Stressed at Work? Pop a Piece of Chewing Gum

Last Updated Jun 14, 2011 4:38 PM EDT

Rough day? Tuckered out? Having trouble focusing? Feeling anxious? Regular Business Hacks readers know that a quick fix for office stress is a brisk 10-minute walk.

Here's another one: grab a piece of chewing gum. (And, um, chew it.) According to a Swinburne University of Technology study, gum-chewing has been found to "relieve anxiety, improve alertness and reduce stress among individuals in a laboratory setting."

Granted, a laboratory is not the same as an office (though some would argue differently), but check out the conditions of the study: individuals were monitored while performing "a battery of 'multi-tasking' activities.' Sound like anyplace you know?

Here's an overview of some of the study's findings:

  • Gum chewers showed a reduction in anxiety as compared to non-gum chewers by nearly 17 percent during mild stress and nearly 10 percent in moderate stress.
  • Gum chewers showed improvement in alertness over non-gum chewers by nearly 19 percent during mild stress and 8 percent in moderate stress.
  • Improved Performance: Chewing gum resulted in a significant improvement in overall performance on multi-tasking activities.
Granted, these aren't major improvements, but every little bit helps. And popping a piece of gum is a lot quicker and easier than slipping outside for a 10-minute constitutional.

So, how does gum work this magic? In part by lowering the level of cortisol -- a steroid hormone released in response to stress -- in your system.

A few words of advice before you reach for the Trident: don't crack or pop your gum, and for heaven's sake, chew with your mouth closed. In fact, I'd say keep the gum out of meetings, as that whole cow-chewing-the-cud look isn't pleasant for anyone.

Your thoughts on gum as a stress killer?

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