The following remedies for stress and anxiety will help benefit your mind and body. Experiment to find what works best for you.
Physically active people feel less anxious and depressed. Why? One theory holds that aerobic exercise can increase your levels of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps the brain deal with stress more efficiently.
Ideally, we should spend 30 minutes exercising five times a week, says Alice Domar, Ph.D., founder of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Waltham. Massachusetts, but every bit of activity helps.
Two points on the back of your neck known as the "gates of the mind" can ease stress and clear your mind, says Michael Reed Gach, M.D., founder of the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley, California. As an added bonus, he adds, pressing these points can stop headaches from developing.
Tilt your head back and place your thumbs at the top of your neck, just below the base of your skull, about 3 inches apart. Press these spots firmly but gently. "You don't want to press on the skull, but just underneath it," Gach says. "If your thumbs are weak or arthritic, use your knuckles instead." As you press, take three to five slow, deep breaths. Finish by letting your hands float into your lap and your chin drop to your chest. Take an additional deep breath, and briefly scan your body to see how you feel.
A number of studies show that listening to music, especially classical or baroque, may help you unwind and improve your mood.
Though less melodic, therapeutic CDs of "binaural beats" also show promise as a means of calming the mind and body, according to several studies. These recordings work by projecting two tones of similar frequencies into each ear. This creates a "beat" at a certain frequency in the mind, say proponents, and your brain falls in sync with it; different frequencies call forth different moods.
By strengthening your body's ability to handle stress, a class of herbs called adaptogens keeps everyday pressure from wreaking havoc on your immune system. Dubbed the "king adaptogen," eleuthero (also known as Siberian ginseng) has been shown to normalize blood pressure and blood-sugar levels and stop stress from draining your adrenal gland's supply of vitamin C. Herbs such as Asian ginseng, American ginseng, rhodiola, ashwagandha, and schizandra also act as key adaptogens.
Look for adaptogen combo formulas such as bacopa and holy basil, or make your own blend of stamina tea using dried herbs. (Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.)
Walk into any gadget store or self-help section of the library and you'll be bombarded by products claiming to help reduce your stress in no time flat: From simple stress balls and meditation CDs to iPhone apps and new-age massage tools, there's quite a selection out there -- but do they work?
Senior editor Terri Trespicio appeared on "The Martha Stewart Show" to discuss her five favorite stress busters. These products are not only effective -- they can actually be fun!
In this relaxing ritual, you'll gather stones to stimulate the body's seven main energy centers, or chakras, in the Ayurvedic tradition. While many massage therapists use large stones to massage out tension in muscles, simply placing stones at strategic points on the body can encourage relaxation.
If checking your email has become as vital to your wake-up and bedtime routines as brushing your teeth, it's time to unplug. "Starting and ending the day in stillness is essential to stress reduction, so it's absolutely critical not to jump into email during either of those times," says Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., author of "Your Soul's Compass."
In the morning and at night, turn off your computer (and TV) and pick up a book -- or simply delight in the rare pleasure of doing nothing. A little nature therapy can also ease the stress of too much computer time. A stroll through a park or on a trail counteracts overstimulation and can also boost your mood and energy.
A 2004 study published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship found that creating artwork and crafts helped to relax a group of adults who were serving as caregivers for family members with cancer. "It's incredibly stress-reducing to work on a project that takes your focus away from your own thoughts and worries," says Borysenko.
Art-making not your thing? "Some people's creative expression is their bowling league," says Borysenko. "What's important is the combination of doing something you love and engaging in that other-centeredness."
A technique known as "thought-stopping" can help you halt negative, obsessive thoughts, says Dr. Kenneth Ruggiero, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
The first step is to literally call a halt to this train of thought. If you're alone, say the word "Stop!" out loud. If you're around others, think it to yourself. Some people even find it useful to pinch themselves to disrupt those stressful thoughts, says Ruggiero.
Next, choose a positive thought on which you'll focus instead, such as "I've given presentations before, and they went well" or "I know this material better than anyone in the audience." In doing so, says Ruggiero, you swap a negative, stress-inducing thought for a positive one.
If you've ever watched tai chi being practiced in a public park or in a class, then you know its defining characteristics: grace, groundedness, and balance. What you don't see is effort, exertion, profuse sweating, or any other outward signs of rigorous exercise. That's because the philosophy behind this age-old practice is not "harder, faster, stronger," but slower, flowing, and balanced.
Tai chi's series of "forms," practiced in slow motion, promotes the healthy flow of qi, or vital energy, throughout the body to improve balance, enhance coordination and focus, and build strength while reducing stress.
After a busy week, treat yourself with a few days of bath and body treatments that will leave you invigorated and refreshed. If you have the time and resources, consider a spa vacation at one of these mind-and-body retreats.
No need to stress about spending lots of money on a luxury spa, however: With the right ingredients, you can pamper yourself right in the comfort of your own home.