This week has been an especially hectic week at work, and to be honest, I feel as though it's been a hectic lead up for the last three months, too. January was fine, because it was dark and slow, and for those of us living in the Northeast, it was less, "hell hath frozen over" and more, "this is it?" February was like getting hit with a freight train. March is never a memorable month, because it's composed of St. Patrick's Day and a bunch of birthdays... So it's either not memorable because you did nothing but work, or it's not memorable because you got so shit-faced you literally can't remember the 17th, and whichever weekend came closest to that date.
Now it's April, and I'm still in the thick of it, waiting for the storm to pass.
I had a brief conversation with some of my coworkers today about our tendencies toward stress-eating. It began when I commented that after eating my lunch, I really needed a Snickers Cake. What sparked this craving, I have no idea, but my boss came back from Trader Joe's with dark chocolate peanut butter cups and we all descended on her like vultures. This got me thinking... I used to have a real stress management problem, but I've become better at handling it. And since I am writing an entire post about how busy I am, it might be obvious that I am not able to execute a ton of research at the moment. So, for this post, I am going to compile some healthy stress busters that I have found to be successful.
Stress can actually cause a slew of negative side effects... insomnia, pain, high blood pressure, rapid breathing, heart problems... There have been times in my life when I've been able to trace almost all of my physical ailments back to stress. So while I joke that I tend to stress eat peanut butter cups to cope, it is actually a good idea to find a way to sift through all the shit we deal with on a daily basis. So here are 10 things I try to do, and if you are looking for stress busters, you can give them a try.
- Sorry to be redundant, but stress eat. It's an awful thing to do, it's true, but I'll be damned if it doesn't make me feel better. If you take this route, make sure it's because of a craving and not because you're bored. Technically, it's not a good thing to do, but if you keep to the "everything in moderation" rule, a serving size of chocolate might be just what you need to keep going. And if you get your chocolate from Ikea, a serving size is HALF THE BAR. Mint.
- Do yoga. I recently got back into it, because my Mom made me. What other exercise class do you go to where they end it with everyone lying on their backs half asleep and the lights out? The other cool thing about yoga is that the focus is on the breath, so even if you sit with your legs crossed in your bedroom for 3 minutes and just listen to yourself breathing, you're doing yoga. If you bend down and touch your toes, you're doing yoga. If you lay on your back in your bed and concentrate on your stomach moving up and down, you're doing yoga. And that, my friends, is why yoga, is fucking awesome.
- Only listen to your FAVORITE music in the car. I have bad road rage, and some days, I will have full out screaming meltdowns. Alone. In my car. Screaming. I have noticed, however, that when I am listening to my favorite music, I am much calmer. I sing along instead of screaming at people who can't hear me. For example... last Saturday I was driving to work at about 9:30am. I was driving down a fairly large, generally busy street. As I approached an intersection, I noticed something odd... an elderly man on a bicycle was in my lane (the left lane), but was coming directly toward my car. He was biking alongside other cars, into oncoming traffic. I slowed down, trying to keep my shit together because I was in such disbelief... as he came closer to my 4,000 pound car, he slowly started to swerve, but he swerved into the lane to the right of me... so, let me clarify - still peddling into oncoming traffic. I thought he might be drunk and need a little reminder of where he was so I beeped lightly in hopes that he might realize what he was doing. This man first made EYE CONTACT WITH ME, and then put up his middle finger at me with such mal-intent that for the first time in a long time, my jaw actually dropped. On a normal day, I would be screaming such profanity it'd put a sailor to shame, but that morning, as I listened to Lake Street Dive, I said, "Oh, nice." and kept rolling.
- Take a shower. You know that scene in A League of Their Own when Kit loses her shit and Tom Hanks has to THROW her into the shower? Yeah. Showers are good for calming a bitch DOWN. Warm water will loosen up tight muscles, the water pressure is basically the poor man's hydro-massage, and showering is a good first step on a To-Do list because everything is easier to do when you have washed your hair.
- Watch videos of puppies or baby pigs. Or whatever animal you like. Animals are therapeutic. If you have an animal pet, take a nap with it. If you're like me and wish everyday that you had an animal pet, find some videos on The Dodo or The Bear Shit and let yourself get lost. THEY aren't the cause of your stress, so if you watch them for long enough, you will forget that shit ever existed.
- Sleep for 8-9 hours per night, and sleep IN. Some might think I'm crazy for suggesting this and say it's unrealistic, but it's not. I have to be at work at 9, I go to sleep at 11:30pm on average. I get a lot of sleep. When I have a day off, I DO NOT set my alarm. I will naturally wake up around 10:30am. I don't fight it. Sleep gives your body a chance to rejuvenate so that it can fight off all the fucked up shit you come into contact with during the day, plus it will help you concentrate the next day. To those who do not believe in the healing power of sleep, I have three words: Sorry, you're wrong.
- Put a warm towel over your eyes and tell everyone to fuck off. This one is self explanatory I think.
- Find an outlet. I was a fine arts major so I've been through the whole "try to make art on the side" routine. I'm not in college anymore so I don't have a professor telling me what to paint or draw, and maybe this means I'm uninspired, but it's hard for me to figure out what to do on my own. I learned how to crochet, and that worked for a while but didn't stick. You can hop around... But find something you can do that has nothing to do with anything else in your life. Even if you make a fucking collection of snowmen made out of cotton balls, just fucking do it. EVEN if it's Crossfit. No judgements.
- Cry. My best friend in middle school used to have this little postcard hanging up on her bedroom wall that said, "Let yourself cry, it will make you feel better." We used to say it to one another whenever we were upset about something, and when I moved in high school, I was having a tough time and she sent me a photocopy of the postcard. Crying is good because bottling it up will make the stress worse, which will enhance physical symptoms. Personally, I find it best to cry in the shower. You knock out two stress-busting techniques in one, and the water washes all your tears away so it's almost like nothing ever happened, but you magically feel so much better...
- Have a glass of wine and binge watch a show in bed with either your best friend, your significant other, or your-FUCKING-SELF. Too much T.V. is obviously not good because, as my mother says, your brain will turn to mush. But when you're stressed, take some time to just enjoy other people's fictional problems. Have a glass of RED wine, and enjoy a good comedy until you're lulled into a calm sleep. T.V. shows I am recently obsessed with and think would serve as good stress busters: Mozart in the Jungle, Alpha House, Schitt's Creek, and VEEP. Don't watch How to Get Away with Murder, or OITNB, or House of Cards. I know those shows are addicting but they are also stressful fucking shows to watch.
Thus concludes my list of stress-busting techniques, since we can't do 98% of the things we think of doing to people that suck during the day. Please also note that this list comprises anti-stress techniques that are good for when you are stuck at home. The actual best, all natural stress-buster there is, is GOING ON A FUCKING VACATION. This list is nothing in comparison to sitting on a fucking beach, asleep. Far away.
There are other anti-stress techniques, like the use of essential oils, and something not as fun called, "exercise" that I will consider exploring in a post titled Stress: Part 2, but right now I need to go fight stress by going the fuck to sleep.
So peace, bunnies.