5 free and effective ways to reduce stress

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Are you stressed-out? You're not alone. The stress level in this country is costing business $300 billion each year, through health care costs, absenteeism, lack of productivity and lack of creativity.

"Stress is the ultimate equalizer. Everybody has stress," said Dr. Francoise Adan, head of the Integrative Medicine department at University Hospitals.

She says there are five free, and effective ways to manage your stress. These methods can supplement and, in some cases, replace more traditional methods of dealing with stress.

Don't reach for a bottle of wine, seek out prescriptions, or expensive therapy sessions, she says. Instead, Dr. Adan suggests reducing stress by developing several new habits.

1. Breathe. Take a moment, just one minute at a time, to inhale to the count of four. Then breathe out to the count of 6 or 7.

"If you breathe in a way that your out breath takes a longer time than your in breath, you're sending a message to your brain that it's OK to relax," she said.

2. Use affirmation, in a small sentence, present tense, use the "I" word. For example. "I'm peaceful and present."

3. Practice mindfulness, and focus on what you're doing here and now. Put down your tablets and phones, for example, and focus on a personal interaction you're having. This can help those whose stress and anxiety is making it hard for them to sleep.

"This is like a skill, an art, how we are present in the moment. So I'm not in past, what I could have done should have done. That often lead to regrets sorrow. And I'm not in the future with the to do lists," Adan said.

4. Be positive, and think of one or more positive things that has happened in the last 24 hours.

5. Express gratitude, by showing appreciation and giving thanks on a regular basis. Making a list every day of a few things you're grateful for, Dr. Adan says, is a good way to practice gratitude and put your stressors in perspective.

Dr. Adan says you don't have to adopt all of these methods, or all of them at once for them to be effective. But she says in order to make a difference in your stress levels, you should, she says, be disciplined and committed to the practices you are using.

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