Coping with stress is something we probably all could use some tips on, so it's a good thing new research has revealed an unexpected way of managing stress: According to a study published in Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, experiencing a large stressful event can actually help you to manage smaller everyday stresses. Are you surprised that one type of stress can essentially help you to manage another type of stress? Who knew, right?
The research was conducted by a team from North Carolina State University, who studied 45 adults between the ages of 60 and 96. First, they asked the participants to recount whether they've experienced a major stressful event in the last year, such as the death of a family member or close friend. Then, they asked the participants about the minor daily stresses they experienced over a period of eight days. Then, to determine these participants "general sense of well being and vitality," the researchers asked them to gauge how old they felt, how old they would wish to be, and how old they felt they appeared each day.
What they found was that those who had experienced a major stressful event in the last year were less affected by smallers daily stressors: These participants didn't fluctuate much between how old they felt from day to day. In contrast, those who had not experienced a major stressful event were more likely to feel older on the days that they had a lot of minor stressors.
“We found they seemed to be less perturbed by everyday stress,” Jennifer Bellingtier, a Ph.D candidate at the university, told TIME. Although the study was small, the findings suggest that our stressful life events can lead to us being less phased by smaller stressful situations — basically, it's another way of saying what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. This conventional wisdom seems to hold up, scientifically.
It turns out that this isn't the only study that has found an unconventional way of managing stress, so let's take a look at five other unexpected methods you can use:
1. Do Something Fun
Although you might think that getting down to business when you're stressed is how you can get more off of your plate, you might want to consider doing the opposite. Taking a break and doing something fun can be a natural way to help fight off stress, according to the American Heart Association. "You don't have to do a lot to find pleasure. Even if you're ill or down, you can find pleasure in simple things such as going for a drive, chatting with a friend or reading a good book," the organization says.
2. Take A Walk
You might already know that exercise helps to relieve stress, but even just taking a 10-minute walk has been shown to be just as effective for stress relief as a 45 minute workout. So the next time you're stressing out, go outside and clear your head.
3. Change Jobs
A Harvard study found that a healthy workplace is crucial to being able to deal with workplace stress — and that working in a high-stress environment correlates with dying three years earlier than those who don't experience a lot of workplace stress. So if you're someone who is forced to work long hours, doesn't have insurance, have job insecurity, or suffer from a work/family conflict, you might want to consider looking for new employment to help you manage job-related stress.
4. Chew Gum
One study found that those who chewed gum when they were anxious were able to lower their cortisol levels by 18 percent. The researchers theorize that chewing gum increases blood flow to the brain, which can help you to refocus. Next time you're feeling anxious, whip out your pack of gum and get chewing.
5. Get Some Plants
A study out of Washington State University found that those who worked with plants in their office were more productive, had lower blood pressure, and had less job-related anxiety than those who worked plantless. Get yourself some house and office plants, ASAP.