Is there any less helpful advice than "chill out"? At some point in your life — likely in a high-pressure, high-stress situation — someone has given you this directive, and it's had the opposite effect on you. Yes, it would be fantastic to exist in a consistently chilled-out state, but being an adult can get in the way. "Chill out" implies that stress is all in your head, which can be frustrating. Life isn't all unicorns and umbrella drinks (though a girl can dream!), so learning how to recognize and manage stress is an essential part of life.
Despite your "chill" friend's advice, stress is completely natural, and it's not just in your head. You're probably familiar with its physical effects. When I'm super-stressed, I feel like a malfunctioning humanoid — suddenly everything that is second nature (remembering why I walked into a room, simple arithmetic, breathing) is incredibly difficult. My body is trying to tell me that I'm stressed, and I'm just not listening. Whether it's taking me an inordinate amount of time to get out my front door or I've decided that popcorn is a thing that one should eat for dinner, I start to feel out of sorts before I realize why.
Over time, I've realized that there are a ton of physical signs that will remind me to pump the brakes when I feel like things are spinning out of control. To explore this further, we've partnered with Secret Clinical Strength® to examine a day in the life of your stressed-out self — and coach you through it. We'll leave you with a bit of advice that's much better than "chill out": The world will not end because you're a little stressed today. Now, repeat that 10 times.
Stage #1: You Can't Find Your Keys... Again.
That "feeling-like-you're-going-crazy" thing I mentioned before? There's actually some scientific evidence to support the fact that you're not literally losing your mind, you're just stressed. (Studies have shown that chronic stress can have “transient effects” on both your spatial and working memory.) As a naturally forgetful person, this is the bane of my existence.
What to do: If you're frantically tearing through your room, STOP. BREATHE. Now, try these tricks via Gretchen Rubin, which seem so obvious but utterly ingenious. Step one? "Look where it's supposed to be." (Duh.) If you can't find it, be methodical about searching around the area where it would be. You got this!
Stage #2: Now You're Late. And Now You Can't Find Your Phone. Aaaand You're Sweating.
So your first problem just led to a second one. Because you've been frantically running around in a panic, you're probably sweating — and this type of sweat tends to make you a bit... stinky. Stress sweat (versus regular "heat sweat") originates from your apocrine glands, which are mostly located in your armpits and groin. This kind of sweat contains more lipids and proteins than heat sweat, which will react with bacteria on your skin to create that oh-so-special stank.
What to do: There’s not a lot you can do to combat your body’s biological responses, but you can prepare with a swipe of Secret Clinical Strength® Anti-Perspirant before your big presentation. Better yet, apply it the night before for all-day stress sweat protection. (It's designed to be activated at night to take advantage of your body’s natural temperature variations. So there's no need to reapply in the morning — even after you shower.)
Stage #3: You Have A Huge Presentation & You Can't Seem To Calm Down
In a moderately stressful scenario, your racing heart is likely your body’s classic “fight or flight” response speaking, brought on by a rush of cortisol (aka, “the stress hormone).
What to do: Take some deep breaths, splash some water on your face, and cut back on that coffee.
Stage #4: Cue The Attack Of The Killer Pimple
You might be familiar with stress-related acne: raised levels of cortisol (that devious hormone!) may increase your skin's production of oil, leading to greasy skin. But for now, you care less about a science lesson and more about the fact that you have a giant zit on your face right before a stressful meeting.
What to do: In the moment, try rubbing an ice cube on the blemish to reduce inflammation, and make sure you always have a killer concealer handy. If you've been stressed out for say, weeks, you might have been inconsistent with your skin-care routine, or aren't sleeping enough, or are leaning on junk food or alcohol to chill out.
Stage #5: You Ask Yourself, 'Candy Counts As Lunch... Right?'
"I need to get my blood sugar up," you say. "It'll give me energy," you say. I'm sorry to break it to you, but we both know that a candy bar will only bring momentary bliss — and then a hard sugar crash later. Though it's hard to pinpoint the sole cause of so-called "stress eating," raised cortisol and insulin levels may be to blame.
What to do: There are certain foods that may help alleviate stress — dark chocolate among them. Just make sure you have a decent meal, because if you're stressed and hungry, your attention span will be... what were we talking about, again?
Stage #6: It's 3 A.M., But You Need To Watch One... Last... Episode.
You thought your stressful day was done once you hit the pillow, but your body's still going a million miles an hour. If you're me, you turn on a TV show but then get sucked into a multi-episode marathon before you know it. And then when you're trying to sleep, you get even more stressed.
What to do: Close that laptop! Your "stories" can wait. In general, you should avoid electronics, caffeine, and anything that'll stress you out before bed — including suspenseful TV shows. You might have to experiment with a few techniques to help you sleep better at night, but the most important thing is developing a reliable routine.