the closed door of a men's-room stall?
Uh, sorry, did we say that last one out loud?
The point is, stress attacks in all sorts of ways -- which means that if you want to control it, contain it, conquer it, you need to fire back in kind. That's why we've spent the past several months devouring studies and cross-examining experts to find the 52 best stress-busting tips of all time. We won't lie -- it was a bear of a job, and there were desperate moments when we thought we actually smelled smoke coming from the old cerebellum (see quiet sobbing in men's room, above). But when we sat down and read the advice we'd compiled -- and then started following it– - suddenly felt much, much better.
Soon you will, too.
Drink more OJ
Researchers at the University of Alabama fed rats 200 milligrams of vitamin C twice a day and found that it nearly stopped the secretion of stress hormones. If it relaxes a rat, why not you? Two 8-ounce glasses of orange juice daily gives you the vitamin C you need.
Put a green dot on your phone
This is your secret reminder to take one deep breath before you answer a call, says Susan Siegel, of the Program on Integrative Medicine at the University of North Carolina school of medicine. Not only will you feel better, but you'll sound more confident.
Spend quality time with a canine
Yours or someone else's. According to research at the State University of New York at Buffalo, being around a pet provides more stress relief than being around a two-legged companion. As if we needed a study to determine that.
Go to Starbucks -- with your coworkers
Researchers at the University of Bristol in England discovered that when stressed-out men consumed caffeine by themselves, they remained nervous and jittery. But when anxious men caffeine-loaded as part of a group, their feelings of stress subsided.
Shake it out
When you're facing that big-money putt, shake out your fingers, relieving the tension in your forearms, hands, and wrists and shifting your focus to the only thing you can control: your preshot routine. You won't think about making–or missing–the shot, says Alan Goldberg, Ed.D., a sports-psychology consultant in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Listen to music at work
And make it the blandest playlist you can create. According to a study at Pennsylvania's Wilkes University, Muzak lowers your stress levels at work, while also reducing the risk of the common cold. We knew Celine Dion had a purpose.
Shut up and smile
Freaking out about a speech? Smile, look at the audience, and keep quiet for 2 seconds, says T.J. Walker, president of Media Training Worldwide. It'll slow you down and create the impression that you're relaxed and in control. The audience will then feel more comfortable, leading you to actually be relaxed and in control. Now start talking. Unless you're a mime. In that case, as you were.
Talk with your hands
To keep calm in a job interview, rest your arms on your lap, with your elbows bent slightly, and have your fingers almost touching, says Walker. This will keep your body relaxed, which will keep your tone conversational.
Bike hard. Punch the heavy bag. And we don't mean your mother-in-law. A University of Missouri at Columbia study found that 33 minutes of high-intensity exercise helps lower stress levels more than working out at a moderate pace. What's more, the benefits last as long as 90 minutes afterward.
Hit the sauna ffter your workout
In an Oklahoma State University study, those who combined sauna use with group counseling had greater stress relief, feelings of relaxation, and sense of accomplishment compared with those who only had their heads shrunk.
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