Americans are stressed out now more than ever.
Being chronically stressed can do more than lessen your sleeping hours and recede your hairline.
It’s also linked to a weaker immune system and increases your risk of major health problems.
Let me save you from this disease with a 5-minute tip to de-stress, straight from the mouth of a Navy SEAL.
In small amounts, stress can actually be good for you.
But in the excess that most people experience it every day, stress weighing on your mind and your body can hurt you in ways you may not expect.
Chronic stress, meaning you’ve dealt with it for a long time, can actually degenerate cells in your brain.
Kind of like a vaccine, small amounts of stress can teach your body how to overcome it in the future. But if large amounts of a harmful pathogen were pumped into your bloodstream, you’d suffer for it.
Once you reach an unhealthy level of daily stress (which let’s face it: you’re more likely to have than not), there are certain actions you can take to prevent dangerous side effects.
Stress is the product of chemical reactions in your brain, just like everything else.
You can see, hear, speak, feel, and think because of neurotransmitters that perform these reactions. Cortisol is just one of them, and it relates to how stress comes to be in your brain.
Cortisol is meant to be triggered in life-or-death situations, where you should be alarmingly stressed. It quickens your reaction time, increases your heart rate, and slows other body functions unnecessary in the fight-or-flight response.
Basically, it puts you into tunnel vision, slows your digestion, and tries to focus on surviving a car accident or running from a bear.
It is not meant to activate while sitting in traffic or worrying about getting work done on time.
While you may feel stressed about these things from time to time, if this happens very often for a long time, the cells involved will start to degenerate.
Chronic stress kills the hippocampus (the part of your brain where memories are stored) and damages the prefrontal cortex.
What does that mean? Depression, dementia, and impaired mental skills.
Stress can also cause high blood pressure, tiredness, insomnia, obesity, and heart disease.
As some of the most common diseases in the United States, you don’t want to invite them in if you can avoid it.
So, how do you avoid it?
Don’t laugh, I promise this trick works.
Straight from the mouth of former US Navy SEALs Commander Mark Divine, the trick to calming yourself down in less than 5 minutes is breathing.
Now I don’t just mean breathing in and out while counting to ten.
The SEALs use this technique to de-stress themselves in highly volatile situations, and it can work for you too.
It’s called box breathing.
This method allows you to take control of the automatic functions of your body, like breathing, to slow them down.
To do this technique: imagine a box. You’ll count 4 seconds to inhale, 4 seconds to hold, 4 seconds to exhale, 4 seconds to hold.
As you do this, see your breath travel up one side of the square. The next 4 counts watch it go across the top. Exhale as it falls back down the other side. Hold as it travels back to where you started.
While you may think this is pointless, psychologists say that distracting your mind with the box anchors your attention and allows you to control rhythmic breathing faster.
So, the next time your boss is yelling at you or you’re sitting in rush hour traffic, try the box method.
Reducing your stress won’t happen overnight, but if you handle each instance with a de-stress technique, you can take control of your well-being in no time.