Right now, my mind feels like yours. Swirling with too much to do, too much to think about, just too much. Oh, I have my to-do lists and my priorities and my plans of action, but sometimes it feels so daunting to traffic-control everything that is flying around my gray matter. There is just so much packed in that it is hard to find any wiggle room. (Why does that sound like a description of my jeans?) In times like these, we seek relief — momentary oases from the stress so we can center ourselves, calm our minds and feel better. Everyone has their own prescription for stress relief, so you have to do what works for you. Here are my ratings of popular stress relievers.
A note about criteria: My unscientific, unsubstantiated and admittedly subjective rating system (scale of 1 to 5) takes into account how it makes you feel in the moment, how well it helps you quell tension in the long term, and whether or not there are any negative health consequences.
A cup of coffee
He is the friend who will sit with you while you work. He is there to take the edge off and provides stability when you have none. (Add one star if you use flavored creamer; remove one star if you read the sentence subbing out the word “coffee” for “chardonnay.”)
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Running, swimming, boxing, any exercise that you like. While it may be a form of procrastination to keep you from doing what you need to do, the adrenaline and energy that comes from exercise will clear your mind and give you the strength to power through.
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Taking care of business
The dirty little secret about stress relief is that anything that helps us relax (bubble baths, naps, meditation) can be great for clearing the mind, but they don’t actually solve our problems. The only way to relieve the stress in the long term is to hunker down and get ‘er done.
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Bowls of bliss
The 13 seconds it takes to chomp through chips provides the shortest relief — and the worst guilt.
There’s nothing quite like having someone press deep into a muscle knot. Even the best massage won’t do much to actually solve the fact that you have 477 things to do before tomorrow, but it sure does make you feel spritely as you do them.
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Cleaning out your closet
This form of distraction is surprisingly effective. Helping to restore order in one small piece of your world has the same effect on your brain. Hey, there’s that red sock! And $1.37 in coins! And a crumpled to-do list from 2009 …
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Ted Spiker (@ProfSpiker) is the chair of the University of Florida department of journalism, as well as a health and fitness writer. He is the author of DOWN SIZE, a book about the science and soul of weight loss and dieting.