Beware of products that can make you jittery or feel like nodding off. Here are some healthier, more practical options.
You know that too much long-term stress can damage your health. But what is it doing to you right this minute? Are you feeling agitated? Overwhelmed? So addled that you can’t think clearly? How the heck are you supposed to stay calm and keep a clear head when you’re feeling ready to snap?
You could try gulping down an energy drink, but those are loaded with caffeine, taurine and other stimulants, and can increase your anxiety instead of reduce it. Not to mention what they will do for your much-needed quality sleep. What you need throughout the day is to calm your mind and relax your body while at the same time increasing your focus and attention.
Our favorite stress busters are effective, easy to do, and don’t require a lot of planning so they’re perfect for someone who feels as if their life is already spinning a little out of control:
1. Get up earlier. Just an extra 10 or 15 minutes will give you some breathing space when weather, traffic or other minor emergencies threaten to make you late. The dog just hacked up parts of a missing shoe? Your child lost her homework? Relax. You’ve got time!
2. Take a few minutes in the evening to prepare for the next morning. Lay out your clothes, make lunches, set out the cereal. Do whatever it is that usually makes you feel rushed when first get up. You’ll start your day having to make fewer decisions, and you won’t have to deal with unwelcome surprises such as a stain on your favorite shirt.
3. Stock up on products that give you a calming/focused effect instead of the energy/stimulant effect. There are a number of healthy beverages and supplement alternatives that may help you to feel calm and relaxed while still feeling focused and alert. These include those containing Suntheanine, a purified form of L-Theanine, which is identical to an amino acid found in tea, that has been consumed for thousands of years. Suntheanine reduces stress without reducing alertness, so it can help you stay focused all day long. It also promotes better quality sleep for when you finally do fall into bed. See nostress.com for a complete list of products that contain Suntheanine such as calming beverages offered by Vitamin Water, SoBe, Zenmaster, Blue Cow and healthy supplements by Natural Factors, Enzymatic Therapy and others.
4. Avoid the sugar crash. We had to have at least one tip involving eating better because it’s important. Carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables can help you relax without giving you a “sugar crash” afterward. So snack on an apple not a candy bar.
5. Exercise your sense of humor, and exercise it often. We’re not talking about rubber chickens and whoopie cushions. Life is filled with absurdities if you just watch for them. Laughter reduces stress and helps you relax. It also helps to stimulate both productivity and creativity.
6. Get the bad stuff out of the way first. Jump right in and do the most difficult or stressful tasks early in the day while you’re still feeling fresh. Procrastinating only keeps these things hanging over your head longer, adding to your tension and anxiety.
7. Do something you love as often as possible. Spending time doing something you enjoy helps to re-fuel your spirit and keep you refreshed. Make this a priority.
8. Be prepared. The scouts got this one right. Instead of getting stressed while waiting in a long line, bring a favorite book so that time passes more quickly and pleasantly.
9. Get up and walk away. Take a short break every few hours, even if you have to set a timer to remind yourself. Don’t stay at your desk checking emails. Moving away from your work area, even for a few minutes, helps to clear your mind. Leave the iPhone and Blackberry behind. It will be there when you get back.
10. Skip Conan and Letterman. Getting enough rest is essential for your body to repair itself and to recharge your energy levels. Record your favorite late-night TV shows using your TiVo or DVR, and you’ll even be able to speed through the commercials.
Sure there are lots of other ways to reduce stress. And once you are calmer and more focused because you’re doing the 10 real-world things we’ve suggested, you might also want to explore some of the other techniques such as yoga, meditation and exercise. It’s good to know, however, that there are day-to-day practical options, such as skipping the energy drink in favor of a calming beverage containing Suntheanine while you’re chauffeuring your kids to soccer practice.