Life is stressful, especially if you’re in a startup or are an entrepreneur. That’s why sugar, caffeine, high fat snacks and comfort food are so popular. The thing is, that junk only adds to your stress, it doesn’t detract from it. Stress increases your heart rate, makes you breathe faster, and raises your blood pressure. Me? I eat a lot of ginger, I run and eat healthy, but I’m not immune to stress. Slapping people, screaming and throwing things might make you feel better and less stressed in the short term, but they almost always result in more stress, usually about the time security arrives. The techniques below help me force me to relax and chill out when I over schedule, under sleep and freak out.
Yep. We all do it until we’re dead. But most of us don’t do it right. Stress tends to make us shallow breathers. When you’re stressed stand up and take long, slow deep breaths—the kind you take before jumping into a swimming pool of cold water or before giving your kids “the sex talk,” or asking your boss for a raise. Slow inhale slow exhale. Do this at least five times. If you get dizzy, sit down. You’re probably not used to that much oxygen.
Laugh out loud.
If there’s nothing funny in your life or office, turn to YouTube. Search on “Cats, Fail,” or “Epic Face Plant.” You’ll find lots to laugh out loud at. If you’re not near the Internet, think about something funny.
Put things in perspective.
I used to think noises and distractions outside my office were annoying and stressful. Then Hurricane Sandy hit and suddenly I was walking to a shelter every day and working at a table with six other people. It put a lot of things into perspective. So did going from a net worth of millions to a net worth of whatever coins I could find in the couch, my ashtray and my daughter’s piggy bank. Think of the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, or someone you know and put your stress next to that.
Look at something awesome.
Look at some great photos of sunsets, the ocean, mountains or even your kids, family, spouse or last vacation—except for the parts that stressed you out. Studies show just looking at something beautiful, awe inspiring or calming reduces stress. If you have something outside to look at, like a park. Go sit on a bench. If you’re in a high rise office, make sure you have some flowers, or a painting or something to look at. It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to touch your soul.
Being able to teleport to a hot tub or a deserted beach somewhere would be awesome, but until that technology is available, the break room or bathroom will have to do. If that sounds depressing, and it does doesn’t it, then step outside instead. Walking to the vending machine or coffee pot or taking the elevator to another floor and wandering around pretending to be lost is an option. The point is to change locations and get away from the place (or person) stressing you out. The walk there and back and even a different environment can reduce stress in a matter of minutes.
The right music can calm any stress. Don’t turn on heavy metal or something raging or that you’d workout to. Try something more mellow and happy, or something that reminds you of good times. Relax into it.
Yeah, crazy right? But it works. Stand up and stretch. Move to a doorway and push on either side of the doorframe. Twist. Sit down and put your legs out in front of you and point your toes. Find a stairwell and do some standard runner’s stretches. Google “stretching” to find something if you’ve put your high school gym class behind you.
No technique is going to work if you’ve let stress build up. The minute you start to feel stressed, address it head on. Hydrate—even being dehydrated by 2% can be stressful to your body. Coffee and soda don’t count. Drink water. Sip it throughout the day. Get some regular exercise, even if it’s just walking to the fast food place or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Physical activity (I run) can drain stress better and faster than a juicer crushes fruit. Finally, figure out what’s causing the stress and eliminate it as much as possible.