The research is in. Millennials and Gen Xers are more stressed than any other generation. According to research conducted by the American Psychological Association, both generations have twice the levels of stress considered “safe” from contributing to health risks. Why are we so stressed? In addition to the usual pressure points (money, work-related challenges, relationship drama, etc.) Psychology Today reports on a lesser-examined but common source of overwhelm: having too many options.
Baby Boomers were convinced by parents who endured the Great Depression and two world wars that a regular, risk-less job was the way to security and happiness, the magazine states. When our parents became by and large successful, they told us we could do everything, the sky was the limit. They consulted us on where our families should vacation, what restaurants to frequent and our daily dinner menu (resulting in Millennials being the pickiest eaters on record). Yet research has repeatedly found that, despite our idealization of choice, we actually dislike too much of it. When overwhelmed with options, we tend to regret our decisions, obsess over foregone alternatives or simply not choose at all.
What’s more, when our blood pressure begins to rise, the APA found that 83 percent of us do little if anything about it?! This is bad news since stress is not only uncomfortable but downright dangerous. Chronic stress is associated with a host of health woes among them coronary disease, cardiovascular risk and a weakened immune system. Yikes!
Since avoiding stressful situations is nearly impossible, the key is to know how to handle stress when it arises. Here are twenty things you can do to keep from feeling overwhelmed.
Print out this list and keep near your desk, fridge or anywhere else that you’ll see and interact with it often.
- Breath. Breathing oxygenates the blood, which can help you relax immediately. Take several deep breaths and let them out with long sighs.
- Visualize. Set a timer, close your eyes and visualize a location that puts you at ease. Our happy place is the open space trails not far from our office. Maybe for you, it’s the beach or near a mountain lake? Focus on each of your senses. What do you see, hear, smell and taste in this location?
- Massage. Even if you don’t have an appointment, giving yourself a quick rub on your shoulders and neck can help bring you back into your body and out of your head.
- Try herbs. Feel the anxiety rising? Try an herbal tincture. Here’s one of our favorites.
- Smile. Put this in the fake it ‘til you make it category. Though you may feel like doing just the opposite, smiling when you’re feeling chaotic can actually engender feelings of happiness.
- Write it out. Just writing down how you’re feeling can help your mind move on to other things.
- Try Aromatherapy. The power of scent can be astounding. Dab a relaxing essential oil such as Lavender, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang or Clary Sage under your nose and on your wrists when overwhelm arises.
- Walk it out. Walking can raise the heart rate, deepen the breath and boost Vitamin D levels from being in the sun – all good things when you’re feeling stressed.
- Be in Nature. One of the best ways to gain perspective is to step outside. Take a few moments to connect to your surroundings. Notice the sky, the plants. Sit in one place and allow yourself to just notice and be for a few minutes.
- Get wet. Take a shower, a bath or go for a swim. Water releases ions that are natural mood boosters.
- Music break. Press pause on whatever you’re doing and play a favorite uplifting song – one, two or as many times as you need to to get in the groove.
- Puppy time. Spending time with an animal – any animal of any age can not only help you feel less stressed, but also be downright therapeutic. Volunteer to take a friend’s dog for a walk after work if you don’t have a furry friend of your own.
- Try a Guided Meditation. Been wanting to try a meditation practice but feeling unsure if you’re cut out for such stillness? Try easing in with a guided practice, which can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as an hour. Tara Brach is a favorite.
- Phone a friend. What are friends for if not to pick us up when we’re down our help us adjust our perspective? Phone someone you’re close to but be careful not to “dump” on them or take too much of their time. Remember to ask them how they’re doing as well.
- Stretch. Get in your body. The simple act of unwinding muscles that have become tense can go a long way towards releasing stress. Sign up for a regular yoga class or do a few simple stretches at your desk.
- Organize. Feeling out of control? Take on a small project that can help you feel less chaotic. Organize your desk. Clean your computer desktop. Write down a plan for the week.
- Get Dirty. Plant something. Anything. Connecting to the earth, smelling wet dirt and planting seeds go a long way towards helping to combat stress and bringing feelings of joy and accomplishment.
- Plan your Vacay. Set a timer and allow yourself to dive into the world of travel blogs and vlogs. If you have a vacay on the agenda, research places you may want to check out. If not, consider where your next trip could be.
- Play an Instrument. Even if you’re a newbie, tinkering around on the ukulele or blowing a harmonica for a few minutes can help you move from your left, linear, stressed out brain to your right, creative brain.
- Make something. Try a new recipe, write a poem, a song, build something. Humans are made to create and making things makes us happy.