Guest post written by: Mary Kremer
I’m a pretty normal person. So I’m assuming that when I get into a cycle of stress and spiral into hopeless anxiety and sleeplessness, I am not alone in the world. I know that a certain amount of stress can motivate me to get on top of things. That’s how I wrote almost every paper of my undergrad. But too much stress and I’m nauseated, I get daily headaches, I can’t sleep and I’m constantly anxious. Here are some methods I’ve found that have helped me manage my stress over the years. Try them out! They might help you like they’ve helped me.
If you feel yourself stressing out, take a break and call a friend or loved one. In the past few years, I’ve tried to take a break in the middle of every day and call my mom or my husband. I have found that I have to schedule time for my relationships, just like I would schedule time for work or school. Even though I need my friends, my relationships are usually the first thing to suffer when I’m really stressed. However, when I make an effort to reach out, talking to someone takes my mind off my current stressors and releases stress in the long run.
Listen to Music
This one’s pretty simple, but when I find myself in a spiral of stress, I try to slow down and listen to some soft music for a bit. I find that classical music works best for me. If classical music isn’t your thing, try some ocean waves or white noise. Just try to avoid loud or fast music. Even if it’s upbeat, I’ve found that fast music only heightens my stress. If you want the straight up science, calm music can lower your blood pressure and reduce the levels of cortisol in your body, a hormone linked to stress.
Eating right and reducing stress go hand in hand. Unfortunately, when I get stressed, that’s usually when I spend less time shopping and preparing healthy food and more time eating out and snacking on fatty snacks. What I’ve learned is the extra effort is worth it. Eating more fruits and veggies can make your body feel better almost instantly. After a few days on a steady, healthy diet, you’ll find you have more energy and you just feel better.
To help me eat better, I’ve resorted to stocking up on food on the weekends. I try to keep my meals simple and plan everything out ahead of time. That way I have less to worry about during the workweek, when I’m most stressed.
This one is a little counterintuitive for me, because the first thing I want to do when I’m stressed and can’t focus is down a large soda. The caffeine often gives me a boost of energy. However, I found that oftentimes I’d feel even more stressed after the initial caffeine boost.
With a little research, I found that large doses of caffeine can put your HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) into overdrive. Your HPA controls your body’s reaction to stress. That means when you drink too much caffeine, you can literally simulate stress in your body. So just cut it out. It’ll be better for you mentally and physically.
Get some Exercise
Again, this is one of the first things I tend to skip over when I’m stressed, but it’s one of the best ways to relieve stress and start feeling better. And exercise doesn’t mean you have to hit the weights or even go to the gym. Just try going for a brisk, short walk a couple times a day. This should be enough to get your body going, releasing endorphins. If your office offers a gyms membership or has a couple treadmills in it (we convinced our boss to get a Sole Treadmill for the office, and it’s been wonderful), take advantage of those opportunities to get your body going.