9 Ways to Turn Stress Into Success
By Bonnie Taub-Dix
Did you ever realize that the word "stressed" is "desserts" spelled backward? It makes sense if you think about how too many desserts, eaten too often, might bring your mind and body more pressure than pleasure. Stress is like that in other ways, too – the right amount can be good for you, say by motivating you to exercise; too much can hurt your sleep patterns, pack on pounds and keep you from being your best self.
Although it's unrealistic to expect every day to feel spa-like, you can add a little calm to your calendar by following these nine tips:
1. Put your mind where your mouth is.
Unless you're driving, try a little experiment by closing your eyes while you eat. Pay attention to the flavor (spicy, mild or soothing?), the texture (soft, crunchy or chewy?) and the temperature (hot, cold or room temperature?). Chewing slowly and focusing on what's going on in your mouth will enhance your dining experience and give you a greater appreciation for the distinct characteristics of each food.
2. Visit your kitchen.
If you never cook, introduce yourself to your kitchen. You might enjoy spending some time there. Choose a simple recipe and try to create a dish that even a kid could put together. You don't have to be an Iron Chef to impress your taste buds or to feel proud that you crafted a tasty meal. Make the experience memorable by inviting a friend or two over to help. Slicing, dicing, chopping and stirring can be therapeutic – and can burn calories, too.
3. Eliminate 'Sunday Night Syndrome.'
After a relaxing weekend, do you dread going back to work or school on Monday morning? If you do, you're not alone. According to The Monday Campaigns, 27 percent of people say they experience the most stress on Mondays. However, 58 percent see Monday with positive eyes, and with hope that the day will bring a fresh start to a new week. Try to become one of them by scheduling something fun on Monday so that it becomes a day you can look forward to.
4. Pet a pet.
Playing with a dog, cat, hamster or turtle can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol. Pets don't judge and their unconditional love goes a long way when we're anxious or feeling down. Having a furry friend as a stress-buster is a science-backed strategy, with research even suggesting that pet owners have lower blood pressure than people who live pet-free.
5. Disconnect and connect.
Putting down your phone – even for a few hours – can give you a breather and a chance to catch up with others face to face. Go for emotion instead of an emoji; texting can never express the feeling in someone's face and voice.
Practice deep breathing while you count to 10 anytime, anywhere. If you're able to, close your eyes for a deeper sense of relaxation.
7. Move your body.
When you're bored, tired or stressed, take a walk to blow off some steam and keep off extra pounds. Any movement – whether it's dancing, hula-hooping or just jumping up and down during TV commercials – can help you ditch a gloomy feeling by stimulating the release of endorphins, your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters.
8. Do something good for yourself.
Instead of eating an unnecessary snack, take a bath, read a non-work related book, write someone a letter, look at old photos or call (don't text) someone you care about. Taking the time to connect with yourself and others can bring clarity to your day instead of chaos.
9. Rest your body.
Screen time right before bed can keep you from a good night's sleep. It's best to turn off emails, stop scanning your social media posts and shut down an hour or two before you turn in. Before falling asleep, make note of what's on your to-do list for the next day. It may help to keep a pad and pen on your nightstand to help transfer your thoughts from your head to your paper. Knowing you've written it down will help you rest your mind and body.