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Quick stress busters and how they work
October 5th, 2011
05:03 PM ET

Quick stress busters and how they work

Editor's note: CNN contributor Amanda Enayati ponders the theme of seeking serenity: the quest for well-being and life balance in stressful times.

I have been examining stress from every which angle for the past six months.

And since, by now, I have sufficiently stressed out my editor and probably some readers with essays that often run well over  my assigned length, this week I'm offering up a lightning round of some of the most compelling stress-busting strategies I’ve come across.

Exercise.

Last summer, I interviewed a bunch of high achievers - Lance Armstrong, Twitter founder Biz Stone, "Kite Runner" author Khaled Hosseini, among others - about their favorite ways to relieve stress. A reader who called himself “Cliff Notes” commented: “Long story short: ‘We asked a small group of people, ‘How do you cope with stress?’ They responded, ‘We exercise.’ ”

Indeed, physical activity increases oxygen circulation and bumps up the production of endorphins rather quickly. Both of these will result in reduced stress and anxiety, and a greater sense of well-being.

Exercising represents a great deal of bang for the buck, assuming you’re willing to bang. If (like me) you’ve got 1,001 excuses for not exercising, how about beginning with something quick and relatively painless, like a brisk walk around the block or a one-minute jump-roping session? Both will get your heart rate up quickly, and you can work your way up to a longer walk or more jumps.

Take herbs.

Yeah, not that kind.

I called my favorite naturopath and clinical nutritionist, Dr. John Abdo, for his take on some of the best herbs for stress. He thinks highly of rhodiola and ashwagandha. “They both provide adrenal support, so people can handle stress and feel calmer, and neither will make you jittery or increase cortisol levels.”

Though Abdo considers both rhodiola and ashwagandha pretty safe, you have to consult your own doctor about these herbs. You can also learn more about both herbs from Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s integrative medicine database: Rhodiola and Ashwagandha.

Sniff some scents.

Research shows that inhaling essential oils can result in measurable changes in brain wave activity. According to Kathi Keville, aromatherapist and co-author of "Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art," “essential oils can exert specific effects on both body and mind.”

“Lavender and chamomile were once sewn into pillows so people could be drawn into greater relaxation when they lay down,” Keville said. She suggests placing four drops of either lavender or chamomile essential oil into a steaming pot of water or diffuser to scent your home.

The scents can also be used together. Other therapeutic oils for relaxation include rose geranium and citruses like orange and lemon.

Meditate (quickly).

Some of us sit for long periods of time and clear our minds when we meditate. And some of us use the opportunity to run through the lyrics to every ABBA song ever written.

Martin Boroson, author of "One-Moment Meditation," suggests beginning a meditation practice with a single minute.

“The idea is not to learn to meditate for a long time but quickly. You can make a meaningful change in your state of mind in a single moment,” Boroson said.

You can begin by setting a timer for just one minute and then following fairly typical meditation instructions: Close your eyes or lower your gaze; put your body in a balanced, stable position; and simply focus on your breathing for a full minute.

“I always tell people that they will face distraction and their minds will meander even in that minute. But that doesn’t mean they’re failing. It’s more important that you get your mind back to your breathing and not judge yourself. Because after a minute, you will notice a shift in your state of mind toward greater peace. My philosophy is, it doesn’t matter if you experience total enlightenment in that minute. If you can just turn the volume down a little bit on the uncontrolled thoughts in your mind or your anxiety or your sense of being rushed, that’s useful.”

Here’s Boroson’s short video on how to meditate in a moment.

Laugh.

“Laughter is a great stress reliever,” stand-up comic Tissa Hami said. “You know how I know? Friday nights at comedy clubs. That’s when we get the biggest laughs. The crowd always seems ready to unwind and let go of the stress from the work week.”

Scientific studies support Hami’s observation. Laughter causes physical changes; it activates endorphins, relaxes muscles, stimulates circulation and generally calms the stress response.

You can even go out and find a laughter yoga class (yes, there is such a thing). Or you can just laugh and skip the yoga.

Stop thinking.

This last one is my mother’s suggestion.

Me: “What does that even mean?”

My mother: “Do vatever you vant. You say you stress. I’m just telling you vat I heard from dat famous doctor at Persian radio: Stop tinking. Problem solved.”

So there you have some effective everyday stress solutions: exercise, take herbs, smell some essential oils, micro-meditate and laugh some. And, um, stop tinking.

