I feel like most articles about stress these days start with an introduction about how modern times are more stressful than most other periods of history. Throw in some references to Facebook, Twitter and Tinder and off we go on how the millennials are ruining the world and themselves one social media post at a time.
But I don’t feel that way. Every generation that follows the next is criticised for being shallow and stupid, and those criticisms are always unfounded.
So let’s take this to a broader context than simply youth-bashing, shall we? I don’t want to bully millennials, as it’s pointless and inaccurate exercise. The conservative silent generation of the 50’s was embarrassed by the weed smoking, war-protesting, listening-to-rock-music counterculture that baby boomers practiced in their prime. This group was unimpressed by the MTV-watching punks and upwardly-mobile yuppies of Generation X, who themselves were in turn now annoyed with the 20 and 30-something of today. I’d bet my life savings (however meager they may be) that you’ll hear this tech-obsessed current generation likewise in 30 or 40 years complaining about their children/grandchildren’s generation.
Anyway, enough of my ramblings; this piece is actually about de-stressing techniques, I promise. Let’s go over some de-stressing techniques that will work regardless of how old you are on what culture you cling to, and we’ll also review a couple of common stress relieving techniques that many people practice but that doesn’t actually work.
Exercise has been proven to one of the many things you can do that will lower your stress levels. There are many benefits exercise offers your body, especially in the form of stress-reducing endorphins that are released in the brain. The brain is still a mystery when it comes to understanding all of its mechanisms, but we do now know that neurotransmitters are responsible for how some actions develop pleasurable sensations.
Take, for instance, the pleasure you can get from exercising. This is nor some abstract theory of psychology that is dubiously present in real life. Known as the “runner’s high”, exercise produces good feelings, regardless of how you are feeling before starting the exercise. Basically, it’s an anxiety reducer without any pills.
Don’t mistake meditating for some hippy-dippy exercise that doesn’t actually do much for you. Meditating offers many benefits, especially with regard to stress, even if you don’t participate in drum circles or weave your own clothes from help. It’s not just unlicensed spiritual healers that are advocating meditation:
Try it. It’s not difficult. Just sit down and focus on your breathing. It can be more complicated than that, but as an introduction to meditation just close your eyes and breathe. You may be surprised how much that simple act alone can reduce your stress.
Here’s another simple trick. Imagine what you consider to be the best place possible (it can be somewhere from your childhood, some fictional tropical island, whatever works for you). Don’t just imagine the sight of this place: take care to also imagine the smells, sounds, and little texture details. For example, enhance that beach scene by imagining the warmth of the sun on your face, the sea air, etc. Obviously, visualisation won’t actually fix your problems, but it will make you feel just a little better.
Do: Talk to someone
You may be surprised at how much simple talking to someone about a stressful situation will help you resolve your negative feelings about it. Just getting those stressful ideas out into the open, into someone else’s ears, can help a lot. Once you have actually talked about them, it is likely your problems will seem a lot smaller than they did when they were confined to bouncing around that tight space in your head. And maybe that person you are talking to will be able to offer you some good advice on how to fix your problems.
Do: Indulge in the Guilty Pleasure
This may seem like a cheap trick, but sometimes you just have to indulge in that thing that you love but always prevent yourself from doing. Even if you are on a diet, in fact, especially if you are on a diet allow yourself a treat now and then. Stop by Mc Donald’s for a cheeseburger, go ahead and grab that impulse but chocolate bar placed ever so strategically right in your face at the checkout counter. Take a night to ignore whatever slow-paced character study the critics are raving about and put on some real housewives or Kardashians or whatever trash TV program you prefer.
There is a good reason that you try and resist these practices, but quitting them cold turkey often results in unnecessary stress. Allow yourself some wiggle room to indulge in those urges; just be sure to stay strong and maintain moderation.
Alright, so we told you earlier to indulge in your guilty pleasures, so telling you now not to overeat might seem like a bit of a contradiction. The key is to use moderation. People who binge eat when they get stressed are creating a vicious circle. You eat a lot, gain some weight, feel less attractive, and lose confidence, which makes you more frequently stressed out, which makes you eat, even more, starting the whole process over again. It is a terrible habit for both your mental and your physical health.
When you feel the need to eat your feelings away, try and sublimate the urge with one of the more healthy techniques listed in this article instead.
Do: Turn off your phone, shut down your computer
At the beginning of this article, I was rallying against the “things were better when I was growing up” sentiment, claiming that there is no real separation between young and old other than the old having an inflated ego.
I still believe this is true in spirit, but it’s hard to even for me to deny that there are more distractions today than there used to be. If you are feeling really anxious, try turning off all your devices that are connected to the internet. Maybe it won’t make a difference, but it just might make you feel much calmer.
Do: Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This technique is especially good for when you want to fall asleep but you can’t because of all the stressful thoughts boxing around your head. Progressive muscle relaxation is very effective at taking your mind off that stress, and it’s pretty easy to do. No courses or practice necessary.
Here’s how you do it: focus first on your toes and spend about 30 seconds just relaxing them. Once you have done that, move on to your calves and relax them. then your thighs, and then your hips.. you get the drift. you will probably fall asleep before you get done with the whole process.
Don’t: Try to Drink Your Trouble Away
Despite the assertions of most pop songs, drinking doesn’t likely make you feel any better about your troubles, even temporarily. In fact, alcohol will actually make you feel worse, especially if you drink a lot of it. Alcohol stimulates the production of the hormone cortisol, also known as the “Stress hormone”. It earned that title because, well, it is a hormone that makes you feel stressed out.