How We Calm Ourselves Down.
By Juliana Kreinik
Running provides a naturally occurring, anxiety-easing endorphin boost.
Like everyone else these days, FPQ readers are feeling the stress of too much work (or not enough), financial insecurity, lofty gas prices, political uncertainty, weird extreme weather, and other worry makers. What’s a person interested in cultivating a more tranquil lifestyle supposed to do in this environment?
That’s a question the New York Times recently posed to readers in a poll titled, “How do you relieve stress?” In response they received more than 200 replies from people across the nation. The range of stress-busting ideas was vast and fascinating and we wanted to share some of the key themes with FPQ readers.
Stress Busting Trends
Many respondents felt it was vital to clear one’s mind of tension. How best to accomplish that task is a matter of personal preference, but overwhelmingly, readers said that daily stress is best countered through physical activities. The three most-frequently mentioned activities were running, yoga, and sex — which we conclude to mean that heavy breathing is a major stress-reliever.
Yoga enthusiasts say the practice helps them get perspective on everyday problems.
Meditation appeared frequently on the list of calm-me-downers, too. Alcohol was another popular choice: many recommended the soothing effects of a glass of wine, a cold beer, or favorite liquor quaffed in ritualized doses. One reader wrote, “I put on Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue,” pour a glass of red wine, and cook something special.”
Additional relief came from time-honored activities like walking, sleeping, bicycling, hiking, swimming, gym workouts, taking hot baths, visiting spas, and having massages. More than several readers enthused about dancing: “Put on a favorite rhythmic tune and shake it like a mad woman! It clears my head, gives my body an outlet for the physical build-up of stress and simply feels great.”
For some people preparing a simple cup of tea can become a soothing ritual.
Reading, writing, playing instruments, singing, and listening to music were recommended by more than a few respondents, as were spending time with pets, doing crossword puzzles, painting, sketching, and photography. “Knit!” declares one reader. “The soothing rhythm helps me to put the world back in perspective.”
And then there were the “peace through ingestion” respondents. More than a few people recommended eating dark chocolate and consuming eye-watering spicy food: “I [like] food so spicy it hurts more than whatever’s stressing me,” wrote one respondent. Another suggested using the rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony to help relax, while many enjoyed the simple pairing of “a cup of tea and a chat with a friend” — surely one of the best ways to renew connections and help others de-stress. Indulging in other substances was popular, as well: some advocated the calming effects of anti-anxiety meds (“Take a Xanax,” one replied) while others sought non-prescription pacifiers like “high quality cannabis.”
Hot baths, spa treatments, and massages bring calm to many tired, stressed-out minds and bodies.
We liked the unexpected answers. One person swore that cleaning and organizing her home took her stress down a few notches, while some folks were exceptionally unique and creative: kite-surfing, chopping wood, playing bagpipes, roller derby, and firing guns topped their lists (firing guns – that’s a first for us at FPQ).
A few respondents got philosophical, believing that it takes more than cosmetic or external changes to handle imbedded tensions. As one reader eloquently advised, “Take yourself off the treadmill of your own particular obsession.” Others suggested more subtle physical, mental and spiritual adjustments—slowing down, being thankful, paying attention to one’s posture, having “perspective,” being “present” or “in the moment,” hypnosis, prayer, and chanting.
More than a few respondents de-stress by playing an instrument and listening to music.
And then there was the one extremely sensible piece of stress-eliminating advice that all FPQ readers can benefit from – “Use ALL vacation days you are allotted per year.”
We’d love to hear from you about ways you manage and mitigate stress in your everyday life. Send us your thoughts at .