Stress relief found in various forms, including music, food

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As the semester picks up, so has the level of homework assignments, tests and social obligations – and stress is often a coinciding result. But there are many ways to handle anxieties, should you so choose to slow down enough to try them.

A common and easy way to relieve stress is through exercise.

Dianna Schalles, nutritionist at Lafene Health Center, said there are multiple reasons physical activity helps manage daily stresses, including that it “stimulates brain neurotransmitters that help mediate our moods and emotions.”

She also attributed yoga as a great stress alleviator.

“Numerous studies confirm that people who do yoga feel less stressed and are better able to handle highly stressful situations,” Schalles said.

In a 2010 study by Boston University School of Medicine, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, individuals were asked to participate in a one-hour yoga session while monitoring their levels of GABA (gamma aminobutryic acid), an “anti-anxiety” chemical that our brains produce naturally. Researchers found that in that one-hour period, levels of the “anti-anxiety” brain chemical increased by 27 percent.

However, yoga can also be a way to take your mind off things.

“Yoga does help relieve stress,” Kelsey Hixson-Bowles, senior in English, said. “There is a meditative component to yoga, where you practice being in the moment and not thinking about anything else. Clearing my mind like this is an escape from to-do lists and deadlines.”

Because yoga does not necessarily tire people out, Hixson-Bowles said it does more than make people relax; it helps rejuvenate them.

But improving your mood and reducing stress doesn’t have to rely on exercise alone. Erik Wray, senior in social work, was just introduced to a new method of stress relief that requires little movement at all.

“We had a biofeedback therapist come talk to our class [Social Work in Practice 2] about breathing techniques,” Wray said. “We tried it in class. It really works. It was cool.”

The therapist, Cheryl Harper, explained some of the techniques to students, which included belly breathing and dragon breath.

Belly breathing involves deep breaths through the stomach rather than the chest. Dragon breath is the action of letting out a big, loud sigh when breathing out.

The movements are intended to slow down breathing and clear the mind.

“They are supposed to release tension and stress,” Wray said. “Doing the belly breathing one felt funny at first but it’s easy once you get it.”

He added that he noticed the difference in his stress levels immediately.

Another method in decreasing tensions could be listening to music. According to a March 8, 2007, article “The Power of Music to Reduce Stress,” by Jane Collingwood on psychcentral.com, music reduces emotional distress and helps relieve depression – especially classical music. This is also done through music therapy. The article reported that music therapy allows people to identify their stresses by expressing them through sound.

Even something as simple as food can play a factor in reducing stress. In fact, Schalles said nothing is as effective as being conscientious of what is on your plate.

“There is no stress formula that is better than eating sensibly,” Schalles said.

She said good nutrition helps the body handle stress by improving immune function and mood, which decreases irritability. Eating well also enhances cognitive ability to work through problems.

Whether it’s breathing techniques, yoga or eating right, there are numerous ways that help kick stress out the door and replace it with relaxation.

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