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Filed under: Exercise • Stress

soundoff (101 Responses)
  1. Steve

    Forgot the most important one: exercise, and it doesn't need to be difficult. A simple walk will reduce stress and depression symptoms better than any activity or prescription according to Harvard Medical School. So put on the sneakers and walk, stress will drop by the wayside.

    October 5, 2011 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • @Steve

      She didn't forget it. Exercise is the first thing listed in the article.

      October 5, 2011 at 20:52 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Klien

      @Steve: holy crap, r u blind? it's the first thing listed. exercise your mind and read.

      October 5, 2011 at 22:36 | Report abuse |
    • Nicholas

      Read, Steve, read.

      October 5, 2011 at 22:36 | Report abuse |
    • Howrad

      May i say, "Marijuana?"
      – O, No, he didn't just say that!

      October 5, 2011 at 22:56 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      meditate – quickly? What an oxymoron!

      October 5, 2011 at 23:48 | Report abuse |
    • jobsdo

      Steve stopped thinking, it's cool

      October 6, 2011 at 00:04 | Report abuse |
    • Alvin Bagasan

      I love the last one... stop thinking. Best way to go.

      October 6, 2011 at 03:24 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      My favorite is marijuana, THEN exercise. Or a skydive.

      October 6, 2011 at 06:50 | Report abuse |
    • chase

      absolutely amazing. steve... you have earned the dumbest poster in history award.

      What's next, post that you heard a rumor that Steve Jobs was having health problems in the Steve Jobs Is Dead article?

      October 6, 2011 at 09:08 | Report abuse |
    • Ken Reckhow

      Certainly exercise and meditative activities help. However, with respect to devices, what do you think about Wild Divine?

      October 19, 2011 at 21:04 | Report abuse |
  2. Mike

    what do you mean "herbs – not that kind" its literally the best stress reliever but obviously this clown has never tried it

    October 5, 2011 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wonder Woman

      Well first of all, it's illegal. Second of all, it kills brain cells. Third, it's just really stupid. What are you 19?

      October 5, 2011 at 22:51 | Report abuse |
    • Riley

      Wonder Woman, he's not 19....just stoned.

      October 5, 2011 at 23:50 | Report abuse |
    • Yeah

      It's funny...I just smoked an herb specifically called 'Wonder Woman' and it took my stress away. WW...get your facts straight, while he herb may be illegal in some states, it hasn't been proven to kill brain cells. Grow up and do your homework.

      October 6, 2011 at 00:01 | Report abuse |
    • mccccc

      Marijuana does not kill brain cells. One too many government propaganda PSA's for you.

      October 6, 2011 at 00:05 | Report abuse |
    • dbcarger

      Hey "WonderWoman," be nice. Marijuana is prescribed by physicians around the world for anxiety due to stress, I do not smoke the herb, but people with serious stress and anxiety rely on this alternative,and it is PROVEN to work wonders for panic/anxiety disorders, the other herbs the author listed has not been proven to have any benifical qualities except maybe a placebo affect. You really shouldn't judge by calling people childish, oh my bad "what are you 19." All due respect, Mike's comment was just a comment, while yours and your follow up is insulting. By the way USA's Illegal pot doesn't kill brain cells, but LEGAL alcohol does.

      October 6, 2011 at 00:06 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      WonderWoman: It kills brain cells? Can you support that claim?

      October 6, 2011 at 06:53 | Report abuse |
    • Roger_Murdock

      @Wonder Woman – I think you're getting cannabis confused with alcohol. If anything, the evidence shows that cannabis does the opposite, i.e. is a neuroprotectant.

      Harvard Medical School researchers performed magnetic resonance imaging on the brains of long-term cannabis users (reporting a mean of 20,100 lifetime episodes of smoking) and controls (subjects with no history of cannabis use). Imaging displayed “no significant differences” between heavy marijuana smokers compared to nonsmokers.

      Additional clinical trials have reported similar results. An October 2004 study published in the journal Psychological Medicine examined the potential adverse effects of marijuana on cognition in monozygotic male twins. It reported “an absence of marked long-term residual effects of marijuana use on cognitive abilities.” Likewise, a 2002 clinical trial published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal determined, “Marijuana does not have a long-term negative impact on global intelligence.”

      Though a handful of studies have reported that current marijuana users sometimes score slightly lower than nonusers on certain cognitive tests, these same studies also report that cannabis consumers score the same as nonusers once they have abstained from the drug for several days or weeks. Notably, a 2001 study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry found that long-term cannabis smokers who abstained from the drug for one week “showed virtually no significant differences from control subjects (those who had smoked marijuana less than 50 times in their lives) on a battery of 10 neuropsychological tests.” Investigators further added, “Former heavy users, who had consumed little or no cannabis in the three months before testing, [also] showed no significant differences from control subjects on any of these tests on any of the testing days.”

