Stressing the point

Seven simple tricks will help you to keep cool while others blow a gasket

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 4:41pm

In The Hunger Games, children from a post-apocalyptic future are summoned to represent their districts in a televised and gory fight to the death. But that is less stressful than striving to be a successful adult today.

Maybe it's a first-world problem, but everyday reactions, such as eye rolling and deep sighing, are really working their way into my schedule. Things don't go the way I want, people are increasingly unpredictable and the traffic never, ever helps.

Stress is a relentless, pressuring and draining force of human nature. But it doesn't have to defeat you. Here are things you can do to prevent your blood pressure from shooting through the roof.


Find your inner guru
Some time ago, I joined some friends in a slew of ego-bruising yoga classes to prove my openness to try other forms of exercise. "Yoga? That's where people confuse meditation with doing something right?" Little did I know that my patronising self was ill equipped to handle the punishment. There's this intimidating, formidable pose named Shiva, The Lord Of The Dance, where you stand on one straight leg and grab the ankle of the other while raising the other arm skyward, looking straight in the mirror. The good ones looked like a glorious palm tree, but the class saw me as a drunk giraffe in Louboutins. Yoga made me focus so much harder than I expected. The experience was new, refreshing and emotionally satisfying. It took my mind off work, challenged my psyche, woke my body and reduced the pain in my lower back, and I couldn't wait for class the following week.


Log off - you don't need to know everything
Here's something I read in a science journal that frightened me so much I had to fling my phone to the far end of the room: "Energy waves and radiation from your cellphones, computers and television sets cause irreversible cell damage and rob your life. It saps your vitality and can cause many diseases including cancer." I want my vitality. I want my cells. I don't want cancer. But the internet never sleeps and there's no way we can dam the rivers of information flooding in from the office inbox, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The sooner you accept the fact that you don't need to know everything right now, the sooner you can interact with real people around you. You will be surprised how relaxing that can be.


Get physical with photos
There's nothing more comforting than hiding in your air conditioned, dim-as-Zero Dark Thirty den with the wide-screen TV, iMac and mini-cooler all within an arm's length, but getting up and out of your physical comfort zone is the equivalent of chocolate for your heart. I don't mean you should run an ultra-marathon every weekend, but going outdoors for a blast of sunlight and fresh air can give you that invigorating jolt of inspiration. Walk, don't drive, to the groceries store. Cycle to the post office. Dust off that fancy DSLR for a nice, long photo walk in a new neighbourhood. Get lost, snap photos for Instagram. Anything that gets the heart rate up, while surprising you emotionally, is rewarding and stress-busting. Your soul will thank you for your effort.


Go to a gig
You can tell a person is conditioned by stress if his body is huddled, rigid and cramped at the joints. He basically looks like Gollum, and Gollum is one of the world's least attractive Hollywood stars. Don't wear your stress like a cheap suit.

Watch a band you like. And even if you aren't familiar with the group, check them out and reap the experience. Feed the soul with a refreshing, sensory difference. Bungee-jumping is also refreshing and different but a feet-stomping rock concert or a world-class DJ rave lasts longer. I caught the Swedish House Mafia farewell tour at its Singapore stop and, even though I barely recognised four songs, it was amazing to see 10,000 people bouncing to Don't You Worry, Child. That's how you banish all worries over the monthly sales report.


Laugh at life
When you are stressed, your body basically becomes as difficult as a Kardashian and produces unnaturally high levels of the stress hormone called cortisol, which is a toxin that slowly grinds your body to a halt. You can combat this disease-causing hormone by laughing deeply. It may be wise to make comedy night a weekly affair for regular laughter as it reduces stress and the constriction of blood vessels, while even helping to reduce the stomach fat caused by work-related anxiety.


Manage your time
How many times have you heard someone say, "Sorry, let's take a rain check. I've double-booked myself?" You don't need to be overscheduled and under stress. Thinking you're capable of wrapping up work by noon, running the week's errands, getting a haircut, cooking dinner and meeting your friends for drinks by 9pm is probably the fastest way to a hernia. While there's nothing wrong with spontaneity and affectionate randomness, having the right to think, "I know how this week is going to pan out and what is required of me" goes a long way to prevent nasty surprises. Nobody likes to look at the calendar to see five meetings in a day. Reduce the to-do list one item at a time - make an appointment with the doctor, reply to that e-mail. Alleviate stress levels by minimising the number of places you have to go in a day. Plan your route so that things will most likely go according to plan. And when they don't, hey, just breathe and work it out. Life goes on.


Get it on
One of the things Hollywood does best is showing couples crashing between the sheets after sex, panting and covered in perspiration and glowing with silly grins. It looks fun because it is. Sex is like that Swiss Army Knife of health; it releases endorphins to make you feel good, it improves blood pressure, boosts your immunity, burns calories, toughens your heart (not emotionally, I'm afraid) and gives you better self esteem. And because it's in our DNA to pursue it, so that we can produce even more stressed versions of ourselves, sex is nature's way of a back rub. It soothes you and calms you. I'm not saying you should be a porn star; I'm saying you should work it into your week as much as you can. Remember, an orgasm is a firewall for stress.


Spa Yourself
This is pure indulgence, but an afternoon at the spa is a luxurious, lingering affair where you spruce for the week. There's nothing emasculating about getting a deep-pore cleansing, moisturising, exfoliating, toning and pampering facial from a skilled, assuring therapist as you sleep.

If you're really insecure about leaving the inbox alone, take a couple of hours post-facial to relax in your robe at the lounge and scan through your schedule for the week. The peaceful environment at the spa gives you clarity and focus. You'd feel as fresh as you look and that's when you're ready to crush the week's meetings.

For top-notch rejuvenation and service, check out some the city's premium spas - the Grand Hyatt's Plateau Spa, Four Seasons Spa, the Mandarin Barber at the Mandarin Oriental or at Bliss at W Hotel. Men's grooming boutique Joyce Grooming offers a plethora of deluxe facial and body treatments. So there is no shortage of places to go. Satisfying afternoons are made of these.

Tommy Wee is a content producer and writer based in Singapore.