five ways to stress less

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Section: vital health
WHAT'S THE first thing you do after a long, demanding day — watch TV, call a friend, or meditate? To find out the most effective way to handle stress, we asked Stanford University stress researcher Cheryl Koopman, Ph.D., to assess popular relaxation methods.

MEDITATING: Research shows meditating produces a "relaxation response" that cancels out stress — and it takes only 15 to 20 minutes a day, says Koopman. To help quiet the mind, she recommends chanting or focusing on a visual, like a lit candle.

EXERCISING: "Moderate exercise releases endorphins — brain chemicals that make us feel good," says Koopman. But don't overdo it: You can compromise your immune system if you get more than go minutes of sustained intense exercise a day.

READING: "Reading doesn't automatically reduce stress," says Koopman. The material must make you feel good or be absorbing enough to take your mind off what's bothering you.

TALKING IT OUT WITH OTHERS: It's fine to vent your frustrations to a friend, but if that person is judgmental or tends to offer unsolicited advice, it may cause more stress than it alleviates. You should discuss serious problems with an impartial professional such as a therapist, says Koopman.

WATCHING TELEVISION: "When you watch TV, your brain produces alpha waves, which are associated with relaxation," Koopman explains. Watching violent programming, however, can raise stress levels.

TAKE OUR POLL: How do you manage stress? Visit www.naturalhealthmag.com and tell us your most effective method.

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By Laurel Maury

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