Ten Ways to End Your Ugly Relationship With Stress

Please note: the suggestions in this article are not intended to serve as professional medical advice.

I am an expert at putting myself in stressful situations; I always take on too much. I’m sure most of you can relate. Sometimes life gets fucking insane, and it always gets insane all at once.

Stress really takes a physical toll on your body. For example, my stress manifests itself in my body with terrible chest pains. I also get headaches. Maybe when you’re stressed you get stomach pains, have trouble sleeping, or throw angry tantrums. If all this nonsense sounds like no fun, well, you’re right, but don’t worry. We’ve got this.

Amy Poehler recorded a video last week in which she attempts to help young women out with not feeling so overwhelmed with stress.

It’s a cute video and I love that Anne Lamott book, but maybe you’re like me and ended that with, “Yeah, but what are some realistic ways of actually dealing with stress?” Funny you should ask, because I’ve found ten of them for you! Introducing:

Ten Pretty Simple Ways For Reducing Stress In Your Super Busy And Awesome Life.

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via ekyd.tumblr.com

1. Sex

When I originally posed the stress question to the Autostraddle writers, I received this response from Bren:

1. Sex
2. sex
3. sex
4. strap-on sex
5. sex
6. exercise
7. SEX

Do you really need any further explanation?

Sex is one of the best ways to relieve stress and has a surprising number of other health benefits as well including boosting your immunities, improving your heart health, and helping you sleep better. Fancy that.

If sex with a partner isn’t in your cards, never fear. Masturbation also relieves stress in pretty much the same way. As if you needed an excuse to obsessively comb through months worth of NSFW Lesbosexy Sunday.

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2. Exercise

via FuzzyLizzie.com

This one goes along the same lines as sex, which is probably the best exercise I can think of, personally. Exercise releases endorphins, clears your mind, and improves your mood. Some studies have even found that exercise works as well as taking medication for anxiety.

Exercise can also double-duty as an excuse to get you out of your house, workplace or any other space where your stress may lie. Take a walk during your lunch break. Go hiking this weekend. Ask a cute girl if she’d like to play tennis. Ask a cute girl if she’d like to take a shower with you after you’re all sweaty from playing tennis. See: step 1.

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3. Laughter

Turns out, laughter is really good medicine, you guys. In fact, the Mayo Clinic says that “a rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure.” Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins (are we finding a pattern here?) and increases blood flow through your body.

Now you actually have permission to watch YouTube videos when you have a paper deadline. Watch something that will make you laugh or hang out with your most hilarious friend or pictures of cats with words on them or whatever. You do you. Just with more laughter.

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4. Chocolate

Not a typo. I am for reals. Eating dark chocolate helps to reduce stress. Chocolate contains antioxidants, and studies even say chocolate can reduce your risk of heart disease. Basically, dark chocolate reduces the stress hormone cortisol as well as the “fight-or-flight” hormones known as catecholamines.

I don’t pretend to understand science, so I’m going to leave that to you gorgeous science people, but basically, I just want more excuses to buy dark chocolate and so do you, so let’s say this is perfectly legitimate.

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5. Reduced Caffeine

Every cup of coffee should have a panda in it, right?

I live for coffee, which means this is heartbreaking. But we all must face the facts: all that caffeine isn’t helping your stress levels. I’m not saying you need to cut out all caffeine (besides, how else will you get in your dark chocolate?). Just reduce it.

Caffeine elevates your blood pressure, and can also increase adrenaline and cortisol (the “stress” hormone) into your system, which make it harder to calm the fuck down, because it also inhibits absorption of adenosine, a calming hormone. Limit your caffeine intake to one or two cups of coffee in the morning and try to steer clear of it in the afternoon. I started drinking half-caffeine (we just mix decaf with regular) at home in the morning and it really does help.

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6. Herbal Tea

I know I said some harsh things in number 5. But you know what else is warm and tastes really good and I can write about in an article my mother will read? Tea! Herbal tea is so yummy. It also has a surprising number of health benefits and knowing about tea can make you look really intelligent and therefore, sexy. There are a lot of herbs that can reduce stress, and the most affordable and least intimidating way to explore those can be with tea.

My favorite stress-reducing teas are Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer (a friend of mine refers to it as liquid Xanax — that’s how good it is), Yogi Kava Stress Relief and almost any chamomile tea ever.

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7. Reading

via myfrenchcountryhome.blogspot.com

We have been telling you to read a f*cking book for awhile now. Even just reading a book for six minutes can help you relax and reduce your stress levels by more than two-thirds. Reading a book works faster than any other stress reducer, which is believed to work “because the human mind has to concentrate on reading and the distraction of being taken into a literary world eases the tensions in muscles and the heart.”

Yeah, reading eases the tensions in your heart. Isn’t that just adorable?

In what is perhaps the best thing I’ve read all day, the psychologists in the study go on to conclude, “This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.” So, go read a f*cking book, please.

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8. Journaling

You have so many feelings. That’s why you’re stressed in the first place. What is the number one best place your feelings can go? In a journal. Not on Facebook. No one wants to read your angsty status updates twelve times a day. You can even create a stress journal to better understand the triggers of your stress and what coping responses are working best for you.