      October 6, 2011 at 07:39 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Only the smoke from it kills brain cells....if you vaporize it its 100% safe

      October 6, 2011 at 08:16 | Report abuse |
    • Winston5

      Legal in CA. Good sh't too.

      October 6, 2011 at 08:30 | Report abuse |
    • @wonder woman

      marijuana is great for stress relief.
      allot of things kill brain cells, and so what if hes 19? What the hell does age haft to do with self medicating?

      October 6, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse |
    • dbcarger

      Maybe "wonderwoman" is that type of person that brings stress on to other people by insulting them, and not having the common courtesy of sticking around when people don't agree with "her" so she can respond.

      October 6, 2011 at 18:51 | Report abuse |
  3. Wonder Woman

    Seriously, Did you even actually read the article? That is the stupidest comment I've heard in weeks.

    October 5, 2011 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. health1234

    I can tell you from personal experience that exercise works a million times better than any medication or herbs out there. When I have focused on exercising in the past, I have felt a calmness that nothing I had ever experienced before, and it has no side effects! I was a student at the time, and my test scores went way up-it's much easier to concentrate after you burn off all the bad stress..

    October 5, 2011 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick

      Exercise is a great stress reducer. So is gravity

      October 6, 2011 at 06:59 | Report abuse |
  5. fff

    at the end of article: stop "tinking"... nice spelling you idiot

    October 5, 2011 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Silversprite

      fff, that wasn't a misspelling; it was a reference to the accent her mother has when speaking English.

      October 5, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse |
    • MeAndMine

      hehe, seems you're the "idiot" fff.

      October 5, 2011 at 23:09 | Report abuse |
  6. martin2176

    i am stressed reading her article

    October 5, 2011 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. huxley

    There's little to no scientific evidence that rhodiola is stress reducing. What papers exist are laughable. For example, one is based on an assay, which means they took some rhodiola, put it in a beaker with some other chemicals and amino acids, and wrote a paper about the results. That's the paper referenced by Memorial Sloan-Kettering indicating anti-depressant effects. In other paper they tested just 40 students. With such a small study size, the fluctuations reported were just differences of 5 or 6 individuals. There's no justification for such a small study size. It's not as if passing out a few more bottles of pills would require such large amount of work in order to write a valid paper.

    October 5, 2011 at 23:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • marimac

      Rhodiola has been extensively researched. Try http://www.pubmed.gov for some of the research abstracts. Yes, it work very well for stress issues.

      October 6, 2011 at 00:47 | Report abuse |
    • ron

      What is rhodiola ? never heard of it

      October 6, 2011 at 03:24 | Report abuse |
  8. armalitear-18

    Special time with your partner?

    October 5, 2011 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • armalitear-18

      Or with yourself if love.com hasn't worked for you yet?

      October 5, 2011 at 23:38 | Report abuse |
  9. WOW

    WOW @ STEVE. BIGGEST FAIL EVER

    October 6, 2011 at 00:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Qigong

    Qigong is a great way if not the best to get rid of stress. Check out the group called "I Like Qigong" on Facebook.

    October 6, 2011 at 00:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. enkephalin07

    Walking is exercise? I've been doing that since before I could talk. No wonder I'm so chill.

    October 6, 2011 at 00:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. 1nd3p3nd3nt

    i highly recommend to think. Now it might drive some people crazy at first, or spin them through some depression.
    However, in order to find the solutions, one must first understand the problem.

    Thinking can be focused and useful, it is not a wheel with a hamster in it, it does not have to be linear. The first time is always scary, but once you figure out you have to go through the tunnel to get to the other side, everything smooths out : )

    October 6, 2011 at 00:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. uphigrade

    Too much thinking here.

    October 6, 2011 at 01:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. C. Sheen

    Amanda looks like she could be a real stress buster. Anybody have her number?

    October 6, 2011 at 01:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      Get some standards man.

      October 6, 2011 at 05:23 | Report abuse |
  15. C. Sheen

    The exercise thing sounds great. 20 minutes 3 times a week..........or 30 minutes four times a week.............or 40 minutes.................. ;-D. Anybody have Amanda's number???????????????

    October 6, 2011 at 01:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. SoundGuy

    Here's another stress buster: listen to the sounds of nature for a few minutes and concentrate deeply on them. It's like a meditation, but you focus your attention on listening and it becomes much easier. If you live in a city you can download very well recorded sounds, for example at TranscendentalTones.

