What’s stressing you today? Notice I didn’t say: “Are you stressed?” That’s because without even knowing your personal circumstances, I’m pretty confident something’s weighing on you.
The Global Organization for Stress says 91% of adult Australians feel stressed in at least one important area of their lives; American teens name stress as a top concern; nearly half a million Brits feel work-related stress has made them ill; and depression — which can result from chronic stress — is among the leading causes of disability worldwide.
Because, yeah, these are stressful times. Your soul may feel battered by catastrophes on the other side of the world or distressing circumstances in your own backyard. Your blood may boil daily because of an over-demanding job, strained relationships, a bad living situation or even a frustrating commute to work.
Many of these stressors exist beyond our control. But we can control how we respond to them — starting with these five simple ways to combat stress in your life.
1. LIMIT YOUR TIME ONLINE
Like processed carbs and refined sugars, social media can elicit cravings, give an initial boost of pleasure, then leave you feeling blah afterwards. The mental exhaustion of maintaining multiple accounts (Respond to these emails! Tweet that thought! Post your lunch! Acknowledge each comment!) — plus the twinges of inadequacy that follow a scroll through your friends’ perfectly curated lives — inevitably take their toll. For example, a fascinating study by The Happiness Institute in Denmark (and Denmark knows about happiness) finds that people on Facebook are 55% more likely to be stressed. So just turn it all off for a few days.
2. GET IN THE MOMENT
If a constant swirl of worries spinning through your head leaves you in a chronic state of stress, just imagine the sweet relief of a clear mind centered on nothing but the present. This is essentially the promise of mindfulness, and its ability to reduce stress is compelling. Not sure how to begin? Check out Gabrielle Bernstein's 1-minute meditation routine that you can do anytime, anywhere
3. PUCKER UP
Andrea Demirijian literally wrote the book on kissing, and she knows stress-reduction is one of kissing’s magical powers. “If you're feeling stressed or rundown, a little kissing,” Demirjian tells CNN, “[will] relax, restore and revitalize you.” She attributes this to chemicals set off by physical intimacy, such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. If there are no appealing lips around, hugging is a solid alternative.
4. WRITE WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND
Grab a fresh notebook and pen, set a timer for, say, 15 minutes. Now just write how you’re feeling. Don’t lift your pen, don’t pause to edit your last sentence, don’t worry about what others will think. This is just for you. Crumble it up and throw away your paper when you’re done, if you like. This expressive writing can help organize your thoughts, give meaning to traumatic experiences, regulate your emotions and, importantly, derail that train of stressful thoughts.
5. TAKE A WALK THROUGH A GREEN SPACE
The benefits of exercise in countering stress are well chronicled, but even a sweatless stroll through a grassy park can do wonders for the mind. According to a study by scientists at Heriot-Watt University in the U.K., walking through green spaces puts your brain in a meditative state. Jenny Roe, who oversaw the study, explains that natural environments effortlessly engage the mind; this light “involuntary attention,” as psychologists call it, essentially allows your stressed brain to reset and recover.
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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash