The holiday season brings with it joy, laughter, a few creeping pounds, family time, and yep...stress. November 4th, 2015 was National Stress Awareness Day which almost seems like it was in preparation for the turkey-and-Santa-filled drama that comes with the holiday territory. Being a college student, stress is no stranger to me. Sometimes I feel like stress is this guy who comes and checks into my mind, leaving his hat and coat at the door, staying indefinitely. And sometimes I think we like to glamorize our stress. It’s like we think that the more stressed we are, the more productive we are, which is actually quite the opposite of reality.
Sadly, whatever our season of life is, whatever the job or situation, we are most likely to be experiencing some type of stress. The unfortunate thing is that the human body doesn’t know the difference between our stresses. Whether we’re approaching impending doom or someone is mad at us, our body’s stress response is triggered no matter what the level or magnitude of stress. Fortunately, we also have a relaxation response trigger during which our bodies de-stress.
The theme for 2015’s National Stress Awareness Day was “Employee Wellbeing as a Worthwhile Investment in Your Business”, so here are some ways to de-stress in your office (or wherever you find yourself):
1. Stretch out your body.
Take a walk. Stand up. Do some office yoga. There’s a Huffington post article titled “5 Office Yoga Poses (That Won’t Freak Out Your Co-Workers)” with good poses to get your blood flowing. Obviously it’s not good to sit over your computer day in and day out like the Hunchback – stretch out your body.
2. Stretch out your mind.
Take a mental vacation. Breathe. Take some time to meditate. Look at pictures reflecting happy moments in your life. Going back to those memories and taking a few moments to quietly reminisce will help you switch out of functioning in the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight) and start functioning in the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation).
3. Treat yo’ self.
Eating (in moderation!) is really good for rejuvenation. Stress eating doesn’t have to be all bad. Eat a banana or potato (rich in potassium) to regulate your high-stress blood pressure – it will help with energy and recovery. Eating something sweet helps soothe the production of stress hormones; keep a bowl of Hershey’s kisses or peppermints on your desk to avoid binge eating while still reaping the benefits of the h-a-p-p-y feelings. “The connection between the gut and brain is huge and lots of interesting data supports the idea that the gut is a major mediator of the stress response,” says Dr. Drew Ramsey in a Huffington Post article. “Stress is a brain and immune system mediated phenomena, and your gut is the largest organ in your immune system.”
4. Have a creative outlet (or two or three or ten).
Doodle on your lunch napkin, listen to some music, keep crafty things like coloring books and knitting needles in your desk, and keep a journal and pen with you. There are studies that have been performed showing that an individual’s writing that is classified as emotional, valuable, and personal can help strengthen their immune system. A creative you is a healthy you – physically and mentally.
Wherever you find yourself, and whatever stress you are experiencing, try one of these anti-stress triggers to calm down. They will help keep you from going postal on your co-workers or hiding under your desk and hyperventilating. Of course, there’s more de-stress techniques than the ones I’ve listed… how are you de-stressing?