Studies show that what you do during your downtime might be the exact wrong way to recover after a stressful day. Let us take a look at some of the common downtime mistakes we are adopting.
Smokers tend to light up when they feel stressed or anxious, believing that will calm their nerves. However, a 2014 study conducted in the United Kingdom revealed that quitting smoking actually reduces stress in ex-smokers. Researchers evaluated the levels of certain mental health factors in smokers before and after they tried to quit. Those who did quit experienced significant decreases in anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as an increase in positivity and quality of life. Smokers who tried and failed to give up the habit actually ended up feeling more stressed than before the study.
Talking with Friends
It is completely counterintuitive, but research shows that when female pals discuss their problems, they experience a spike in stress hormone levels. You are dwelling on and over-analysing every slight, every nasty look, every perceived injustice — essentially experiencing them over and over again. Instead, experts recommend talking about a problem once, then shifting your focus to possible solutions.
Most of us could admittedly use more shuteye but spending too much time in bed can make you lethargic. As a result, this can make it harder to focus and cope with what is bugging you.
Maybe you replay a meeting with your boss over and over again in your mind or make an endless pro and con list. These practices sound productive, but they may lead to a sabotaging habit that psychologists call ruminating — or compulsively thinking about something. Ruminating while in a low mood impairs problem-solving. People often believe that overthinking will lead to problem-solving insights. It generally does not. What it actually leads to is oily skin and acne breakout. If you cannot seem to easily escape your stress mentally, distract yourself with physical exercise or upbeat music.
Eating Comfort Food
Digging into the mac-and-cheese or grabbing a jumbo chocolate bar is not exactly a healthy way to combat stress, but many of us continue to do it, aiming for a quick mood boost or energy lift (and swearing to burn it off with a workout later). But when you scarf down food and your stress hormones are raging, these chemicals can actually tamper with digestion. Unfortunately, the calories you eat then are more likely to be stored as fat than used for energy. Instead, opt for one of these superfoods.
Unwinding with TV
After a long, stressful day, being a couch potato with TV or video games is supposed to make you feel better, right? Not for everyone. German and Dutch researchers recently found that people who were exhausted after work were more likely to feel guilty — that the TV and games made them procrastinate instead of accomplishing more important tasks. Experts are starting to look at media use as a cause of [energy] depletion. The ubiquitous availability of content and communication often seems to be a burden and a stressor rather than a recovery resource.
On the other end of the attention spectrum, completely ignoring whatever is stressing you out is not in your best interest either. Attempting to put it out of your mind will not make the stress go away. On the contrary, you will only make the stress worse. When you evade your problems, you do not allow yourself to process or understand what you are dealing with. Allow yourself to confront the problem, no matter how uncomfortable that may be, and develop a plan of action to find a solution. If it still seems like too big a task, enlist the help of someone you trust or a counsellor.
Trying to do too much at once can increase your stress level, say health experts. When you are feeling stressed, rather than multitasking to get it all done, try taking the opposite action: slow down. Whether you are thinking, texting, doing chores or running an errand, slow it down by 25 percent.
You have probably indulged in a glass of pinot noir or chardonnay after a rough day at the office, which is not such a big deal, yes — unless that one glass turns into three or more. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, men and women who report high levels of stress tend to drink more, and men are more likely to turn to alcohol for stress relief than women.
Additionally, heavy drinking — defined as binge drinking (having four drinks for women and five drinks for men in around two hours) on five or more days in a month — can shift the body’s hormone balance and change the way our bodies react to stress. A heavy drinker will likely experience more anxiety over stressful situations that someone who drinks moderately. So, what some see as a stress reliever can actually end up causing more stress and even lead to alcoholism.