Just relax. Because we all know how simple that is, right? Being stressed is part of everyday life. Whether it’s finals, new projects, breakups or just breakouts, stress is a natural response that helps your body stay safe and persevere. That being said, prolonged or intense stress can be really harmful to you. Stress can lead to immune suppression, intestinal damage and a reduction in ovulation and sperm counts. (Yes, boys suffer the same corrosive side effects as women when it comes to upset). As your blood pressure rises and your hormone signals get muddied, your body starts a feedback loop of stressing about stress. So how do you cope when you can’t cop to the pressure? Here’s 5 little tricks to help you unwind and stay healthy.
1. Let’s start with the obvious ones: Eat, and sleep.
Seriously, I can’t stress this enough. Depriving your body of nutrients has never been a good idea. When you’re feeling stressed, you need a power boost to stay sane. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can make it very difficult to focus, not to mention the mood swings, so opt for healthy frequent snacks over junk food and caffeine for a more sustainable recharge. Avoid skipping meals as this is likely to dull your natural cognitive and emotional senses and increase exhaustion. It pays to give a little extra attention to some basic life support.
2. Let it out.
Whatever you’re feeling, give yourself permission to feel it. Find a safe place to bleed out emotionally and just allow yourself to purge the panic. Holding it in can add additional pressure to the pile. Sing it, say it, write it down – acknowledge it out loud and then tell yourself that it’s ok to feel this way. I’m not saying throw yourself a pity party, but clamming up can trap negativity in the echo chamber of your mind where it repeats ad infinitum for no-one’s benefit. Chances are, being able to approach the problem and find a solution will come more easily if you can articulate it in some detail. As a bonus, singing requires some breath control which will naturally stop you from crying, so turn on the shower and belt it out, girl.
3. Laughter really is the best medicine.
Turn on your favorite comedy show, tell funny stories with your gal pals or get silly with whatever can get you giggling. (I’ll admit that fart jokes can usually cut through even the worst days and bring a wrinkle to my nose). Laughter actually lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels and can boost your confidence and mental clarity. It’s like an instant hit of pain calming endorphins. Faking haha’s can still help, but solid milk spraying chortles can scientifically hug your insides. Try it.
4. Have sex.
Not a hard sell in most cases but, um yeah…it can make you feel good. Sex can be a great palate cleanser when you’re struggling to get a grip on the grind. The release of oxytocin and dopamine can give you that clarifying pleasure pump that helps you focus on the positives. Scheduling a little time to get down (with or without a partner) can boost your immune system, deepen your sleep and help you take a few much deserved deep breaths.
5. Pencil in some off time.
Unless you are remarkably in control of your waking hours, you’ll likely need a little time to quietly freak out, chill out or just space out and procrastinate while you power through your day. Don’t feel guilty, it’s not only normal, it’s healthy. Giving yourself permission to have deliberate, unproductive times can reduce the unproductive guilt around needing it, which in turn helps you to come back, re-energized and better able to stay on top of the giant bucket list of things you need to get done. Assign regular down time when you are allowed and expected to be off the clock, and follow through so that when you’re punched in, you can really dedicate yourself to the task at hand.
These ideas might seem too small to help you tackle the big stuff, but the difference between thinking you know all this and actually doing it, can be all it takes to help you get a leg up with effective life management. It’s worth a try when you’re facing the worrying effects of a life under pressure.