6 Everyday Things That Relieve Stress When You Feel Straight Up Overwhelmed
You know how, when someone asks how you're doing, the almost automatic response is “good,” “fine,” or basically anything neutral-sounding that cuts the time you spend engaging in small talk by half? Well, as much as I think you and I should feel comfortable being completely candid about how we’re actually feeling in any given moment, it's also important to find ways to ease whatever bad vibes you're feeling. According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) findings, millennials are hella stressed, and it’s no secret that if you don’t implement everyday things that relieve stress into your routine, the anxiety you feel is bound to build and, eventually, overwhelm both your body and your mind. So now that I think of it, I probably don’t even have to ask how you’re feeling because, if the APA's research means anything at all, I think I might already have an idea.
Per the APA’s annual Stress In America Survey, conducted by Harris Poll in August 2017, millennials have the “highest reported stress levels,” with things like the state of the economy, personal finances, and health care all triggering anxiety. Lucky us, right?
This shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, though, considering millennials definitely have it kind of rough, coming out of college with mounds of student loan debt and the pressure of a very competitive job market weighing on their shoulders. Still, just because times are tough right now, that doesn’t necessarily mean your mental health has to suffer, right? Plus, according to new research, the way you handle everyday stressors could be pretty consequential for your long-term well-being.
Researchers from Cornell University performed two experiments, the results of which have been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, to see how stress affected tree swallows in the long run. Now, I know what you must be thinking: What the heck do birds have to do with how humans respond to stress? Well, according to the researchers, all animals with a vertebrate respond pretty similarly to stress. So, in order to find out if stress really does affect your health in the long-term, ScienceDaily reports, the team dissolved a stress hormone called glucocorticoid into a gel, and applied the gel onto the swallows' eggs to see how the bird responded when the hormone absorbed into their skin. The results showed that swallows that internalized stress fed their babies less, proving that short-term stressors really can have long-term effects.
For their second experiment, the researchers captured swallows, documented their stress levels, and let them go, only for the birds to then be exposed to the same stress hormone in the first round of the study. Once the hormone was absorbed, according to ScienceDaily, the team analyzed how much time it took for the birds’ stress levels to fall. In the end, their findings showed that birds that were “more naturally stress resilient are those that are better able to turn off this response,” lead study author Maren Vitousek, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, said in a statement. In other words, those who can't handle stress that well in the moment, will most likely feel the negative effects of that anxiety in the long-term.
So what does this all mean for you? It’s actually pretty simple: The more you learn to adapt to and work through stress, the less your body and mind will suffer in the long run. The key is to find ways to de-stress a little at a time, and to do so, here are a few everyday stress-busters to utilize now before you reach that boiling point later.
Take A Break In A Quiet Space For A Sec
I know myself, and when I'm feeling particularly overwhelmed, the last thing I need is to be surrounded by other people, especially if said people are talking loudly. If this sounds familiar, and you need a quiet space to decompress and collect your thoughts, too, no worries: Duck into an empty conference room, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom, or — worst case scenario, if there's literally no out in sight — put in a pair of headphones and zone out to some tunes.
"Finding a quiet room where you can relax is a good first step," Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine, Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, tells Elite Daily over email. Once you've found that quiet spot, he says, you can meditate, or even try a few calming breathing exercises, which will help combat stress and, in turn, the way your body physically responds to it.
Put Your Phone Down And Try Being Social IRL
Trust me, I know how tempting it is to mentally shut down a bit when you're feeling really stressed out. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is strike up a conversation with a co-worker or join your squad at happy hour after a super hectic day.
But here's the thing: Vegging out on the couch and replaying every last detail in your mind of what went wrong that day probably isn't going to make you feel better, and neither will scrolling through everyone's seemingly fabulous lives on Instagram. Instead, give social media a break, and push yourself to be social outside the digital world we all know and loathe.
"Spend time with people who are supportive and/or distracting," Dr. Sherry Benton, founder and chief science officer of TAO Connect, tells Elite Daily. The less time you spend ruminating on your stress, the better you'll feel.
Work Out To Work Through It
Endorphins make you happy, remember? Rather than mentally checking out for the evening and burying yourself under a mountain of blankets and comfort food, Benton suggests actively working off the stress with a good sweat sesh.
"Good aerobic exercise several times per week uses up the adrenaline you release when you are experiencing stress," she tells Elite Daily. So TiVo The Bachelor and go for a run around the block, hit the gym to lift heavy, or do some relaxing yoga stretches to clear your mind before bed. The more you work out, the more stress you'll work off.
Force A Smile And Fake It Until You Feel It
When I'm in a bad mood, my husband will look me in the eye and demand I smile really big, teeth and all. It sounds corny, and maybe even a bit irritating, I know, but let me tell you, it really does work like a charm. You know the age-old saying, "change your mind, change your world"? It's a similar concept, because when you force yourself to smile and keep that smirk up all day long, eventually you'll start to feel its effects.
Once Anne Grady, author of the book Strong Enough, made up her mind to smile regardless of what the day had in store for her, she was convinced that engaging in this seemingly small act — even when you feel like you don't want to do it at all in the moment — can help turn a bad day into a good one, she tells Elite Daily. So turn that frown upside down, even if it feels a little silly. After all, what can it hurt?
Focus On The Positives By Drafting A Gratitude List
Got gratitude? Everyone's thankful for something, even if it's as simple as the delicious cup of coffee you sipped on your commute into the office this morning. But alas, the second life starts to get a little hectic, it's easy to forget about being grateful and hone in on everything going haywire instead. So, to bring yourself back to feeling appreciative, Julie Potiker, a mindfulness expert and author of the book Life Falls Apart, But You Don’t Have To, suggests writing down everything that brought you joy on any given day, in a journal, on your phone, or even on a sticky note.
"You only have to write the list once, unless you discover new things that bring you joy along the way," Potiker tells Elite Daily. "When you are feeling joy, remember to let it fill you up for a few breaths so that you are installing that positive mental state and rewiring your brain for more happiness and resilience."
Laugh At Every Chance You Get
I know for a fact that I don't laugh enough, and I blame this on the fact that I'm pretty stiff. But life doesn't have to always feel so serious, and in the grand scheme of things, if you miss a deadline once in a while, or spill coffee all over a new pair of white jeans, it's not the end of the world. Life goes on, and so will you, so take the little indiscretions with a grain of salt and always take advantage of any opportunity to laugh.
"I look for humor wherever I can find it," Grady tells Elite Daily. From a phone call with her husband, to chats with friends, and even on random billboards. "A billboard for butt paste (diaper cream) made me giggle. It really did say 'Butt Paste,'" she says.
Seriously, life's too short not to lighten up, so do your best to stress a little less and belly-laugh often, my friend.