Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
17 Jun

10 Ways to De-stress

It’s been several decades since Bobby McFerrin (Yes, Bobby McFerrin, not Bob Marley) wrote the hit song “Don’t Worry be Happy” and yet we still can’t, well, quit worrying and get happy.

Whether it’s the kids, work, or a to-do list that simply won’t quit, the reality is there are hundreds of sources of stress in our lives and very few real ways (short of hiring a personal assistant, and even that’s no guarantee!) to deal with them…or are there?

The following are a list of our favorite de-stressing tips – so kick back, relax and feel the stress melt away.

1. Get Things Done

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Pick up milk, purchase stamps, update your checkbook, turn in the forms for the kids’ summer camp…and the list goes on, so much so that sometimes even the thought of having to tackle your mental to-do list is more intimidating than actually just getting it done! Unfortunately, in these instances, you have no choice but to take care of things. To make it more manageable (and remove the stress from the situation) transfer your mental list into a more tangible medium, either in the form of a written list or an electronic Outlook or Blackberry reminder list. Not only will writing everything down free-up much-needed mental space, it’ll also give you a visual place to check off tasks as you complete them.

2. Learn to Say No

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With so many ways to say no, it’s a wonder we ever say yes!

Feeling overloaded? Then the last thing you need to do is agree to bake a batch of brownies for the soccer fund raiser. Yet, for many of us, and women in particular, saying no is simply not an option. However, it should be noted that saying that you just don’t have the capacity to take on an extra chore can be a huge stress reliever and free up time for the really important things (like an impromptu kick-around with your little soccer star!) When declining an offer, be firm. If necessary, let the person making the request know that you can’t fit it into a schedule and, if guilt overcomes you, offer to do something else or take on the task once your week is a little less hectic.

3. Work it Out

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It has long been reported that exercise can reduce stress, with one 2003 study suggesting that short, intense bursts of exercise are most effective at reducing stress and stress-related diseases (such as cardiovascular disease). While this is definitely good news for those of us who are feeling a time crunch, it should be noted that other forms of exercise, such as hiking, pilates and yoga, can also help quieten the mind and help you unwind.

4. Peace and Quiet

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If you’re the type of person who whips themselves into a frenzy planning a “relaxing” weekend away, perhaps it’s time to refocus your de-stressing activities to include something a little more manageable. Next time the going gets rough, retreat to a quiet room (or shut the door to the office), close your eyes, breathe deeply and think positive thoughts. Think you still need to split from your everyday environment? Consider a trip to a spa for a soothing massage or taking a morning to embark on a hike, spend some time on the beach or otherwise relax…whatever it takes to melt the stress away.

5. Natural Sunlight

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Everyone feels a little happier when the sun is shining, and the reasons aren’t just psychological. According to several studies, the less natural light there is in a room, the more stressed (not to mention sleepy!) a person will feel. In fact, a study (PDF) by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that workers were more productive and reported higher rates of job satisfaction when exposed to natural light. Stuck in cubicle-dom? Make an appointment each day (yes, that’s right, put it on that Outlook calendar) to get outside, take a stroll, and absorb a couple of rays! Trust us, you’ll feel better for it!

6. Supplementation

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While the answer to your stress can rarely be found at the bottom of a bottle (both of the alcoholic and prescription variety), sometimes supplementation can prove beneficial. For example, a supplement that contains golden root (or rhodiola rosea) has stress reducing effects that can improve your mental outlook as well as give you the energy boost you need to tackle the issue at hand.

7. Phone a Friend

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Popularized in the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” for contestants in a bind, phoning a friend can actually reduce stress. In a 2004 study conducted by researchers at Tokyo University, it was determined that “social buffering may accelerate recovery from stress and change your experience of it” as well as speed recovery. Now granted, the experiment was conducted with rats, but a second study conducted by researchers at UCLA showed that following the death of the spouse, women with a strong social network “were more likely to survive the experience without any new physical impairments or permanent loss of vitality.” Our verdict? Perhaps it’s time to buddy up!

8. Music Man

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Chalk another one up for the benefits of music – turns out it can help alleviate stress too! In a 2001 study conducted by researchers at Adelaide University in Australia, it was determined that organ music “significantly reduced a range of negative emotions commonly experienced during Christmas, such as tension, depression, anger and fatigue.” Our inclination? If it works during the super-stressful holiday season, it’ll work year round! Now go rock out!

9. Just Do it!

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Although sex is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re feeling stressed, sometimes getting down is the best way to get over it! In fact, according to a study by Canadian researchers, when bacteria get in to hot water (literally…but it’s a stressor for them!), it activates a “sex-inducer” gene that ups the likelihood of reproduction. Need further proof? A 2006 study suggests that sex can reduce the stress and anxiety experienced prior to public speaking and that “greater frequency of intercourse is associated with greater benefits.”