    October 6, 2011 at 02:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      Whatever hippie.

      October 6, 2011 at 05:24 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Good comeback, Mikey

      October 6, 2011 at 07:02 | Report abuse |
  17. Fiona

    Yoga and pranayama (breathing exercises). You learn to control you breath, you can control your heartbeat. Learn how to control your thoughts, you can control your stress response. Plus, yoga gives you a great as*.

    October 6, 2011 at 03:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick

      Breathing exercises very much reduce stress. As does a 10 minute temple rub.

      October 6, 2011 at 07:03 | Report abuse |
  18. joesense

    smoke pot. kill stress. live long. die happy

    October 6, 2011 at 03:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick

      Good food, fresh air, exercise, GOOD POT and a shroom or two

      October 6, 2011 at 07:06 | Report abuse |
    • Winston5

      no way dude, vaporize! Way easier on the throat, stretches that bud. 😉

      October 6, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Vaporizing works well. I have an AirBlo 120. No smoke, just a THC mist.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:52 | Report abuse |
  19. John

    I don't see how you can consider yourself a serious journalist when you recommend such things as herbal remedies and aroma therapy that have no serious research showing their efficacy. Perhaps your writing is just for humor.

    October 6, 2011 at 04:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Terri

      Right?!?! Because we ALL know that pharmaceuticals are the only “serious” answer. In fact, let’s forget that herbs have contributed anything to drugs at all. Things like “50% of of prescription drugs are derived from chemicals first identified in plants”, let’s just glaze over those pesky facts……amirite!!??

      October 6, 2011 at 08:37 | Report abuse |
    • chase

      Actually... Terri... pharmaceuticals undergo absolutely insane amounts of scientific study, formulated in labs by the world's best scientists and are highly regulated.... herbs have none of those qualities. Making a recommendation for an herb as a real solution is about as trustworthy as recommending a catholic saint to pray to for a specific purpose... it MIGHT work, but there is no real scientific evidence to support it in most cases.

      October 6, 2011 at 09:11 | Report abuse |
  20. Josef Bleaux

    Exercise really does work. I found out by accident. I had a lot of anxiety and depression, I had even taken anti-depressants at one point. Then I started doing a lot of repairs on my house. Lots of hard work, heavy lifting, etc. for about a month. Both the anxiety and depression totally went away. Gone. Poof. I couldn't believe it. I felt a lot better physically too. I hate exercise just for the sake of exercising, but I don't mind hard work to accomplish a goal. But I may have to change my mind and go to a gym. It's really amazing how well that has worked for my depression.

    October 6, 2011 at 05:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Huw

    There is only one, lasting and certain cure for 'stress': Philippians 4:7

    I place stress in inverted comas because it's not stress itself that causes the problem it's the effects of stress.

    October 6, 2011 at 06:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Javier

      Excellent! You are very insightful and indeed know the issue here. So what if a nail flattened your tire. It's what you do with that flat tire that keeps you moving forward or just sitting there, going NOwhere.

      October 6, 2011 at 09:16 | Report abuse |
  22. Terri Baker

    I actually bought some ashwaganha root powder one time to try to relieve stress. That's stuff's nasty. It tastes like horse urine. It's too bad the good stress reliever herbs are illegal. They taste better.

    October 6, 2011 at 06:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Malcolm

    This is a good and practical article. Focused and humorous, too. I'd like to see more articles by this woman.

    October 6, 2011 at 06:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Guest

    I deal with my stress by yelling and violence
    Of course,If others werent so damn stupid to begin with,I wouldnt have stress

    October 6, 2011 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Javier

      I know you are being a little sarcastic but, in a way, you are absolutely right! I live in a town full of idiots. I have to drive daily with these idiots and almost EVERYDAY I have to make somekind of evasive manuver to get around these clowns. So, in that light, you are correct sir.

      October 6, 2011 at 09:11 | Report abuse |
  25. How to Relieve Stress Easily

    Really enjoyed learning how to meditate in a minute in the video. So simple, yet effective. Discover many more simple and effective stress management techniques here;

    http://HowtoRelieveStressEasily.com

    October 6, 2011 at 07:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Spaceman

    How about s*x, oh I forgot, I can't get it up due to stress..........

    October 6, 2011 at 07:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Yeah Bro

    Best stress eliminator is crack. Don't lie brah.

    October 6, 2011 at 07:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Hey Bro

    I say good old fashioned HERON. And fat butts.

