Kicking Stress to the Curb

Up in Tallahassee, the fall college semester is in full swing, as are stress and sleep deprivation. I tell you this because I know this is not a phenomenon exclusive to the student community and I know you all either have been or are currently there, as well.

Today, it feels like a good idea to delve into some ways to tune out the outside world and tone down our stress and anxiety levels. We all know the world can be a harsh place and at any given moment, you might have about one hundred tasks on your to-do list. However, the second you give up on your own sanity, you are literally giving in to distress and despair, which could increase your blood pressure and negatively impact your health in more ways than you could possibly imagine. So do something about it.

Let’s start off with sleep. I certainly am the first to admit that I don’t get enough of it and I can probably safely assume that most of my readers don’t, either. Just because you manage to wake up in the morning and get through the day without passing out at your desk does NOT mean that your body is coping with the exhaustion. It is bound to catch up to you and it really takes a toll on your brain. Your body relies on a regular sleep schedule to repair and restore your body. Thus, when you think you can skate by with less than 7 hours, you are sorely mistaken.

Just as a caveat… naps really don’t count. They also have the potential to make your sleep issues worse since you are throwing your circadian rhythms off kilter. Naps that last more than about 30 minutes are probably making your life more difficult and there is a pretty decent chance you will wake up from those feeling groggy and more exhausted than you did before the nap. Combine this with the upcoming inability to fall asleep that night and you have a recipe for disaster. Do yourself a favor, relax and make your room an ideal environment for getting a good night’s sleep. Then actually give yourself the opportunity and proper conditions to get that sleep. Your body, and the rest of the world when you’re significantly less high-strung, will thank you.

Try hitting the gym or channeling your stress through some physical activity. A lot of my friends love the gym and feel more motivated to push themselves when they feel tense and need some release. I personally get bored at the gym, but trying out a sport or taking a walk do wonders in clearing your head. Even if it’s just a small pickup game with some friends, you’ll let your hair down (so to speak) and find yourself feeling a lot more relaxed with all those endorphins that will be flowing in your bloodstream. Not to mention that it is definitely more advantageous to fight a punching bag than to snap on one of your coworkers… or worse, your boss. Yikes.

Cut out the caffeine. I know you think you need it, no one knows better than I do. If you’re relying on caffeine to get through the day, though, you are likely to crash and when you can’t afford to do so, you might legitimately feel like you are losing your mind. Plus, symptoms of dehydration somewhat mimic those of anxiety and stress. We’re talking elevated heart rate, nausea, fatigue, headaches, etc. So it’s really to your benefit to consume water rather than diuretics that are loaded with caffeine and sugar. Once you get through the withdrawal/detox phase, you’ll really notice a difference and it will certainly take the edge off.

Stress eating is a hard no. Put down the Cheetos, PLEASE. If you are the kind of person (like myself) who reaches for a cupcake or a bag of chips when you feel like your world is closing in on you, there is a much simpler and beneficial solution. Eat a better, more balanced diet throughout the day. This will not only reduce your stress levels (the brussel sprouts might actually be good for something), but you will feel better and be less likely to go for the junk food for a sense of relief from your daily worries.

Finally, try to give yourself some time to focus on YOU and no one/nothing else. I promise, the world can wait 30 minutes while you collect yourself because you are no good to your employer, friends, or family if you are having a nervous breakdown on your office floor. Try yoga, tai chi, meditation, or anything that deals with deep breathing. Not only is this good for your body, but zeroing in on nothing but the mechanics of your breathing really helps you to drown out the world around you and calm yourself down. If you’re ever feeling yourself approaching a panic, you can actually prevent it by stretching or taking a series of deep breaths.

Take this to heart and there should be no need for you to take a chill pill. Take control over your life, own your stressors and make sure you are taking care of yourself so you don’t succumb to stress somewhere along the way. Namaste, everyone and happy Friday!