I've been aware of the negative affects of stress for most of my life; I even did my eighth grade science project on how stress affects your health. Surprise! Stress can be detrimental to your mental, and physical wellbeing. There are plenty of reasons to feel stressed. Trump, anyone? But, how can you manage politics-induced stress?
Political stress is real, and a new survey indicates that thanks to politics, Americans are more stressed than ever. The survey, conducted by the American Psychological Association, indicates that political stress runs deep. The survey says that 57 percent of people who took part in the poll said they were stressed about the nation's current political climate; 66 percent were stressed about the future of the United States; and 49 percent were stressed about Trump being president.
During my eighth grade science project, I learned that the negative affects of stress can manifest in the form of mental, physical, and emotional issues. Personally, when I get too stressed, my chronic migraines kick in. This has become a litmus test for me, and indicates I need to make a change ASAP. On two separate occasions in my life I had migraines that lasted more than two months, and were so debilitating I was convinced I had a brain tumor. After getting an MRI both times, and learning (thankfully) that I was tumor-free, I was forced to face the fact that stress was at the crux of my problem, and the migraines were my body's way of telling me I needed to make a change. In both situations, eliminating the things that were causing me stress helped me turn things around.
If you're feeling the weight of the past few months, here are 11 ways you can take back your life before stress takes it over.
1. Unplug and Have a Tech-Free Day
I have a secret to tell you. Before the internet was invented, people got their news in the morning in the newspaper, and in the evening by watching the TV news. In today's ever-connected climate, it's easy to feel pressured to stay plugged in all day long, but it's actually not good for you to be online that much.
As little as three minutes of negative news can make you 27 percent more likely to have a bad day, and these days with the bad news looping 24/7, the odds are not on your side. Do yourself a favor and unplug from your devices at least one day a week. Spend time with your family and friends, get outside, read a book, or just rest.
2. Soak In the Tub
Baths aren't just for babies! They have myriad health benefits. I love baths. My last apartment had a giant 1930s porcelain bathtub, and you'd better believe I used it as often as I could. Some of the benefits of taking a bath include, reviving dull, dry skin, decreasing anxiety, reducing muscle pain and promoting restful sleep.
You can also add some things to your bath to increase the benefits. Epsom salt reduces inflammation, and coconut oil nourishes skin. Additionally, put some candles around the tub, and turn on your favorite music to help stress melt away.
If baths haven't been relieving your stress, you can take it one step further. Sensory deprivation tanks, also known as float thanks, have been touted as a way to relieve chronic anxiety, reduce stress, and promote overall wellbeing.
I tried floating last year, and I have to admit it was a pretty amazing experience. Basically you lie down in complete darkness in a giant tub of warm water filled of epsom salt for about an hour. It simulates a feeling of being back in the womb, calms your nervous system, and promotes a general feeling of calm. There are places popping up across the country where you can buy float memberships, but if you find floating really works for you, consider building your own sensory deprivation tank.
4. Try a Breathing Meditation
So people keep telling you to meditate. It's easy, they say. But your brain runs a million miles a minute, and meditating is hard. If you can't turn your brain off long enough for a passive sitting meditation, try this active medication instead.
I was introduced to breathwork meditation about five years ago. Basically you lie down like you would during shavasana at the end of yoga. Next you begin a three-part breathing exercise. Using your mouth, breathe in through your stomach, then your chest, then exhale the breath through your mouth. Because you have to concentrate on the active mouth breathing, your brain isn't able to run its endless cycle of madness.
You can download guided breathwork meditations, or make your own music playlist to breathe to. Some of the benefits of breathwork meditation include, reduced stress and anxiety, increased focus, and manifestation of goals.
5. Consider Aromatherapy
Now before you write this off as new-age mumbo jumbo, aromatherapy can enhance psychological, and physical well-being. According to Yale Scientific, the Mie University School of Medicine conducted a study that found that patients suffering from depression needed smaller doses of antidepressant medications after citrus fragrance treatment. Another study from the University of Vienna revealed that female patients exhibited decreased anxiety when the scent of orange oil was used in dental clinics.
I am scent-sensitive, which means that any artificial scents (like many used in perfume, cologne, and cleaning products) make me sick. This doesn't mean I can't take part in aromatherapy, just that I need to be sensitive about what scents I am using. If you're like me, stick to non-floral scents that are made with all-natural essential oils.
6. Practice Hygge
Practicing hygpe can help you cope with Donald Trump's presidency, and get you through the dark days of winter. Pronounced "hue-gah," it might sound unusual — but hygge is probably exactly what you need right now.
According to the website Hygge House, hygge is a Danish word for coziness that describes a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful, or special. And, let's face it, we could all use a little coziness these days.
7. Spend Time With Animals
Remember when Lorelei got Paul Anka on Gilmore Girls after her break up with Luke? Animal companionship is used to treat depression, anxiety, and PTSD treatment for a reason. According to Animal Smart, "Playing with or petting an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol."
If you can't get your own pet, consider volunteering for a shelter, spending time with a friend's pet, or even going to a cat cafe — you guessed it, cafes where you can drink coffee or tea and pet cats.
If you need one more reason to work out, consider this: exercise is a stress buster. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries."
Exercise can include anything from taking a walk, to cardio, yoga, pilates, and everything in between. Whatever your fitness jam is, it will help you feel less stressed.
Have you ever heard the cliche "laughter is the best medicine?" It turns out it's true. According to Web MD, "Laughing doesn’t just lighten the load mentally. It lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and boosts brain chemicals called endorphins, which help your mood."
I know it can be hard to find things to laugh about these days, but give it a go. Tune into your favorite comedy, watch Saturday Night Live, go to a comedy club, or call on your funny friends to get you cackling.
When I am frustrated or stressed, I cry, and psychologists say that's a good thing. According to Psych Central, crying can help heal you physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually.
Next time you feel the tears coming on because it all feels like too much, don't push them back. Let your tears flow instead. I bet you'll feel better afterward.
You know that dancing is super fun (or super awkward), but did you know that getting your groove on can help you feel less stressed? According to a recent article in Outside Magazine, "Both the social aspects of dance and the mental effort required to learn and remember choreography can have a neuroprotective effect, boost serotonin levels, and improve mood."
So where can you find one of these group dancing things? A trend called 5 Rhythms offers group dancing where you can let loose in a group without following any kind of routine. If you're into choreographed dancing, Zumba might be for you.
Whatever you decide, remember that too much stress is bad for your health, so practicing stress reduction is an important part of staying well.