    October 6, 2011 at 07:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Nah Bro

    God is the answer.

    October 6, 2011 at 07:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Bro Bro Bro Bro Broseph

    Grilled cheese BRO.

    October 6, 2011 at 07:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Carbonated Water

    dude totally. you gotta just fall into peace dude. thats what i do dude. man there are herbs and candles everywhere man. dude thats how you relax man. love, Carbonated Water

    October 6, 2011 at 08:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. sundaramaji

    "Though Abdo considers both rhodiola and ashwagandha pretty safe, you have to consult your own doctor about these herbs."

    Why do articles continue to make references like this? What MD has training in herbal medicine and can speak from a position of authority or experience?

    October 6, 2011 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Eleve

    I love your mom!

    October 6, 2011 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Cleber Teixeira

    news

    October 6, 2011 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Javier

    Amanda! What do you mean "Yeah, not that kind?" You are a bright one aren't you? Study after study by HONEST researchers have proved MARIJUANA ( you can't even say the word) is one of the best, safest, and most effective stress-relief medications known to man. Yeah, I know, you can't just light up at work, this is why edibles were created, that and the fact alot of people don't or can't smoke. At least mention Cannabis in these kinds of reports. Let me guess, your family or business partner sells the stuff you are pushing right?

    October 6, 2011 at 09:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Javier

    Other very effective stress killers are, Masturbation ( yeah, that's right ), long walks with someone special, comfort food, getting out of jail, your family pays the ransom for you and those pesky criminals let you go, the gun pointed at you by the police mis-fires, instead of killing you, the husband of the wife you are banging joins in, the jet engines on your plane re-starts, it's NOT cancer but, an anal wart and so on.....

    October 6, 2011 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Amen to the first one!

      October 15, 2011 at 21:25 | Report abuse |
  37. WoW

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monoamine_oxidase_inhibitor

    October 6, 2011 at 09:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Bill Dove

    Health breaks not cigarette breaks.
    How come companies are happy to allow workers 10 mins away from work to damage their health smoking but balk at a 10/15 minute break for a stress buster massage which could improve their health and efficiency!

    October 6, 2011 at 09:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • thizz

      cause cigs relieve stress too.

      October 7, 2011 at 16:13 | Report abuse |
  39. Andrew

    For me the greatest stress reliever is Meditation. Just close your eyes and breathe longer and concentrate on one symbol in your mind and that's it within 2 min the stress is relived. Its that fast. Try it.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LadyDyeAgnostic

      I meditate every morning in the shower.
      ...I also don't think I know what 'meditate' means,but it sure feels good!

      October 6, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse |
  40. mouse

    I can tell you than exercise with the addition of maryjane is the only way to go.....at 50 I'm healthier than ever and my doctor tells me I'll outlive all my friends. Good thing it, the mj not the exercise, will be legal everywhere shortly.....

    October 6, 2011 at 11:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Smoking MJ raises risks for certain cancers. Just saying.

      October 6, 2011 at 14:59 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      mouse: absolutely

      d: if that is true, then i will live with the consequences of my actions. as everyone should

      October 6, 2011 at 18:49 | Report abuse |
    • thizz

      D: what doesn't give you cancer now a days? just saying

      October 7, 2011 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
  41. It's the dyin' truth, folks

    I grow ashwagandha in my back yard right behind the grits tree.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Wheeler1

    Nice list, just wish I could get my mind to stop tinking about what to do and just do it.

    October 6, 2011 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Mark

    Wow, you should probably remember to put exercise, it's so effective.

    October 6, 2011 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. test

    Marijuana is a great herb to reduce stress.

    October 6, 2011 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. armalitear-18

    Wookie Wookie and puffy puffy. You can do both alone and with your hands, both relieve stress and if you need to mix it up bring the stranger in, sit on your hand until it is numb while you smoke a fatty and rub it out. Make sure to was the oil or lotion off your hands before you bust the munchies out.

    October 6, 2011 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Thinquer

    Take a nap. – Mom

    October 7, 2011 at 05:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Bob

    My 2 biggest stress reducers are spending time with my dog and singing!

    October 7, 2011 at 06:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. danny

    steve. you are the biggest idiot alive. open your eyes and look at the first bolded word. it says exercize....

    October 7, 2011 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. clara

    Thanks Amanda! Thanks Amanda's Mom! And thank you Steve, for the laugh! A stress-free weekend to all.

    October 7, 2011 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. the real answer

    release yourself from the worldly pressure, know you will die. give your stress to god, let him take it off your hands.

    October 7, 2011 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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