What would you say if the best advice for relieving stress was to do more?
It may be true, according to the American Psychological Association. A 2015 study published in the Clinical Psychological Justice journal found that the physical signs of stress — rapid heartbeat, sweating, confusion, fatigue, a feeling of overwhelm, etc. — can be alleviated through the act of helping others.
Sources of stress can be somewhat universal. Daily events like interactions with coworkers, deadlines, a traffic-heavy commute, or financial worries raise our blood pressure and erode our health over time. Researchers found that people who practiced random acts of kindness throughout the day reported feeling less stressed and more positive.
The even better news is that kindness and service to others doesn’t need to be time-consuming or costly. Small gestures like making eye contact and sharing a smile with fellow shoppers at the store, allowing someone to go ahead of you in line, holding the door for someone who needs help, and paying someone a compliment can turn the tide of stress on your health.
Need a few more ideas? Try some of these quick ways to bring some sunshine into someone else’s life:
- Pack an extra snack to give to someone in need when you see them on the street.
- Clean out a closet and donate items to a local shelter or non-profit of your choice.
- “Pay it forward” for the car behind you in the line at the coffee shop drive-through window.
- Write a thank you note, or just a note to say, “you’re awesome!” Remember how good it felt to get mail as a kid? It feels that way for grown-ups to get a nice card, too!
- Spend an evening serving meals at a local soup kitchen.
- Pay a compliment to someone when they look especially nice, or even when they don’t!
When we feel connected to another person, our bodies release a hormone called dopamine, which is sometimes called the “hug hormone,” because it makes us feel so good.
A study in the medical journal Cancer showed that breast cancer patients who perceived their doctor as compassionate, warm, and caring during their appointments were less stressed during treatment.. You can provide the same benefit to others by showing compassion and empathy to them when they express concerns to you.
Self-care habits such as exercise, stretching, yoga, and meditation round out a balanced approach to managing stress. The next time you feel stressed at work, stop and ask yourself, “how can I help?” The solution to stress could very well be in our hands, when they reach out to someone else.
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– HEATHER FUSELIER, CHWC, CFP, TTS
Health Advisor | Email Heather