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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.”
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!
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