Write in your journal. Write bad poetry. Write illegibly and tear stain those pages and break your pencil tip with rage.

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9. Power Nap

via gymnotes.org

I babysit my two-year-old niece four days a week which means I have seen the miraculous healing power of a power nap with my own two eyes. Sometimes she’s all, “I HATE EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD,” and throwing herself on the ground and screaming and after her nap she’s like, “Oh hey, this singing seahorse isn’t my enemy after all.” Those are words to live by, my friends.

But how come only toddlers get to take afternoon naps? Taking a nap significantly reduces your chances of dying from a heart disease increasing your productivity. 20-30 minutes is the perfect amount of time because it doesn’t let you sleep too deeply, which is why sometimes if you take too long of a nap you wake up feeling sleepy and frustrated. Go have yourself a little Nana nap and wake up ready to greet the world and singing seahorses.

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10. Hobbies

When I began researching this article, I asked my friends what they do to unwind. The number one response I got was about a hobby, except my best friend said, “Having an ice cold beer in a shower,” which may or may not constitute a hobby.

Knitting, dancing, circus, shoe shopping, video games, writing, embroidery, snuggling a cat (my number one hobby), horse riding, shooting, listening to your favorite band — the most important thing is that if you love doing it, it’s going to make you happy. And if something makes you happy, it’s going to reduce your stress. Voila! It is that easy!

What other brilliant ideas do you have for  dealing with your stress?

Avatar of Hansen

Hansen is the DIY & Food Editor of Autostraddle.com and likes to spend most days making and cooking and writing. She is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Colorado State University in her free time.

Hansen has written 181 articles for us.

61 Comments

  1. Thumb up 7

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    I stick with a simple happy mind/happy body trifecta = vegetables, exercise, and [duh] sex.

    When combined with other life obligations, the trifecta can become one of those “three things, pick two” phenomena (like getting something done cheap, fast, and well), which is better than nothing, but if you can manage to eat some carrots or something between your run and jumping into bed with someone, life will be even more fantastic.

  2. Thumb up 3

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    A stress journal is a great idea! I keep a journal, and it effectively is just a stress journal. During happy, carefree times I never write in it; when I’m unhappy and stressed the fuck out, I can’t stop. It always makes me feel so much better.
    Also, booze.

  3. Thumb up 2

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    A – I am sitting here eating cheese. No lie.
    B – How was the question not asked? DISAPPOINTED. But not really. I’m trying to figure out how to make it into an entire Autostraddle article. You must read…when we hang next.
    C – I look like I stalk you.
    D – I see you through your kitchen window.

  4. Thumb up 8

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    When I’m stressed I lay on the bathroom floor (because it is always cold) and put my headphones on and listen to Baroque music usually it only takes a few minutes to shed the melodrama. Then I pick something danceable, and “shake it out”. Then I tell my dog about it or tweet about it. Then I sometimes listen to No Other Way by Jack Johnson, take a shower, have a cry, and sleep.

    this or xanax.

    • Thumb up 5

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      Lying down and listening to music works for me too. Only I usually listen to loud, rageful, feminist music, like Throwing Muses, when I’m stressed. I find it incredibly cathartic to lose myself in really experiencing the anger in my body as well as my mind. And when it all ends, I feel so much clearer and ready to face the world.

      Calm, soothing music is great when I feel peaceful already, but when I’m stressed, it just aggravates and stresses me out even more.

      • Thumb up 2

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        Yes! Volume! usually the classical music has to be dark (angry cello or violins) and loud and to the point otherwise I fall asleep and wake up most likely still anxiety pants.

        I also have a favorite spot in the park that I will go to and lay in the grass if it isn’t wet and just work stuff out with the universe, play the cloud game, make wishes, etc

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      Alcohol is great, and almost immediately relaxing, but I found it too easily became a daily habit for me. It was just one or two glasses a day, but I didn’t like feeling that I was getting dependent on it to cope.

  5. Thumb up 3

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    I love Tension Tamer tea.
    Journaling doesn’t work too well for me, though, because when I take time to write down why I’m so stressed, half the time I just get more stressed. I have to be very careful about it.

  6. Thumb up 1

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    In highschool I used to keep this little notebook that I called my stress notebook… I literally scribbled the hell out of it but it felt so good! The pages were all torn and at the end of the year I just recycled it. At this point in my life unfortunately I have to turn my food/computer/lazyness stress relief into something more productive. No more eating everything for no reason and spending 5+ hours online! lol

  7. Thumb up 12

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    My friend told me a good one today. When your mind is racing and you can’t get to sleep because you’re anxious and crazy, just pretend you’re an animal doing animal stuff. Munching on some hay or whatever. It’s awesome.

  8. Thumb up 1

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    lying on the floor and breathing in for a count of seven.. holding for a count of seven and doing the same with letting go of your breath.. dancing in your living room. helps me a lot.. mediating.. but dancing really helps to let go of stuff.. to lady gaga

  9. Thumb up 3

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    Kittens. The answer is always kittens. I stayed in a house where we were fostering 3 or 4 at a time right after a rough break up and I all I had to do was scoop one of them up and cuddle to forget all my woes.

