Advice for dealing with stress often boils down to clichés like, "Don't worry, be happy!" or, "Just stay positive." Don't get me wrong, there are some great resources that share how successful people tackle stress and awesome stress management apps to consider, but why not try lifestyle changes that are proven to reduce stress?
Here are three scientifically-backed strategies you can implement today to reduce stress and increase flow.
1. Take short, frequent breaks.
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that employees who took short, frequent breaks enjoyed higher job satisfaction, reduced exhaustion, and a greater willingness to go beyond assigned tasks. So, when should you take a break and for how long? There's no harm in finding what works for you, but a good formula is to take five minutes for 30 minutes worked. So if you work for an hour, take a 10-minute break.
Another study published in the journal SLEEP tied natural light exposure at work to more restful sleep, so consider taking your breaks outside or near a window. That, or get one of those beach-like window stickers to trick your brain.*
*This is scientifically unproven, but I'm admittedly intrigued with the theory!
2. Don't bottle it up.
While many of us "put on a happy face," a study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science determined that individuals under stress benefit from expressing their emotions. Look for a safe place to open up, whether to a friend, mentor, or support group. If you're not a sharer and prefer not to talk about it, try to get it out another way--use the punching bag at the gym, yell into a pillow, talk to your dog if that's your style. Or, take a look at Talkspace--which emulates a texting-like environment for you to talk to a professional in a more comfortable and familiar setting. It doesn't matter how you get it out as long as you're not keeping it in.
3. Try a seven-minute workout.
Students who got aerobic exercise reported less mental stress during end-of-semester exams, according to a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. So, sure, you can definitely walk, hike, bike, or even play tennis. But stress is often accompanied by busy-ness, so you might not have time to figure out a court for doubles.
Consider instead the scientifically-proven seven-minute workout. As you might infer, it's only seven minutes, but of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Even though it's quick, it's an incredibly effective workout, especially for those with crazy schedules. Bottom line: incorporate any aerobic exercise into your day-to-day life to reduce stress.
Curious to see how you're doing? What's equally as important is monitoring your success. If you're into wearable technology, check out Spire.io. It's a great way to easily monitor stress, with technology backed by seven years of research from Stanford's Calming Technologies lab.
Although you can't directly control many stressors, you can take proven steps to ensure you'll remain healthy enough to deal with them, such as incorporating breaks into your day, sharing how you're feeling, and exercising regularly. When you practice this type of self-care, you put yourself in the driver's seat, not your stressors. After all, it's science, man.