10. Glass Half Full?

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Well, perhaps not this optimistic.

We’ve all heard the term “making a mountain out of a molehill,” but when you’re in the midst of an existential crisis, sometimes it is difficult to take a step back and keep your cool. However, in the face of a stressor or other adversity it is important to ask yourself a few questions: Will this matter next week? How about next month? If I knew I was going to die in a week, would this be something I would want to spend this minute of my remaining time on? Is what I am basing my feelings on a fact, or is it an assumption? Sometimes just asking yourself these questions can help you gain perspective on the issue, so much so that before you know it, you’ve developed a solution!

What are favorite ways to unwind and de-stress? Share your advice with fellow Apples!

ebby, Claudecf, sashamd, SpringChick, tricky ™, sparktography, Darwin Bell, festivefrog, knivesout, duconihilum Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

The Benefits of Short Breaks

Antioxidants and the Stress of Eating

No Advantages from Aromatherapy?

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I ALWAYS make a “to do list.” When i have a zillion things to do in one day and “think” about it all, it’s amazing how you see it “differently” when you jot it down on paper. It then becomes NOT overwhelming-writing it down simplifies it all.
    What i love to do is go boat ride in the mountains and stop the boat in the middle of the river and fish. It’s quiet, peaceful (a whole different world) Going fishing is mind relaxing! I “never” think about my problems being in nature, it becomes so easy to leave all worries at home, that’s the point of getting away. Hey, it works for me, I encourage it, or even go camping is FUN too!!!
    I always see the glass “half full” NOT “half empty.” WHY-Because in my opinion half full is positive, half empty sounds negative(my 2 cents how i see it.)

    Donna wrote on June 17th, 2008
  2. “Making something unique” is my favorite de-stress activity.

    For me, that is usually a fiber arts activity. I love the regular, soothing rhythm of spinning fiber into one-of-a-kind yarns; it’s almost like meditation. Making handmade felt is also very physical, but relaxing all the same because little else is on my mind. If the end result is satisfactory, I feel great; if the end result exceeds my expectations, I feel exhilarated. I also knit, especially while waiting for something else, so the activity is usually calming, as well as productive.

    Anna wrote on June 17th, 2008
  3. my faves: drumming, going for a peacful walk or run, easy pilates/yoga stretching, drawing or writing. Keeping a to-do list is definitely a big way to keep my sanity day to day. And, if things get truly bad, sometimes a hot bath followed by a massage from my hubby is just what yhe doctor ordered:)

    hedda wrote on June 17th, 2008
  4. “Saying no” is so key for me. I can usually pinpoint the beginning of any high stress period in my life at the time I agreed to add one more responsibility my gut was telling me just to say no to. I’ve become much better at listening to my gut recently and I say “no” more often. And believe it or not, the people I say “no” to actually appreciate it!

    Mia wrote on June 17th, 2008
  5. Doing laundry :) Hanging it all on my balcony, fresh air, dark outside- best way to relax before going to bed.

    Naomi wrote on June 17th, 2008
  6. Walking, gardening, meditating, painting, cooking, writing, berry-picking, dancing, laughing, being around people I love…

    Most of my favorite things to do are also things that relieve stress. Not a coincidence.

    Food Is Love

    Huckleberry wrote on June 17th, 2008
  7. “Sometimes getting down is the best way to get over it”!
    I really think that this is very good advice because the rush of endorphins into your system can really pull you out of a funk so to speak. And I can certainly vouch for sunlight and music, so why not mash those together and take you guitar out somewhere and play a few songs that’s something always helps me battle momentary depression.

    Nate wrote on June 17th, 2008
  8. Hi. I can’t say what a big deal the first point is. I assume “get things done” was a nod to the book by David Allen, but if it wasn’t I would absolutely encourage people to take it up. It’s a pretty simple system, but its leg up is that it can handle basically EVERYTHING you toss into it… like to-do-list version 6.0
    It’s a little tough to feel like you’re doing something natural or healthy while you’re fiddling with a palm pilot or stack of index cards, but having a strong external system takes the plannning and worry OUT of your brain/interior monologue. It’s like constructing a fake brain to handle the unnatural details demanded by modern life, and leaves your brain to do what it wants. It’s a really good feeling and worth trying.

    Drew wrote on April 16th, 2011
  9. Thanks for the great post, I will send a link to my personal training clients. Would it be okay if I printed out this article and hand it out to my clients? Cheers :D

    Mike Behnken wrote on July 28th, 2011

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