Take a look around you. Pick up a newspaper, turn on the television, and listen to the radio. The world is in trouble. Stock markets are collapsing. Global currency markets are the most volatile they’ve been in years. Food prices are through the roof. Is it the end of the world as we know it? Well, despite what a few talking heads are telling us, perhaps not. Things are pretty bad, but maybe not quite as catastrophic as the media would like us to believe. The price of a barrel of crude oil is back well below $100 and is expected to fall further still. This means that at least driving to pick up your unbelievably-expensive groceries won’t set you back quite as much as it did this time last month. Still, whether we’re on our way into a recession or not, people are undoubtedly feeling the pinch. Times do appear to be hard. And when times turn hard, folk get stressed. While it’s certainly true that some sources of stress are too broad and deep-seated for quick fixes and require significantly deeper analyses and often counselling, everyday trials and tribulations can often be countered with quite simple but often productive steps. You just have to take action. More specifically, you just have to want to take action.
Here are ten tried and tested ways to help you turn that frown upside down:
Eat The Right Foods
Many foods have properties that can take the edge off of your stressful day. Add some of these to your diet, and reap the benefits:
Almonds – Almonds are packed with vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin E, magnesium and zinc, a combination that helps increase your production of serotonin, which improves your mood and relieves stress. A handful of almonds a day goes a long, long way.
Fish – Fish, particularly the oily kind (salmon, mackerel) are packed with all manner of vitamins and minerals, including those all-important B vitamins mentioned above. Try to eat three portions of oily fish per week.
Wholegrain Pasta – Wholegrain pasta is not only extremely tasty – I put it to you that you won’t notice the difference between 100 per cent wholegrain pasta and the stuff you eat now (which is likely 100 per cent durum wheat, which is not the same thing as wholegrain) – but nutritionally very sound. White foods like white bread, rice, potatoes and pasta – the so-called simple carbs – spike your insulin levels leaving you prone to ‘sugar crashes’ later in the day (as well as going a long way to helping you pile on the pounds).
Wholegrain foods, meantime – and this includes breads and rice, as well as pasta – have a ‘slow carb’ effect which means the body digests them more slowly, ensuring your energy levels do not spike and crash, keeping you happier for a longer period of time. Other mood-enhancing foods you might try include blueberries, broccoli and lean beef.
Here’s the deal – life feels better when you are running. Furthermore, life feels better after you have run, too. When you’re out there pounding the streets (trails, track or treadmill), step by step, one foot in front of the other, there’s a certain something you’re looking for. A moment. Some people call it ‘The Zone’. Others refer to it as running Zen. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it yourself. For me, I knew I was in this zone when my body felt like it was made up of two different parts. The best way to describe it is a feeling like my upper body was ‘me’, and it (and I) was sitting on my legs, which were independent and doing all of the running work. I – the top half – was just along for the ride on the working bottom half. It was a feeling somewhat akin to being in the passenger seat of a car. Running automatically alters your mood simply through the release of endorphins. These naturally-occurring hormones attach themselves to receptors on the brain and spinal cord to combat pain, which triggers an euphoric feeling – often called ‘runner’s high’ – that is a great stress-buster.
Additionally, after a run I always go through an extended period of feeling ‘well’ or content. This, again, is a somewhat Zen-like state of mind – a feeling of being centred. I find myself feeling significantly more calm and collected than I did before I ran. It can last anything from an hour to the rest of the day. Running has all manner of positive effects on the body.
· It burns a significant amount of energy. As such, it is one of the best ways to achieve your ideal body weight
· It raises your metabolism
· It is a great way to improve cardiovascular health
· It lowers blood pressure
· Because it strengthens bones, tendons and central nervous system, it can help slow down the aging process
Have More Sex – Especially In The Morning
While this isn’t a practical option for everybody, for those that can – do. Studies have shown that people are less stressed out before important events like public speaking, meetings or sport events (the boxing thing is a myth), than if they have had sex beforehand, as opposed to those times they abstained. After sex, people feel fulfilled and energized. It makes sense that this can only improve the rest of your day.
Learn To Power Nap
By mid-afternoon, most people, especially after a typically Western meal, are naturally sleepy. It’s no coincidence that it is at these times that you will typically feel most stressed (and most likely to vocalise that feeling). It’s a total cliché, but one of the most effective ways to deal with stress is, literally, to ‘sleep on it’. As one matures into an adult, society tends to look down on those who nap; indeed, a country like Spain, which functions around a culture where the siesta is not only the norm, but actively encouraged, are often considered lazy or old-fashioned by other, particularly Western nations. In South Asia, and notably Japan, post-lunch naps are common. Many Japanese offices feature special ‘napping rooms’ that allow workers to rest after meals or periods of overtime. And for good reason, too – the power nap is a very effective way to not only decrease stress, but to increase productivity. Durations of 20-30 minutes are recommended as this prevents the napper entering but failing to complete a full sleep cycle (which can be quite detrimental to mental health).
