Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions yet? Despite the talk about how ineffective resolutions are, at least 40 percent of Americans make them each year.
Most people want to lose weight, quit smoking, or reduce stress. A major reason people don’t stick with it is because they put their effort into not doing something, instead of contemplating what action they’ll take instead.
Since we’re better off replacing bad habits with good ones, here are four swaps you can make for a less stressful 2015.
1. Replace cooking for others with cooking what you like:
If you’re hosting a New Year’s celebration, this tip is especially useful. We’ve already talked about how stressful the holidays are, but many people obsess over the details when entertaining friends and family.
When it comes to hosting - and lots of other things - it’s best to serve what you like. Chances are, unless you’re into jellied salads and haggis, your friends will appreciate what you’ve done. This applies to cooking, choosing activities, or even what to wear. When you constantly try to please others, it stresses you out more. So make choices that please you!
2. Replace a night out at the bar with a night out at the game:
Hitting happy hour with your friends may seem harmless after a hard workday. But one drink often leads to several, and while that’s not harmful on occasion, it can be if drinking is your primary way to deal with stress. Excessive drinking can lead to weight gain, poor social choices, and disrupted sleep - all of which lead to more stress.
So, instead of going straight to the bar, find other social activities that aren’t centered on drinking. Playing a sport, learning a new skill, or going to the movies are all ways to hang out after work. Your wallet will thank you, and you’ll find that spending sober time with friends may be more meaningful than conversations that you’ll forget (or regret) you had.
3. Replace a sweet treat with a cup of tea:
When you feel stressed, it’s easy to reach for the cookies. Or you might visit reception for a chat and find yourself reaching into that candy bowl on the front desk. But sugar and stress don’t mix. Several studies have linked stress to spikes in blood sugar - if you eat sweets to de-stress, you’ll raise your blood sugar even higher, feel even more panicked, and contribute to long-term weight gain.
Rather than reach for dessert when you’re stressed, try a cup of tea. Chamomile is the most popular choice for a soothing tea, but lemon balm, passionflower, and even decaffeinated green tea can calm you down. (See here for a list of teas and how to prepare them.) If you still need something sweet, a bit of honey is far better for you than refined sugar.
4. Replace “being busy” with great sleep hygiene:
Are the type of person who responds to the question, “How are you?” with “I’m sooooo busy”? Many people today are proud to be busy because, just by saying so, they feel more productive. But do work and commitments eat away at your sleep?
Restful, effective sleep is the most overlooked stress buster because it helps you make better decisions and regulate your behavior. When you’re sleep-deprived, cognitive function and mood suffer in the short run, and your health with suffer in the long-run.
Ironically, being stressed in itself can make it difficult to sleep. It’s best to avoid stress-triggering issues and working at night with your smartphone or laptop, since artificial light can make it difficult to fall asleep. And after you’ve made time to sleep by being strict with your schedule, use relaxation techniques like meditation, visualization, or soothing music to help you fall asleep.
What are your stress-busting techniques? Let us know in the comments below.
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Stress management with Emvio