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8 Effective Ways To Defeat Terrible Stress

8 Effective Ways To Defeat Terrible Stress

Stress is a fickle entity. Without it, we wouldn’t feel the push to move forward in life. Too much of it, and we hit a brick wall. It’s important that we notice the warning signs telling us we’ve become much too stressed out, and take steps to alleviate the pressure building up inside of us.

1. Vent to a friend

Sometimes, you just need to let off some steam. If you choose this outlet, it’s best to find a trustworthy individual who can give you some actionable advice. Of course, you might not even need advice, and just want to share some horror story from work so a friend can commiserate with you. That’s perfectly fine once in a while, but make sure you don’t become “that friend” who constantly dumps his own burden on everyone else. Telling the story of your awful day for comedic relief is one thing, but being a complainer is a whole different story.

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2. Get lost in a book

After a stressful day, it’s tempting to come home, turn on the TV, and veg out for the night. The problem with this is watching television is a passive action. You’ll most likely end up stewing about your awful day for the rest of the evening anyway. Picking up a book will allow you to relax your body, while keeping your mind actively engaged in something completely unrelated to the terrible day you just had. Depending on what book you chose, you might gain some perspective throughout your reading session. You never know, you might realize your day wasn’t all that bad in the first place.

3. Write in a journal

Growing up, I never realized how helpful and therapeutic writing could be. Since I started writing for Lifehack a few months ago, I’ve realized that I completely wasted a large amount of my life stressing out about things and thinking in circles, when I could have been writing my ideas and feelings out on paper (or a computer screen, at least) to make sense of them. Writing a bunch of self-help articles for others to learn from has (ironically) taught me a ton about how I can help myself. Truthfully, I’ve never felt as active as I currently feel. I really do believe it comes from the enormous amount of writing I’ve undertaken in the past year.

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4. Exercise

Again, I know after a tough day at the office you just want to get home to your comfort zone. However, hitting the gym for a quick bike session can do wonders for your emotional and physical health. It’s pretty obvious that working out has physical benefits, but it’s incredibly surprising how much better you’ll feel mentally after taking an hour after work to push yourself even farther. Then, when you’re back at home, you’ll most likely find you’re too exhausted to be upset anymore!

5. Meditate

Try to remember the last time you were somewhere that was completely removed from all other stimuli. You probably can’t — and that’s okay. Honestly, today’s world is so busy that it’s almost impossible to find time to simply exist without a phone ringing, or a car alarm going off, or something to interrupt your moment of relaxation. Because of this, we must actively find time to remove ourselves from the world, sit quietly, and spend time in deep thought. Doing so will help clear our minds and find solutions to the problems we’ve been facing, so we can start the next day without carrying baggage over from the day before.

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6. Unplug

This goes along with meditation. The days of working 9-5 are all but finished, as our phones and computers keep us constantly plugged into our careers. Our phone beeps with an email from the boss at 7:00 PM, and that keeps us from enjoying our family dinner. A colleague texts you at 9:00 at night to tell you he’s calling in the next day, so you spend the rest of the night stressing out about all the slack you’ll have to pick up tomorrow. Try this: turn off your phone. Don’t check your email. If you’re not contractually obligated to do work outside of your normal hours — don’t. You’ll find you have much more time on your hands than you thought you did to do the things you enjoy.

7. Eat healthier

Ditch the typical comfort foods, such as ice cream and cookies, and begin eating foods that will benefit you in the long run. The vitamins found in fruits and vegetables, and the protein found in other wholesome foods will make you feel better physically, which in turn will improve your mental state as well. You don’t have to suffer, either. There are plenty of ways to make healthy foods taste amazing. Put in the effort to find alternatives to the usual junk food full of sugars and fats that would otherwise be your go-to snacks. Your body will thank you.

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8. Reward yourself

Be kind to yourself, and give yourself a treat every once in a while. Everything is okay in moderation. So once in a while, throw all this other advice out the window. Binge watch your favorite show on Netflix. Lose track of time playing video-games like you used to as a kid. Go eat a banana split… No, eat two! You’re a hard-working adult, and you deserve to indulge yourself in some less-than-healthy activities every once in a while. Like I said, be careful to not overindulge, or you risk getting caught in a vicious cycle which will only serve to exacerbate your stress level.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm7.staticflickr.com

More by this author

Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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