Being permanently frazzled can steer you toward risk-boosting behaviors such as smoking, drinking, or overeating. But research suggests long-term stress might open an even bigger door to breast cancer by increasing blood flow to tumors, triggering hormones that encourage tumor growth, and sending your body into a state of constant inflammation. Need yet one more reason to chill? Chronic stress may increase the growth and spread of one of the most deadly forms of breast cancer—"triple negative"—for which there is no proven treatment. Work a few of these tension tamers into your weekly routine:
Bust a move.
In a study, people who took six 90-minute dance lessons reported lower overall stress levels. Sign up for a class or boogie in your own way on your own time.
Soak up some scent.
Sniffing bergamot, an essential citrus oil, can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, according to researchers. Add six to 10 drops to your bath. Don't like the smell of bergamot? Try lavender, sage, or rose.
Be a social butterfly.
Not only can brunches with your gal pals lower your blood pressure and reduce depression, but also hanging with friends cuts the stress levels of everyone in the group. (Plus, animal studies suggest that socially isolated mice develop a more aggressive type of breast cancer, likely from higher levels of stress hormones.)
Sources: Anil Sood, M.D., MD Anderson Cancer Center; Sarah Gehlert, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis; Suzanne Conzen, M.D., University of Chicago School of Medicine