Apparently, I had no idea what being “stir-crazy” actually meant until we entered this indefinite solitary confinement they call quarantine. Even as a proud introvert, it feels like the universe is shoving all the plans I’ve ever canceled in my face and screaming, “IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED?” This is absolutely not what any of us wanted—as any introvert will tell you, part of the thrill is canceling plans. With no plans to cancel, this endless abyss of plans that could have been (canceled) feels like a discount version of Groundhog Day. Not only are we mourning the closures of our favorite restaurants, stores, and bars, but many of the activities that kept us sane are no longer an option. One of the most difficult aspects of my quarantine has been the closure of my gym, and not only because of the sense of community it provided. Physical activity has been one of the only things I’ve found in over a decade of pretty severe anxiety that actually helped keep it in check. According to the CDC, reduced anxiety isn’t the only noticeable benefit of regular physical activity. Just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week (that’s like 7 episodes of Schitt’s Creek which, realistically, you’ve done in one day) can improve both your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Regular exercise can also reduce your risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. So yeah, TL;DR, exercise is good for you and I’m sorry for all the times I pretended I had cramps to get out of gym in high school.
During this time of incredible stress and uncertainty, the anxiety-reducing aspects of physical activity are more important than ever. Being trapped inside a small space with no end in sight is stressful, to say the least. Exercise is definitely helpful, and nothing makes me feel quite as calm as the aftermath of a heart-pounding sweat session. There are plenty of workouts that can be done from the comfort of your own home, but when running is your go-to, working out while quarantined can be a little more complicated (unless you have your own treadmill, you lucky b*tch).
At the beginning of quarantine I was running four miles a day ….. Now I’m proud because I did a single squat
— Donese (@donese22) July 9, 2020
It’s SO tempting—outside is literally right there. You can see it and hear it screaming at you to lace up and get out there. So what’s stopping you? If your neighborhood is anything like mine, you’ve seen countless people jog by, headphones in, totally oblivious to the fact that we’re in the middle of a freaking pandemic. If they can do it, why not the rest of us? Well, because we both know we’re smarter than that. Yes, it’s tempting to squeeze in a quick 3-miler and be back inside before the coronavirus even has a chance to notice we left our bubble. Unfortunately, this isn’t some high-risk game of tag and we really can’t afford to take any chances. Here’s the great news, though—experts say that it is fairly safe to run outside, as long as we take the proper precautions. Family Medicine Physician Doctor Mike Varshavski—or as he’s known on Instagram, Dr. Mike—tells Betches that running “is considered a low to moderate-low risk activity based on the new chart put out by the Texas Medical Association” and notes that “throughout this pandemic, almost all shelter at home orders have continued to allow and encourage solo exercise like hiking, walking, and running.”
So that’s the good news! And as long as you follow these pretty easy guidelines, you can rest easy knowing that you put your safety and the safety of others first.
1. Jog Alone Or In Small Groups, But Make Sure You Maintain A Safe Distance
I get it, running with your best friend or your running group like you’ve done for years is a blast. However, just because you have been extremely cautious about protecting yourself from the coronavirus doesn’t necessarily mean your running partners have done the same. Make sure whoever you’re running with is also taking the proper precautions, and continue to practice social distancing even when running outside. Dr. Mike tells Betches, “any time you are exposing yourself to other individuals, it raises the risk of catching the virus,” reminding us, “those who look healthy can still be spreading COVID-19. If you have to go with a group (for safety reasons, perhaps), try and be with the smallest group possible.”
Brian Labus, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada Las Vegas told Runners World, “If you deem running with a small group is something you’re comfortable with, you’ll want to ensure that these few people have been properly careful over the past few months, same as if you’re running with one other person. Additionally, your small group should run somewhere you know you won’t come in close contact with others.”
Labus also emphasizes that if you live with someone in the at-risk age group (over 65) or someone who is immunocompromised, extra precautions are necessary, and running with a partner may not be the best idea. He explains, “There have been over 182,000 cases (as of June 10) and over 77,000 COVID-19 deaths (as of June 6) in those age 65 and over since February 1, according to provisional data from the CDC. It is safer to run solo until disease transmission is low in your community.”
2. Bring A Mask With You When You Run
It’s probably not necessary to wear a mask while you run outdoors (and realistically, it would be really tough to wear a mask during any exercise that leaves you gasping for air) as long as you maintain the proper distance between you and anyone you encounter outside. Indeed, Dr. Mike tells Betches that “a mask should not be worn while running as sweat will make the mask wet and create other problems.” He advises, “The best protection is to wear the mask until you’re ready to exercise, take it off, and stay at least six feet away from others as best as possible.”
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That said, it’s probably not a bad idea to bring a mask with you when you run just in case. You may end up lost and needing to grab an Uber back, you could desperately need to run into Walgreens for a drink of water, or you might end up running into your ex and needing a disguise. Point is, there are a lot of reasons you may need a mask when leaving your house, so make sure you have one with you at all times.
