How to Handle Stress

There is something about December that brings out the stress monster in me. Maybe it has something to do with years of preparing for finals (I used to teach English). Or maybe it’s the rush rush rush of the holidays. I’m not really sure. Part of the problem is that I tend to be a bit of an emotional sponge, so even if my life is going smoothly, I soak up other people’s baggage if I’m not careful. Watch me in the security line at the airport some time. I’ve flown enough to have the system down, but surround me with nervous newbies and by the time I get my shoes off and my laptop out I’m twitching with the best of them. That’s why I think everyone needs to know how to handle stress.

Because, let’s be honest, it is exhausting – whether the stress is yours, or someone else’s.

And for most people I work with, feeling anxious leads directly to the food table. The holidays only make that tougher since fancy desserts and creamy drinks seem to be everywhere this time of year. So if a blast of stress is making even fruit cake look edible, this list of how to handle stress solutions will help.

Go for a walk – outside.

I know – I say this all the time. But that’s only because it works. Not only will you get a little bit of vitamin D which provides a multitude of health benefits, you will also get a mood-enhancing boost of serotonin. Numerous studies have shown that simply being in nature changes your body’s chemistry, causing you to feel calmer and be healthier. Just 20 minutes a day could make all the difference.

Smell stuff.

Aromatherapy has been around since the ancients, but I’ve only discovered it in the last couple of years. Actually, my husband discovered it, and after my first burn treatment (a combination of oils took all pain away instantly) I was sold. Turns out I’m not the only one. Smelling lavender, rose, or even orange oil can help you relax quickly and easily. They contain a chemical (linalool) that is proven to help reduce stress. So treat yourself to some roses or stop by the drug store and pick up a little orange oil to sniff when you start to feel a little anxious.

Chew some gum – sugarless, of course.

A study out of Australia has shown that chewing gum relieved anxiety, reduced the amount of stress hormones,  and increased alertness in test subjects. So if you absolutely can’t fit in that walk, grab a stick of gum.

Breathe

One of my favorite stress reducers is to simply sit still and breathe. Some folks do this via a meditation practice – which science says does a wonderful job training your body to deal with stress. But if that sounds too woo woo or time consuming, just find a quiet place (a bathroom stall will work) and breathe. Just be sure to get out of your chest when you do it. Breathe low – from your diaphragm. Here’s how to do it. Breathe in through your nose (try to do it for a count of 4) and feel your stomach expand. Go ahead, put a hand on your belly and feel. Your abdomen should rise as you breathe in. Then exhale – again through your nose – for a count of 6. Repeat. If you’re feeling really yogi-like go ahead and think about a calming word (I use peace, or love, or kindness, or joy – whatever I most need at the moment) or picture a calming scene as you breathe.

Laugh

Everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine. And with the internet, a good laugh is usually just a click away.

There’s laughing babies

Cute kittens

Even funny commercials

Find something that gives you the giggles and keep it handy. Pull it out whenever you need a quick reboot.

Pick just one of these how to handle stress techniques to try the next time you start to feel a little bit stressed. If you like it, stick with it. If not, choose another and give it a try. Chances are just knowing you have a option other than food will help you feel a bit more relaxed.

Do you have a sure-fire way to handle stress? If so, share it below.

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