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6 Science-backed hacks for less stress this summer and fall

Posted at 1:36 PM, Jul 20, 2020

Parents and families are faced with all kinds of stress as we approach another school year during a pandemic.

And new studies show that Americans are the unhappiest they've been in nearly 50 years.

David "Dr. Dave" Schramm from USU Extension joined us with six 6 science-backed hacks for less stress this summer and fall.

Consider the acronym H.U.M.M.E.R. to help you on your journey to overcoming obstacles and potential pitfalls.

1. H stands for Humor. It's often said that laughter is the best medicine. And while it may not cure the common cold, science says there are numerous benefits. Laughing relaxes the body and triggers the release of endorphins that relieve pain and increase pleasure. From improving the immune system to protecting the heart and even burning calories and sleeping better, seeing the lighter side of things can do wonders for our body and brain. So the next time your child spills cereal all over the counter, try smiling instead of scolding.

2. U stands for Understanding. Regardless of how you feel about the many hot topics of our day, taking a step back to try and understand multiple perspectives can bring peace, perspective, and compassion. Most people do things for reasons that make sense to them. Putting ourselves in others' shoes is an important step to soothing stress and building bonds.

3. M stands for Meaning. In times of stress and challenges, we can ask ourselves, 'What can be learned from this?' instead of 'What has been burned from this?' Depending on our attitude and perspective, challenges can help us draw closer to other people, develop greater compassion and learn to value and find joy in the simple things in life.

4. The second M stands for Mindfulness and Meditation. In times of anxiety, fear, and stress, when we can learn to slow down, take a few deep breaths, and be aware of and present with our emotions and feelings, we can see the bigger picture. Stress tends to narrow our perspective and options, while mindfulness and meditation expand and broaden our views and we become more open to potential solutions. Learning to relax, let things go, and be aware of our strong emotions can lead to a mind more open to problem-solving possibilities.

5. E stands for Exercise. Findings from science continue to show that exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Moving our body literally moves our brain to produce endorphins that act as painkillers and mood elevators that also reduce adrenaline and cortisol. In some studies, exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression by as much as 20%!

6. R stands for Resources and Relationships. When the going gets tough, the tough rely on their strengths and turn to their resources and social connections. Whether it's writing in a journal, relying on your faith, listening to your go-to playlist, or talking with your mom or best friend, these sources of strength are among the top stress busters out there. Even turning outward and offering service to a neighbor or donating blood can boost your positivity and expand your perspective during stressful times.

So the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, try to slow down and see if the principles and practices of the H.U.M.M.E.R. will be useful and commit to doing more of what works for you.

For more relationship tips, visit relationships.usu.edu and follow Dr. Dave on Facebook @drddaveusu.