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Stress Management Health Center

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Instant Stress Busters

2. Laugh!

No kidding: Studies have shown that people who laughed the most heartily while watching a funny movie registered the biggest drops in their level of stress hormones. When you're under pressure, you get trapped in a cycle of catastrophic thoughts-This is so terrible! There's no way out! "Humor breaks into those thoughts, allowing you to regain mental control," explains Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., of Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Of course, when you're locked out of your car or you're being chewed out at a staff meeting, you can't exactly turn on a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond. That's why you need a comedy playlist: three or four things guaranteed to make you giggle just by thinking about them. A joke, a Saturday Night Live skit, the look on your sister-in-law's face when she sliced into the still-pink Thanksgiving turkey.... And if you're stressing out at work or at home, surf over to, as online editor Virginia Citrano does. "Watching one of these clips never fails to cut the tension," she reports.

3. Chant!

Coin a soothing phrase that you can repeat. You're not competing for a Pulitzer Prize here-something simple like "All will be OK" will work. So will a fragment of a prayer or psalm, like "The Lord is my shepherd." The key is to practice in advance. When you're feeling relaxed, chant your phrase softly to yourself several times. Then do it silently. "Repetitive actions like chants are a way of getting yourself into a meditative state-or near enough to help you relax," says Dr. Sternberg.

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