The actual length of time required will vary from person to person, but you should wake after your nap feeling refreshed and energetic, not lethargic or dazed. Some advocates recommend a moderate intake of caffeine immediately prior to napping. These caffeine naps are considered to be doubly-effective as caffeine typically takes about 20 minutes to take effect. Hence, the person wakes from the nap with extra energy.
Writing it all down is a great way to take the edge off of your life. Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s one that really does work – putting pen to paper (or, in its more modern sense, pixels to screen) and getting everything you’re worried or obsessing about ‘out there’ can make you far more objective and pragmatic about the steps you then need to make to take care of it all. And if you don’t fancy starting a blog yourself, try reading somebody else’s. Believe me – anything and everything that has happened to you has (and is) happening to somebody else. Find comfort in your lack of solitude. There are people who have not only experienced what you’re going through, but have come out the other side, often with fantastic advice.
Go Lift Some Weights
It’s pretty ironic that the time when you are least likely to hit the gym – when you’ve had a bad day – is the time when you most need to go. Like running, lifting weights can reap enormous benefits for body and mind. Furthermore, regular trips to the gym will ensure that you’re more capable of handling stressful situations before they get on top of you.
Like running, lifting weights releases those lovely endorphins into the body
It raises your metabolism
It fills your body with energy
It can improve your posture
Improvements in body shape will boost your self-esteem
Stronger skeletal muscles can decrease skeletal pain (i.e., your back)
Therefore, not only can a session at the gym have an immediate improvement on your mood, but the effects of a regular program can really make a difference to your life.
Primal therapy is a form of psychotherapy where the patient is encouraged to relive events, often by screaming or crying to achieve catharsis. As psychological defenses are broken down, the individual experiences a feeling of calm and well-being. During periods of high stress, it is very easy for a person to resort to raising their voice in an often vain attempt to make their point or position understood. In an argument the person who begins shouting first is often considered to be admitting defeat – that their hope is by raising their voice they can somehow overpower their opponent, even after the logic of their reasoning has failed. However, shouting or screaming, in and of itself, can be an excellent way to rid the body of stress. Here’s the best way to do it:
1. Get into your car.
2. Drive to somewhere as far away as possible. Make sure it’s a safe place, but it’s important to be as isolated as you can be. You needn’t even leave your car if that is an issue – just make sure you are out of earshot.
3. Scream. Vent. Shout. Rage. Yell. Cry.
4. Once it’s all out of your system, drive back.
Believe me – you will feel a lot better. And nobody else needs to know.
Wait a second. Hear me out on this one. I know lots of people think golf is boring. And I know lots of those same people have never played golf. That doesn’t matter. Very few things on this earth are as therapeutic and calming as going to a driving range and whacking away at hundreds of balls. It doesn’t matter if you have a scratch handicap or you’ve never picked up a pitching wedge in your entire life – hitting those little white balls feels great. Particularly on those rare moments when you connect perfectly with the sweet spot on the face of the club. Indeed, it’s those once- or twice-a-round occurrences – where you feel like a pro – that keep all club players coming back for more.
This might include watching a movie or a sitcom, reading a book, playing with your kids or simply entering the word ‘jokes’ into Google and lapping it all up. Laughter really is the best medicine. It completely detoxes the feeling of stress. While the idea of popping one of your favourite comedies into the DVD player seems like the last thing you want to do during those moments when you’re feeling at your most stressed, it can reap almost instant benefits.
Smash, Like Hulk!
Smashing stuff is a really effective way to take care of your bad day. There’s something about destroying harmless inanimate objects that really hits the spot. The problem is, while storming into our own living rooms and destroying everything in our path might feel like a great idea for, oh, about two minutes, the after-effects of such a decision is inevitably going to make us feel a whole lot worse.
So, what can we break? Here are some ideas:
· Glass – The sound of glass smashing at a bottle bank is very satisfying.
· Wood – We all have an old chair we hate. Its time has come. The good thing about this option is you can even use power tools.
· Cardboard – Save up cardboard boxes for your angriest days. Take them out to the yard. Stamp on them.
· Clothes – Declutter your wardrobe and find all the old clothes you’ve kept that you know you’re never going to wear again. Filter out anything that even the charity shops won’t touch. Now tear it into strips, Hulk-style. Ripping up an old t-shirt feels great. Tip: It’s even better if you – or your partner – are actually wearing it at the time.
· Sand – Go to the beach and spend hours building a sandcastle that is both technically impressive and formidable in size. Stand back and admire your work. Now smash it to bits. Really get in there, like you’re a wild animal or something. (Important: smashing up somebody else’s sandcastle is bullying and does not have the consent of this blog. Look out for those skinny guys – they fight until they’re burger.)
So what are you waiting for? Pick one or two things from the list above and de-stress yourself. And if you’re really stressed – if you really think the global economy is going down the toilet – maybe you should try them all?
- The Benefits of Running – Reduce Stress, Feel Better - thinkentrepreneurship.com
- How to De-Stress – stresstips.com
- Best Stress Relief Techniques - stresstips.com
- Stress Buster - stresstips.com