  10. Thumb up 10

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    When I am stressed or otherwise anxious, I love to get out a coloring book and some crayons. For some reason it is so relaxing to me, and I’ve gotten my girlfriend hooked, too. This and naps, definitely. Maybe I just belong in preschool forever?

    • Thumb up 2

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      I can definitely see the appeal of coloring. I used to draw with colored pencils a lot in college. I think it hit the same “takes intense concentration but doesn’t actually have consequences” sweet spot as knitting or playing a musical instrument.

  11. Thumb up 3

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    I’m in the last week of overlap between the full-time job I’m about to leave and the part-time job I’ve already started. Also I’m starting grad school in another state next month, and I have to move out of my apartment on Tuesday, and I do not yet have a place to move *to* and I’m pretty sure I can’t fit all my remaining belongings in my car.

    And I need to go to the laundromat and wash my uniforms for the full-time job so I can return them tomorrow but my busybody neighbor is lurking outside in his yard and will ambush me with endless gossip and casual racism if I walk out there with a basket of laundry.

    I’m really fucking stressed out, is what I’m saying.

    • Thumb up 3

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      Dear god. I’m sorry. Hopefully things will sort themselves out better once moving is over and school is happening?
      I live in a shitty neighborhood where i get commented on -every- day, and have just started walking, head up, with very loud music in my ears. Maybe I look like a bitch but I don’t give a fuck. It’s a little thing, but not hearing bullshit every morning makes my morning a lot better.

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        Yeah, I can’t wait to be moved and going to school and settle into some kind of routine. And not have two jobs. That’d be nice.

        The neighbor… gah. His racism isn’t directed at me, but at all the non-white people on our street. I’m sure he saves all his homophobic comments to share with other neighbors.

        Hmm. Maybe I need to find some nice loud headphones.

  12. Thumb up 1

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    Hey now. Don’t knock the shower beer.

    My stressful job and hour long commute sometimes suck the life out of me, which is why I try to make exercise (which for me means walking 2 miles a day after work to three stops down, but hey, it’s something) and doing what you want on your downtime- not letting other people prioritize your time. You don’t have to answer the phone from your perpetually-in-drama friend every time, is what I’m saying.

    Also sex. Sometimes, you need to just make it a priority- seriously pencil it in- or otherwise it won’t happen.

  13. Thumb up 2

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    I second the shower beer. Shower beer is great.

    One thing I’m surprised is not on this list is making art. Lately a new friend introduced me to collaging, and it’s great for stress! You get focused on being creative and finding that perfect thing that fits whatever theme you’re going for, and it’s an outlet for whatever thoughts you can’t put into words. Also, it’s not a frustrating as drawing because it doesn’t require practice or much talent, and it’s really difficult to make something that doesn’t look awesome when it’s done.

  14. Thumb up 2

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    Exercise! I started trail running a few months ago to deal with a lot of stress after a long day. Nothing clears my head better than a long run (or a little retail therapy on running gear). Now I run 25 miles a week and am training for a half-marathon largely under the motivation of reducing stress and feeling awesome.

    Lemons —> Lemonade.

  15. Thumb up 2

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    I am slightly surprised that no one has said marijuana. Yes it’s illegal and all that but seriously I have never found anything better when things get really stressful than smoking a bowl, chilling for an hour or two and eating some foods, then going to bed.

  16. Thumb up 1

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    My mind is so caught up in going through a stressful and ugly breakup that I totally thought this was going to be a piece on how to have a stressful breakup.

  17. Thumb up 3

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    the best thing for me is swimming and talking to anyone who is half alive..i meet the most interesting people every day and I meditate or sit quietly and quiet the monkey. it relaxing….working for hours on my photography as in the darkroom with the music cranked up is very enervating and puts things in perspective…writing letters and enquiring as to how are you? takes the onus off of you and onto someone else…oh yes, a beer at night I’d might fine….and good food.

  18. Thumb up 1

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    Exercise (especially swimming and running) is my lifesaver. If for whatever reason I can’t get exercise into my life, I start getting angry at everything and really nervous and I can’t figure out why until I realize the last time I went to the gym was a week ago…

  19. Thumb up 0

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    Hullo! I find all of these ideas very helpful, and, as a graphic-design-nerd I must say your website is very very well designed! Clean and cheerful, just the way I like it ;) xD
    kisses.

  20. Thumb up 0

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    my girlfriend and i have a joint tumblr account where we exclusively follow blogs that have pleasant, hobby/interest related content (DIY crafting, suggestive vintage comic panels, etc.)

    whenever one of us is bored, we go on there and reblog things that we think the other person will like, and then when we’re sad/upset/stressed and not together, we can look at the blog and see what the other has reblogged for us

    you can do this with a best friend/non-romantic life partner/sibling/yourself, too! it’s really nice

  21. Thumb up 1

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    Ok, that’s gonna sound gay but when I have a stressful project with a crazy deadline, I make breaks during the rendering time to do a puzzle. Yeah I said it.

    And I also thought it was an article about how to end an ugly relationship in a stressful way, which was very weird, like why would you wanna do that?

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