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Take It Easy: 12 Ways to Kill Stress Before Stress Kills You!

Take It Easy: 12 Ways to Kill Stress Before Stress Kills You!

There’s been a lot of fuss around the blogs about the New York Time’s silly article about bloggers killing themselves. It’s clear to anyone who reads it — and should have been clear to the reporter, Matt Richtel, even before he wrote it — that blogging isn’t killing anyone. Writers don’t blog ’til they drop.

Rather, Richtel offers a picture of several driven bloggers who, quite simply, worked too hard. Not all bloggers work too hard. Not even most bloggers work too hard. But some do — just as some engineers, politicians, landscape designers, pet groomers, phone psychics, agricultural product marketing specialists, computer technicians, telephone sanitizers, and vampire hunters work too hard.

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I can see the headline now: “In World of 24/7 Politicking, Vice Presidents Hold Secret Meetings Till They Drop”.

Bloggers working themselves to death is not a trend. The fact that it was notable enough for the deaths and illnesses reported in the story to pop up on the reporter’s radar is proof of that. Dozens of corporate executives will have heart attacks while I’m writing this post — a trend the media won’t even notice.

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But working too hard, that is a trend. Working too hard until your health begins to suffer, that too is a trend. Allowing your life to be driven by stress, driven so hard that it kills you — that is a trend, and an unfortunate one indeed.

Stress Kills

Researchers suggest that as much as 60-90% of illnesses are directly caused by or exacerbated by stress. Stress is related to major illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, but can also cause back pain, headaches, tooth grinding, upset stomach and digestive problems, sleep loss and exhaustion, skin problems, unhealthy weight gain or loss, and of course, loss of sex drive. And that’s just the bodily symptoms: stress is linked to depression, anxiety, mood swings, confusion, restlessness, irritability, insecurity, forgetfulness, and a host of other negative mental and behavioral symptoms.

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For all that, stress is often worn as a badge of accomplishment in our society. It’s not enough that we compete to see who can do the most, but we compete to see who can handle the most stress doing it. With such an unhealthy attitude towards stress, it’s no wonder that stress-related illnesses are so common.

Kill Stress

The only way to minimize the negative effects of stress is to minimize the stress itself — to identify the sources of stress in your life and either a) eliminate them, or b) rethink them to reduce the stress they cause. Note that this doesn’t include only the things we hate in our lives; stress can be caused just as easily by positive, life-affirming events as it can by negative events. Getting married, having a baby, getting a promotion, planning a kids’ birthday party, or taking a vacation can be just as stressful as dealing with your overbearing boss for 8 hours a day or coming up on a big deadline.

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Since the big positive changes in our lives can be just as stressful as the negative ones, dealing with stress can’t be simply a matter of getting rid of everything that stresses you out. Instead, you need to develop practices and a mindset that dissipate and reduce the inevitable stress of life itself.

For starters:

  1. Make quiet time: Whether you meditate daily, go to the gym three times a week, practice yoga, go hiking on the weekends, or just spend an hour a night with a book, you need to create a space where you can clear your mind of everything that’s dragging at you.
  2. Stop procrastinating: You can put off important tasks, but you can’t put off worrying about them — and the stress that causes.
  3. Write everything down: If forgetting something would cause you stress, make sure you’ve got it written down in a trusted system so you know you won’t forget.
  4. Eat better: A good diet can help your body better deal with the effects of stress. A healthy diet isn’t all that complicated; as Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, puts it, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. As a general rule, eat as much as you can from the “edges” of your supermarket — produce, bakery, butcher counter, dairy case — and save the stuff in the “middle” for once-in-a-while — Twinkies, Pop Tarts, potato chips, canned foods, instant meals, etc.
  5. Make family time: Try to eat at least one meal a day with your family (or with friends if you’re single). Better yet, eat at least one homecooked meal a day with your family/friends.
  6. Talk it out: Bottling up your frustrations, even the little ones, leads to stress. Learn to express dissatisfaction (in a constructive, non-hurtful way) and to voice your worries and fears to someone close to you.
  7. Prioritize: Figure out what in your life actually needs attention and what doesn’t. Know what you can easily let slide — and what you can drop entirely — and focus your energy on things that will actually make a difference in your life.
  8. Have routines: Having a set routine means you don’t have to worry about what comes next; after a while, it becomes second nature.
  9. Accept interruptions gracefully: Don’t let your rituals become so rigid that you can’t function if they’re interrupted. Leave yourself enough wiggle room to adapt to changing conditions.
  10. Know when to quit: Don’t stand for employers, friends, or lovers who treat you badly. Decide how much of yourself you’re willing to put into a relationship, job, or activity; when you cross that line, walk away and don’t look back. This applies to the little things (“At 5 pm, I go home”) and the big things (“If things aren’t better after 6 months of marriage therapy, I want a divorce”).
  11. Pay attention to yourself: Notice when you feel stressed, and determine the cause. Notice when your body hurts or you feel unhappy, and determine why — or see a doctor. Figure out whether the things you’re doing are fulfilling your own definition of a good, productive life — or somebody else’s. Give up unnecessary competition (you need to make a better product than your competitor does; you don’t need to have a prettier girlfriend or a faster car than he does).
  12. Love: Build relationships. Share yourself. Feel human warmth.

