After I ditched my traditional job and lifestyle for a more nomadic existence, I soon realized how much I underestimated the impact of stress in my new life. As much as I love exploring and working on the road, there’s still plenty to worry about:
- Is my campsite in the path of the major thunderstorm forecast for tonight?
- Will I be able to handle a roadside breakdown?
- What if I get a toothache? Will I find affordable dental care?
- Will this stomachache pass, or is it a sign of something serious?
- . . . and on and on . . .
Anticipating and preparing for setbacks is one thing. However, continuous stress has health-related consequences—increased blood pressure, accelerated heart rate, and other cardiovascular issues. Chronic stress can also negatively affect brain functioning, interfering with concentration and giving way to “brain fog.”
If you’re like me, you often overlook the importance of getting stress under control. Fortunately, stress management doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. If you don’t have the discipline to follow a meditation routine or the money for therapy, you can try these stress hacks when you start to feel your heart rate begin to climb.
Break It Down with a To-Do List
This is one of my favorite hacks when I’m staring down a massive writing project. The larger the task, the more likely it has smaller components you can tackle incrementally. To make a job more manageable, break it down into a to-do list that you can tick off one by one.
Assess Your Coffee Consumption
Examine your coffee drinking and see if you can cut down a bit. Many of us need a dose of caffeine in the morning to get going. However, consuming too much coffee or other drinks with caffeine can increase your susceptibility to anxiety and stress.
Speaking of coffee, I sometimes take honey in mine. This substance has natural antibiotic properties and nutrients that reduce anxiety. Honey also boosts immunity and energy levels.
Drink More Green Tea
I also enjoy honey in my green tea, which contains L-Theanine (L-THE), an amino acid that can relieve stress and symptoms associated with anxiety. Although its long-term effects have yet to be confirmed, taking a green tea break might be enough to calm you.
If you like gum, pop a piece next time you feel stressed. A few minutes of chewing has been shown to lower cortisol levels and anxiety. It doesn’t even matter what flavor.
Counting down from 10 to 1 and then back again can have a calming effect. Even in the middle of a high-pressure situation, counting backward temporarily refocuses your attention away from what’s freaking you out and toward remembering what number comes next.
Snuggle Your Pet
Spend a moment with your furry friend. Pet owners receive cardiovascular benefits from an occasional snuggle or play session. Is there anything more relaxing than a warm, purring cat on your lap? (unless you’re allergic!)
Many of us carry stress in our muscles, which causes them to get tense. Even if you don’t think you’re experiencing muscle tension, doing a few stretches throughout the day is a good idea. Click HERE for some great stretching ideas.
Find the Funny
While chronic stress is not joke-worthy, it can feel good to find something amusing about a stressful situation. Researchshows that laughter reduces tension, increases oxygen consumption, and is good for your heart. When you’re frustrated or frazzled, you can poke fun at whatever is causing you stress. You can also disengage for a few minutes and find something to give you a chuckle.
Head Out for a Walk
You may have no intention of hitting the gym today. That’s okay. You only need a few minutes of activity to feel better, and a short walk may be in order. Try a walk on your lunch break, which can increase your level of endorphins, the feel-good hormones.
Take a Splash of Cold Water
If nervous energy keeps you from focusing, go to the bathroom and splash some cold water on your face. This strategy can lower your heart rate and body temperature. Overall, it dulls the fight-or-flight response that characterizes stress.
Looking for a good excuse to procrastinate? Take five minutes to clear up some clutter. Reorganizing your desk or workspace is a great way to ease stress. Leave in view the items you need immediately and put away everything else.
Reach for Chocolate
You might benefit from keeping some dark chocolate on hand. Eating just one square can have a calming effect. That’s because dark chocolate is full of antioxidants that change your brain waves, reducing stress and boosting memory.
A stressful moment can be an excellent time to grab a pen or keyboard and jot down what you’re going through. Take a few minutes to get it out of your head and in front of you. It can feel good to vent about what’s stressing you out. Also, putting your worries in writing can make them seem less intimidating and more manageable.
Remember to Breathe
This advice might seem trite and played out, but I wouldn’t include it if I didn’t do it myself. There are lots of deep-breathing exercises out there. Use one that lowers your heart rate and helps you focus on the here and now. If you have a smartwatch, download a breathing app that you can set with reminders throughout the day.
Arguably the easiest thing on this list, smiling can provide a little comfort for you and those in your presence. The act of smiling releases endorphins and can heighten your mood. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, just fake it and see what happens.
There are tons of stress-relieving tactics out there, but these are the ones I turn to when I’m in a stressful bind. Leave a comment to suggest your favorite hack or one I’ve missed.