According to an October 2014 Gallup poll, Americans worry about a lot of issues.
Many of those things are outside of our control, and worrying just compounds the grief.
According to a study by the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, worrying can have long-term chronic health consequences, including cardiovascular disease.
How do you stop? While exercise is a commonly prescribed cure for easing your worries—it’s considered better than Xanax because it releases feel-good hormones—you don’t have to break a sweat to calm your fears.
Here are four other actions you can take to take your mind off of your troubles:
1. SMELL A GRAPEFRUIT
Breathing in certain aromas can help reduce stress. In astudy at James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio,researchers tested the effect of pleasant-smelling essential oils by diffusing them in the central nurses station. Oncology nurses, who frequently suffer from work-related stress, compassion fatigue, and burnout, reported significant improvements in tension, worry, and demands over the course of the study.
One of the essential oils tested was grapefruit, which is refreshing and revitalizing, and helped boost the body’s feelings of energy and happiness.
- EAT CHOCOLATE
While sweets can cause you to have a sugar high and crash, researchers have found that a little chocolate can be beneficial forworriers. According to astudy published in theJournal of Proteome Research, dark chocolate can help calm your nerves. Participants who ate one and a half ounces of dark chocolate a day for two weeks had reduced levels of stress hormones.
- Write down your Worries
Getting your emotions down on paper sounds like it could fuel anxieties, but according to aUniversity of Chicago study published in the journalScience, the activity has the opposite effect. Students who were prone to test anxiety were asked to write about their fears before an exam; those who journaled improved their test scores by nearly one grade point.
“It might be counterintuitive, but it’s almost as if you empty the fears out of your mind,” Sian Beilock, an associate professor in psychology at theUniversity of Chicago,toldU.S. News And World Report. “You reassess that situation so that you’re not as likely to worry about those situations because you’ve slain that beast.”
- CHANGE YOUR BED TIME
If you like to stay up late at night, you might be feeding your inner worrier.Researchers at Binghamton University in New York found that people who go to bed very late and sleep for short amounts of time are more overwhelmed with negative thoughts than those who keep more regular sleeping hours. They tend to worry about the future and dwell over past events, and they have a higher risk of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“Making sure that sleep is obtained during the right time of day may be an inexpensive and easily disseminable intervention for individuals who are bothered by intrusive thoughts,” said Jacob Nota, one of the study’s researchers.