What do you do to beat stress in your life? How do you maintain balance between the stressful and the not-so-stressful? Let us know!

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How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

Keeping yourself awake at work can be a real challenge when you’re bored, exhausted or sleep-deprived.

But before you reach for that can of Red Bull, bottle of Mountain Dew, or pot of coffee, try these healthy remedies to stimulate your 5 different senses and help you stay awake at work:

Sight – Visual Stimulation

The first thing you do when you wake up is opening your eyes, so your visual stimulation is very important to keeping your energy level high.

1. Maximize your exposure to light.

Your body’s internal rhythm is regulated by the amount of light you receive. The greater your exposure, the more alert you will feel.

Open the shades and let in the sunlight. Step outside or look out the window. Turn on all the artificial lights in your office or around your work space.

2. Exercise your eyes (or give them a break).

Roll your eyes up and down, side to side and diagonally. Rotate them clockwise and then counterclockwise. Squeeze them shut and then open them wide. Do this several times.

Reading and sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods can lead to eye fatigue.

Take regular breaks with deliberate blinking and looking out into the distance.

3. Take note of your environment.

Learn to enjoy people-watching. Observe their activities, speech, body language and interactions with others. Notice the details of building, trees and other objects around you, including their color, shape and size.

By doing this, you’re not only relaxing your eye muscles but also calming your mind.

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Hearing – Auditory Stimulation

What you hear or listen to have direct effect on your brain. This is why we feel so annoyed and sometimes angry when we hear construction noise when we’re working.

4. Engage in conversation.

Talk to a friend or colleague. Trade funny stories. Discuss your business venture, a creative idea, the latest political scandal, or any other topic that interests you.

Practice mindful listening to what you and the other person are saying. Tune into the tone, volume and content of the conversation.

Learn how to practice better listening from this guide:

Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

5. Listen to upbeat music.

Try hip hop, rock or jazz to keep you alert. Instrumental, non-distracting music works best.

Sing, whistle, and hum along if you can. Plug in the earphones if you must.

Smell – Olfactory Stimulation

If you’re feeling sleepy and suddenly smell the coffee, you’ll probably feel more energetic. This is why smell is an influential stimulation.

6. Work your nose.

Aroma therapists recommend essential oils of peppermint (to boost energy), rosemary (to build awareness), eucalyptus (to increase oxygen), cedarwood  (to activate your mind), and cinnamon (to improve your reaction time).

If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use lotions or burning candles that provide the same scents.

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Citrus like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are also natural olfactory stimulants. Get a whiff of these citrus scents to stay awake.

Taste – Gustatory Stimulation

If you want an energetic day at work, you can’t let your tongue feeling plain and flavorless.

7. Have a good breakfast.

Start off with the most important meal of the day.

Think fresh, light and healthy: bran cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, and yogurt.

Nix the heavy stuff like sausages, greasy eggs or pancakes.

Need some breakfasts inspirations? Check out these ideas:

20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

8. Drink lots of water.

Keep a glass or bottle of H2O near you and sip from it throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy.

So make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Not sure how much to drink? This can help you:

How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)

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Think that you’ve been drinking too little water? Try these friendly reminders:

3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water

9. Eat energy-boosting snacks.

Nuts and fruits (like bananas, apples and strawberries) are sure bets. Pairings with staying power include baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip; celery sticks with peanut butter; red peppers with hummus; and plain yogurt with granola.

Avoid carb-filled, sugary snacks that make you crash and leave you feeling tired.

Here you can find some healthy snack ideas:

25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive

Touch – Tactile Stimulation

Last but not least, your sense of touch will make you physically feel more energetic and less stressful.

10. Splash cold water on your face.

Do this in the morning, during bathroom breaks and in the afternoon. Being exposed to cold water pushes your body to adjust and regulate its internal temperature, which in turn keeps you alert.

This works the same as you take a cold shower to increase mood and alertness. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers

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11. Use acupressure.

Apply pressure to, massage, or tap on the stimulation points of your body. These include the top of your head, the back of your neck, the back of your hand (between the thumb and index finger), just below the knee and your earlobes.

Watch this video to learn about the acupressure points you can try:

12. Get moving.

Move away from your chair and stand, walk, run or climb the stairs. Feel the earth under your feet. Stretch and twist. Do jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and back bends.

And if you need to move more discreetly, wiggle your feet, bounce your knee up and down, scrunch your toes, or cross your legs.

You can also try some simple stretches and exercises at your desk:

Unlike addictive caffeine fixes, these remedies activate your senses, engage your attention, amp up your energy and prevent morning grogginess and afternoon slumps without the side effects or health risks.

Pick a few ways from this list of suggestions and practice them consistently. And when you do this consistently, you’ll soon see the positive results — a more energetic and productive you at work.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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