- Mental Health
Ten Tips For Avoiding Stress
How to avoid stress?
Stress is a symptom of our modern lives. Very few people can honestly say they have not experienced stress, to some level, in the last month...or even the last week. Between the economy and jobs, the deep divisions in our country and the fast-paced, technologically-mediated life we now live, it's small wonder many of us just want to scream.
Then something happens. The car breaks down. The toddler has a bad cold and is screaming constantly. The person in the next office just won't shut up. The stupidest little thing sends us over the edge into a meltdown.
How can we deal with all of these and avoid our lives becoming nothing but an endless round of stress?
1. Slow Down
There are never, it seems, enough hours in the day. The tendency to rush from task to task, chore to chore, work to home to work takes over all of us. On top of that, many people feel obliged to multitask in order to get everything done - despite evidence that for most people multitasking can reduce one's effective IQ by as much as twenty points.
Slow down. Complete one task before moving on to the next. Take a break every now and then - even if your boss would rather you worked every second of the day or your own personality drives you to do so.
2. Listen to Music
Music can be the best stress relief tool out there. Listening to music while you are working makes many people more creative and productive. If you find yourself distracted by music, try a play list of tunes with no lyrics or a nature sounds CD.
New Age stores and 'nature' stores often have CDs of music specifically selected to lower stress, although these collections may not work for everyone. Music you like is always the best.
Regular exercise improves physical health and can cure mild to moderate depression. Add thirty minutes of moderate cardio to your daily routine and you will reap benefits quickly.
Gym time can easily translate to 'me time'. Consider taking that book you have always wanted to read to the gym with you. Some people find the best way is to put a treadmill in front of a television then put on a favorite show...and make that the only way they let themselves watch it.
Make sure your exercise regime is something you enjoy, however, or it can easily turn into another chore that has to be fit into the day.
Anyone can learn to meditate and it has proven physical and mental health benefits.
The best time to meditate is right before you go to bed, as it can actually help you sleep. There are a large variety of meditation techniques out there, and as each person is different, you should research and experiment until you find what works for you. Don't try advanced techniques to start with - you will find they don't work and become a source of frustration and a sense of failure.
Laughing lowers blood pressure. It evolved as a method of relieving stress. Therefore, laughing is a good way to relieve stress.
Watch a comedy show. Sign up for a daily jokes newsletter. Read The Onion. Find whatever tickles your funny bone and make time for it. Share jokes with your friends, face to face or over social media.
If you can manage to laugh at least once a day, then you are well on your way to a stress free life.
6. Try Some Herbs
Enjoy some home aromatherapy - try a scented candle or an essential oil that helps your mood.
Lavender is one of the best herbs for stress relief. Put a sachet under your pillow to help deal with feelings of anxiety, depression and helplessness and promote sleep. If you are having real problems sleeping, try a cup of chamomile tea before bed. (Valerian is often recommended as a sleep aid, but be warned - it is as potent and potentially addictive as non-natural sleep aids).
Other good stress relief herbs and scents include frankincense, cypress, geranium, jasmine and grapefruit. (Do not consume grapefruit if you are on certain medications, including statins, calcium channel blockers and hormone replacement therapy for thyroid issues...check with your doctor. Grapefruit interferes with the absorption of these drugs, messing up dosages and potentially causing dangerous side effects).
And, as everyone knows, chocolate makes everything better. Choose dark chocolate with high cocoa percentage - it's better for you than milk chocolate.
7. Avoid Caffeine
Caffeine can elevate blood pressure and also creates a 'wired' feeling. For most people, caffeine consumption is not dangerous (it can be if you have certain health conditions). However, if you are already feeling anxious and jittery, that cup of coffee or can of coke will only make you feel worse.
If you 'need' caffeine to function, you are either not getting enough sleep or have become physically addicted to the drug (withdrawal symptoms are headaches and grumpiness). If you absolutely have to consume caffeine, do so in the form of tea, rather than coffee. Black tea has been shown to reduce stress and green tea contains health-promoting antioxidants.
Also avoid drinking alcohol to reduce stress - that's a quick route to becoming a drunk.
8. Get Enough Sleep
Another thing many of us never seem to find the time for is sufficient shut eye. Most adults need about 7.5 or 8 hours sleep a night, but individual needs do vary. Add to lack of time the fact that many of us are not on the best sleep schedule for our body.
If you have difficulty sleeping, practice proper sleep hygiene. Try to stick to the same sleep-wake schedule. Don't do anything in bed except sleep (and, well, maybe one other thing...) Don't exercise within four hours of your planned bed time.
9. Let It All Out
When things get really tough, you need to blow off some steam. Go somewhere private and curse up a blue streak - believe it or not, a few f-bombs where nobody can hear them will help a lot. If you can get far enough away from others, screaming helps too. If your life is constantly stressful and you hate your boss, consider adding a punching bag to the basement furniture.
Some people find violent video games are also a good way of displacing anger and letting out stress.
10. Just Walk Away
Sometimes, the only thing you can do is leave the situation. This might mean taking a five minute timeout...or a weekend break.
When you go on vacation, leave work behind unless you really, really love your job. Consider leaving the cellphone behind or keeping it turned off unless you need that travel app or the GPS. Your boss takes enough of your life...don't let him steal your vacation too. If you find it impossible to turn off and unplug, consider going somewhere where there is no cell phone coverage so you have no choice. (A converse is that some people find being out of touch on 'vacation' stressful in and of itself and relax more if they have access to email and know there is no crisis in their absence).
And make sure that your vacation does not become a source of stress in and of itself. If coming back from vacation to a huge pile of work is stressful, consider taking more, shorter breaks rather than one massive one.
When you do go somewhere, choose a place and style of vacation you find particularly relaxing.
And if your life has become unbearable, it is probably time to evaluate what you are doing with it and consider 'walking away' in a more permanent manner, such as seeking a new job, starting your own business or moving to a different city.