It seems like everyone and their mother is a victim of stress these days; even those people who look oh-so put together and organized get anxious too, don't get it twisted. Stress isn't something we'll be able to eradicate anytime soon, but that doesn't mean we have to accept it when it's nagging at us. Because we go into autopilot thinking pretty often, especially when we're worrying, the cognitive part of our brains avoids paying close attention to the small things we do every day — yet those are the habits that are probably stealing away sanity and relaxation, and we can't afford to live without either.
So where do we start if we want to chill out a bit more? We just take it one step at a time. Maybe you gradually go to sleep a little earlier each night, then slowly cut out the sugar-packed Twix bar(s) you always reach for during the mid-afternoon slump. There will definitely be times when stress inadvertently falls into your lap, but during the moments in between those incidents, you can alter a few patterns in your daily life that will keep you even-keeled — then, the anxious bits don't seem so earth-shattering.
Don't forget to avoid the obvious stuff, like sitting in front of the TV for too long and eating a whole tub of Ben and Jerry's, but here are nine more little things to avoid if you want to keep stress away.
1. Posting Too Much on Social Media
Over-sharing what happens every weekend with pictures and status updates is setting you up to feel inadequate, because you automatically start comparing yourself to others. Stephanie Mansour, a certified lifestyle coach for women, told Healthline that we end up stewing in anxiety when we use Facebook too much, because we start to determine our own self-worth and happiness based on what's happening in our friends' lives. Being vulnerable with people close to us is important, but we need to learn how to draw ourselves a healthy boundary, so limit yourself on social media to just a few minutes a day, and see what happens.
2. Worrying About Money You Already Spent
Dwelling on the past is never a good thing, but when you do it with money, you're just asking for stress to weigh on you. What's spent is spent, and the more you think about it, the more you feel yucky. Instead, look forward; make a game plan of how you want to spend money next week and create a concrete budget to prevent it from happening again.
3. Not Eating Enough
This happens too often to folks who are trying to lose weight. There's nothing wrong with shedding a few pounds — if your overall health requires it — but when you eat too few calories, you end up irritable and moody. The body goes into craving mode and stressful chemicals are released in your system that stop you from feeling emotionally balanced. Instead of cutting back on meals, just make healthier choices every day; incorporate complex carbs and whole grains, and reach for fiber-rich foods that will stop you from overeating later.
4. Automated Customer Service Calls
OK, so you probably knew this one stresses you out. Humans like to talk to other humans, so when a phone call consists of an computerized message that tells you to push four different numbers, only to hear "more options," there's no wonder it leaves us antsy. These chats take away body language and facial expressions, two things we need to understand the dialogue, so we feel off balance when we call an airline to see if our flight has been delayed. Avoid these devilish encounters at all costs, and always try to check if your question can be answered online first.
5. Too Much Noise
Research shows that surrounding environmental noise can actually be a health threat, messing up our sleep cycles and causing indigestion. Les Blomberg, executive director of the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse (yes, that's a thing), told Woman's Health that this past decade has been the noisiest in the history of mankind. Cars honk, people yell into their phones, and trains whiz by. Maybe start sleeping with earbuds in order to block out the unwanted sounds or make time to escape to somewhere quiet.
6. Looking Disheveled
You don't have to doll up Kardashian-style by any means, but putting yourself together in a presentable way makes a huge difference in your relaxation levels. Unfortunately, there's a strong connection between how you look and how the world sees you. If you constantly walk out in sweatpants and hair that hasn't been washed in a few days, you probably won't get positive responses from others, and that will leave you feeling uneasy.
Come up with a quick routine that includes a hair brush and a swipe of mascara — or whatever else makes you feel put-together — and you'll be surprised at how much better you can make yourself feel.
7. Not Laughing Enough
Did you know laughing is considered a medical treatment now? It's used to reduce inflammation and decrease pain, as well as calm a worrying mind. You're instantly flooded with more endorphins and dopamine, two hormones that combat stress on your behalf. It's the quickest way to feel relaxed, leading to a better overall mood. Pop on a funny podcast or just go visit your friends, who always manage to have you cracking up.
8. Being Late
This tip is mainly for myself, because, even after all these years on planet Earth, time is still a foreign concept. Being chronically late has its downsides: it throws your whole day into a downward spiral, shakes up important relationships, and leaves you feeling frantic. None of these contribute to a chill day.
Plan ahead — as in, get everything ready the night before, not the morning of — and reward yourself when you get to work at 9 a.m. sharp.
The beloved sister of running late, procrastination also burdens you with unnecessary anxiety. Studies conducted back in the 1920s proved that pushing back responsibilities directly stresses you out. When you prevent yourself from getting a task done, a part of your brain keeps nagging at you until it gets finished, which instantly sparks disquietude.
Soothe your mind and find a system that helps you complete the important stuff, whether it's laundry or finally getting your health insurance paperwork done. If you're not sure how to get started in the first place, don't worry, we've got you covered.
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