Saying Goodbye to Tension
Five ways to de-stress after a hectic day
Feeling stressed out? You're not alone. According to a 2007 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, a third of all Americans say they experience extreme stress, and more than half say that their stress level has increased over the past 5 years. Because constant stress is bad for your health, it's important to take time to decompress. Not sure how to do it? Try one of these five ways to de-stress:
1. Work up a sweat.
It doesn't matter if you run a mile, walk around your neighborhood, or do some yoga poses. Getting your body moving is one of the best ways to relieve stress. "You need a way of releasing that energy. And exercise and yoga do that," says Carolyn Swithers, RN, BSN, CDE, director of the Center for Nutrition and Diabetes Management at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, N.J.. If you've ever heard of the term "runner's high" you get the idea: In response to physical activity, your brain releases feel-good endorphins that ease your tension. What's more, exercise provides you with time to be alone with your thoughts. For the 30 minutes or hour that you're working out, you can forget your too-big "to do" list and dodge the ever-ringing phone.
2. Take some "me" time.
Between caring for kids, working crazy hours, and making sure the house is clean, you likely can't imagine how you'll ever set aside personal time. But taking even just a half hour away from family and work obligations will allow you to recharge and decrease your built-up stress. You can do something as simple as soak in a long bath or read a good book. Or you can pick up a hobby like crocheting, building model airplanes, or playing a musical instrument. "It's a diversion. It gives you satisfaction," says Swithers. "You must enjoy it and do it well or else you wouldn't do it." In the end, it doesn't matter what you do as long as it gives you release.
3. Visit with pals.
"I had heard a statement long ago that we wouldn't need psychotherapists if we all had good friends," says Swithers, who recommends visiting with loved ones when you feel like you're at the end of your rope. Taking time out of a busy week or month to emotionally connect with another human being can break the day-to-day tension that's built up. Plus, studies have shown that having close friends can help you live longer—and healthier.
4. Wax poetic.
Take out your frustration and anxiety on a piece of paper by journaling your feelings. Writing down how you feel can help you understand and cope with the pressures in your life. Plus, it provides a stress-free time for you to spend alone and in thought.
5. Catch your ZZZs.
When we're stressed and overworked, sleep is often the first thing to suffer. That's because it's easier to put off your bedtime than it is to miss a work deadline. But getting enough rest each night is important to your health and can play a role in your stress management. Quality sleep, says Swithers, allows you to "wake up in the morning [and] feel rested. You did get an adequate amount of sleep so you're better prepared [for the day]." Do yourself a favor and get between 7 and 9 hours each night.
For more information about relieving stress, click here.