6 Ways To Calm The Heck Down!
Stress is a master of disguise. One day it's triggered by a traffic jam, the next by your doctor pulling on a latex glove. This wouldn't be such a big deal, except that by the time you hear the sound of beeping horns or "bend over," stress is already on to its next trick: making your health disappear. Poof!"Over the long term, stress can raise your risk of cardiovascular disease, angina, heart attack, and stroke," says David Posen, M.D., an Ontario-based stress-management physician. "Often when someone has a heart attack or stroke, others look back and recall that the person was really under a lot of stress in the previous few months."We realize we've just given you something more to stress about, but don't panic. We're here to unmask the enemy and provide you with a few situation-specific tricks to help it vanish. Your Office Job stress isn't evil—without it, you could be unemployed. "Moderate stress gives you energy, but at a certain point it becomes distress and negatively impacts your emotions and concentration," says Dr. Posen, author of Is Work Killing You? If there's no letup, your brain could suffer as a result: A recent study from Sweden found that people under chronic job stress had less gray matter in several brain regions than those with fewer work worries. That may be because excess stress hormones can damage or even kill neurons.Stop the ClockYour brain is better at sprints than marathons. "You can't be productive for long periods before your mind wanders and your energy flags," says Dr. Posen. And that just adds stress. So step away from your desk at least three times a day to boost efficiency: At midmorning, spend 10 minutes catching up with coworkers. (Remember that schmoozing can help your career.) Next, allot at least half an hour for lunch—don't work through it. Finally, consider taking a 15-minute walk in the afternoon when your energy dips, suggests Dr. Posen. Your Doctor You'd have to be sick to enjoy going to the doctor. But watch out if you've moved from stress-fueled procrastination to outright M.D. avoidance. "A lot of people with health care anxiety stop going to the doctor, which can allow an illness to progress to the point where they have no choice but to go," says Martin Antony, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Ryerson University and the author of The Anti-Anxiety Workbook. No matter how unpleasant it may be to turn your head and cough, it's a lot less stressful than a ruptured hernia.Patient, Heal ThyselfFear of the unknown is part of the problem, says Antony. Ask for a rundown of the screenings you'll need and the order of your tests. Then identify and challenge your white-coat worries, says Antony. Afraid your doc will scold you? Remember that lots of guys with triglyceride levels worse than yours have sat in that exam room. Dreading a diagnosis? Focus on the fact that sinusitis is more common than avian flu. And before you leave, book your follow-up visit. "The more often you go, the easier it will become," says Antony. Your Home Home is where the headaches are. Crying children, barking dogs, the sunbathing couple next door—it's enough to make a guy consider staying in the garage. "Your home should be a place of solace, but there's an endless list of stressors you can encounter," says Aditi Nerurkar, M.D., assistant medical director of the Cheng-Tsui Integrated Health Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "If you're not relieving that stress, it can spread to other areas of your life." Read: Your family may consider changing the locks.De-Hassle Your CastleStart by squeezing in a workout after work. Research from the University of Maryland shows that 30 minutes of cardio can immediately reduce stress and help shield you from stressors afterward. If your zen still evaporates at home, sneak away from the source of your stress and set your smartphone alarm for five minutes, says Dr. Nerurkar. Sit with your spine straight and eyes closed, and concentrate on observing your breath (without changing the flow of your natural breathing pattern) until the alarm sounds. Your Bed You're naked, she's naked; so what's there to stress about? "It largely has to do with the societal scripts for men's sexual behavior," says Robin Milhausen, Ph.D., an associate professor of family relations and human sexuality at the University of Guelph, Ontario. "The beliefs that men should always be ready for sex and should be incredible sexual performers are very prominent and strongly held, and those expectations can be a source of stress." Worst case—well, you already know the worst case: You won't have the wood to start a fire.Come To Your SensesGet out of your head and back into bed. One of the best ways to bring your mind to the moment is to pay close attention to your five senses, explains Milhausen. For example, focus on how awesome it feels when she does that thing with her hips, the strangely hot animalistic sounds that she's making, or the taste (and smell) of her glistening skin.If you're still psyching yourself out of an erection, try going down on her, Milhausen recommends. Putting penetration on pause will take the emphasis off your faltering equipment. What's more, the confidence boost you'll receive from turning her on should provide the additional benefit of heightening your own arousal.And if you feel yourself starting to go soft while you're in the act? Turn to the tried-and-true squeeze technique: Pull out and squeeze gently just underneath the head of your penis. Doing this may help you maintain your arousal and keep your erection from falling flat, says Milhausen. Your Flight We won't remind you that you're actually more likely to die in a car accident than you are to eat earth in an airplane (though you are). Heck, the thought of crashing to the ground may not even be what makes the skies feel so unfriendly to you. "There's a lot of variability in flying anxiety, and how you cope depends on your trigger," says Antony. Those triggers can include anything from the claustrophobia of tight quarters to the fear of having a seatmate who's hacking up a lung. And of course, there's that fear of taking a nosedive.Relieve Cabin PressureWhat's your trigger? If you often feel the plane's walls closing in on you, then you probably wait until the last minute to board. While that may provide short-term relief, boarding early and taking time to acclimate to the situation can lead to better results in the long run, Antony says.Now if you're worried that the coughing guy nearby will hack into your immune system, know that your chance of catching an infection in flight is only 15 percent, Purdue researchers estimate. Tip the odds further in your favor by washing your hands before eating or drinking; a University of Michigan review concluded that washing up cuts your risk of picking up a respiratory illness by 21 percent.And if the real but remote risk of crashing stresses you, do some homework: Before you leave, read up on the aircraft so the flying experience will feel predictable. You can look online for commercial aircraft facts, such as size and number of seats. "Anything that makes the plane less mysterious can help you feel less afraid," Antony says.