In today’s tech-heavy and deadline-obsessed world, it’s becoming harder and harder to escape the suffocating choke hold of stress. While there are a number of techniques and products that can help you cope with stress, it’s nearly impossible to know which ones are for real and which are just duds. So, to save you some time (and stress), we’ve put together AskMen’s top 10 list of stress killers, most of which are even scientifically proven to help you chill out instead of stress out.
1. Clean, clean, clean
Okay, so there isn’t exactly a huge clinical study out there proving a clean house or workspace reduces stress, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the less cluttered your house or workspace, the less cluttered your mind. Simple.
2. Get a daily planner
If cleanliness is next to godliness, where does that leave organization? Probably right beside the former. Though we all like to think that we’ll remember everything, the reality is that no one is perfect. Whether we like it or not, we will forget something at some point. Sometimes it’s small and insignificant, but sometimes it’s your wedding anniversary. Using a daily planner—and sticking with it—will ensure that your time is well-managed and you set your priorities correctly. This should save you from the stress of forgetting something important and will also free up time to start up a stress-killing hobby or activity.
3. Plan a stress-reducing vacation
As much as we want all vacations to give us the break we so desperately require, more often than not, vacations cause more stress than they relieve. Strangely enough, studies have found that the act of planning a vacation actually leads to greater happiness in the weeks leading up to the trip. With that in mind, try to plan a vacation with a firm focus on relaxation. No family. No sightseeing. No jungle excursions. Just relaxation. That way you’ll be happy before—and after—your vacation.
4. Skip the cup o’ Joe
Forget canines. It’s caffeine that’s actually man’s best friend. With around 90 percent of adults ingesting it daily, caffeine is the most widely consumed drug. Unfortunately, like with any drug, there are side effects. While caffeine helps keep us awake, it can also send our stress levels through the roof. Research shows that caffeine makes the heart beat faster, elevates blood pressure and elevates levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Drink too much coffee too often, and it could contribute to the development of chronic stress. So, if you’re the type that gets jittery after just a few sips of the dark stuff, it’s probably best you start skipping that daily cup o’ Joe and stick to morning walks with the dog to wake you up.
5. Listen to relaxing music
Music is a wonderful product of the human experience, evoking both emotional and physical responses in its listener. In the same way that heavy rock, metal or drum ‘n’ bass can jack you up for a workout, softer, more relaxing music can actually help the mind and body unwind, leading to a reduction in stress, according to several studies.
6. Don’t fear psychologists
Yes, there’s an actual reason for all those medical specialists dedicated to the study and treatment of the mind. While mental health disorders remain some of the least understood and most stigmatizing out there, psychologists nowadays are well versed in cognitive behavioral therapies and other psychological relaxation techniques that have been scientifically proven to reduce stress. So fight the fear and go get some help if you’re really struggling with stress.
7. Try the Mediterranean diet
Getting sick of the good ol’ North American diet of hot dogs and hamburgers? Even if you’re not, it might be time to think Greek. The Mediterranean diet has been in the health spotlight for some time now, but its benefits cannot be overlooked. By limiting sugars and eating foods high in monounsaturated fats, vitamin B and other important anti-stress, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients—foods like olives, legumes, avocados, and grapes—the Mediterranean diet helps lower blood pressure and stabilize blood sugars, which are key stress-reduction components.
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8. Try Tai Chi
Tai Chi is an ancient martial art that is often described as a moving form of yoga or meditation. While the principles of tai chi lie in ancient Taoist concepts of self-defense, in the modern era, tai chi is often practiced just for its amazing health benefits. In fact, dozens of studies have found that tai chi leads to significant reductions in depression, stress and anxiety.
9. Get a weekly massage
Just because it's common sense doesn't make it any less effective. Some evidence indicates massages reduce your heart rate and cortisol levels. Other evidence suggests that, while there aren't any long-lasting physiological benefits, massages reduce perceived levels of stress, meaning psychologically, they do the trick. Either way, there are no doubt worse ways to treat your stress than lying back and relaxing while someone else tends to your sore muscles.
10. Be in bed by 11
The idea that stress affects sleep is an obvious one. Who hasn’t felt irritable at work after a poor night’s sleep? But the relationship between sleep and stress might actually be a little more complex. It might, in fact, be cyclical: Lack of sleep can cause stress, and stress causes lack of sleep. Like many mental disorders, stress or anxiety can’t be singlehandedly treated by a pill or a single behavioral change in your daily routine. It takes an entire lifestyle change. As a result, you’ll find yourself sleeping and feeling better, which will, in turn, help you stay stress-free.