Donald Milton, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health explained to the New York Times, “Outdoors is relatively safe, and masks would only be important if you are exercising in crowded areas or indoors in space shared with other people.” According to Milton, as long as you’re keeping your distance, you should be pretty fine running outside with your mask at the ready in case of an emergency.
3. Scope Out Your Street During Different Times Throughout The Day, Or Find A Different Street Altogether
Please withhold all “duh”s, because from what I’ve seen firsthand it apparently needs to be said—the easiest way to keep your distance when running outside is to run in a less crowded area. Now, this doesn’t mean driving 38 miles to the middle of the forest to knock out your run. This honestly may be as simple as spending a few days looking out your window every hour or two to see how many people are out and about. Peak hours in your neighborhood may also vary between weekdays and weekends, so also take that into account when planning your run. Ideally, you want to find both a time when not too many people are out, and a place where you have plenty of “escape routes.” This means not running next to a busy street that you can’t cross if you see a group of people on the sidewalk. If you’re running on a forest path, it means being able to step way off to the side if someone else is approaching (and, see #2, don’t forget your mask in case this isn’t an option).
Dr. Benjamin D. Levine, a professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas, explained to NPR the importance of keeping an even greater distance when exercising outside. He advises, “The greater volume and rate of breathing that occurs during exercise has the risk of spreading droplets farther. I think it’s reasonable based on the known changes in breathing during exercise.”
I don’t know how many times I’ve been out walking and out of absolutely nowhere, a jogger runs by me so close that I feel a small gust of potential plague-wind as they pass. This isn’t okay, guys. First and foremost, if we can’t be considerate to other people who have just as much of a right to use the sidewalk as we do, we shouldn’t be out running in the first place.
That said, if you’ve been keeping an eye on your street and it really doesn’t seem like there’s much of a break in the constant stream of people passing by, check out some other side streets nearby. Chances are, within a mile or so of where you live, there are some quieter residential streets that will be far less congested.
4. Make Sure That It’s Actually Okay To Run Outside In Your Area
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As we’ve discussed, it is more than tempting to grab your shoes and just GTFO. But even if you’ve thoroughly read through these important tips and feel confident in your ability to run outside safely, please hit pause for just a hot second. Because of the constantly evolving nature of how we’re handling this pandemic, running outside without a mask may not even be allowed in your area. Make sure you’re constantly checking mandates from your state health departments to ensure you’re adhering to your area’s current requirements. These mandates are changing fairly regularly in some areas, so it’s a good idea to check them daily before your planned run. Your state will most likely have a dedicated coronavirus page with all of the latest information, from things like the number of confirmed cases to reopening guidelines.
Dr. Mike emphasizes, “Know that there is no such thing as absolute safety when outdoors. The guidelines of wearing a mask, physical distancing, and washing hands will certainly reduce risk but not eliminate it. Know what is an acceptable risk for you.”
If you’re still hyped up to go for an outdoor run, more power to you. Just remember the four M’s, and you should be good to go. Maintain your distance, Mask (in your pocket/bra/around your neck/whatever), find tiMes of the day that are less crowded (ok that was a stretch, who cares), and Mandates (check your local mandates to see what rules are in place in your area). Happy running!
Images: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels; donese22 / Twitter; notskinnybutnotfat, dietstartstomorrow / Instagram
Anxiety is like the girl who consistently shows up to your parties uninvited. No one ever asks her to come, but you know she’ll always turn up. For me, that uninvited anxiety is a daily party crasher in my life. Joy. And if you’re anything like me, every living person who learns you have anxiety offers some kind of tip to help reduce anxiety. “I’ve heard weighted blankets really help” or “have you tried drinking more water?” While these all (usually) tend to be genuine tips, the overload of information to help reduce anxiety is, well, anxiety-inducing. So from one anxious person to another, here are some tips that I have found help me, that aren’t just the deep breathing and counting to 10.
1. Get More Sleep
I know. This one can be super difficult to achieve because your mind probably races at night with the million and one things you need to do (or said three years ago that you’re still embarrassed by). While I try to fall asleep, I make checklists of what I need to do, plan my outfits for the week, and/or revisit the status of my dreams and accomplishments. But I’ve found a miracle worker. I’ve been obsessed with the “Sleep with Me” podcast. It’s essentially a dude telling you a bedtime story in a super monotone voice, but he just rambles and goes off into tangents so you don’t actually need to pay attention. I couldn’t even tell you what the stories are about, because I am never awake long enough to know. It sounds dumb, but every time I put it on, I’m asleep within five minutes.
2. Try Some Essential Oils
Saje Unwind Smoothing Face & Body Mist
While I don’t swear by essential oils, I do feel like they can help. Smelling essential oils initiates an almost immediate response in your brain of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine (aka the feel-good chemicals). This one from Saje is my personal favorite because it doesn’t need a diffuser so it can be used pretty much anywhere. This mist combines hints of lavender for relaxation, orange to brighten your mood, and bergamot to relieve stress. I love spraying this on my pillow before going to bed for an extra boost of anxiety-reducing power.
3. Ease Up On The Coffee
You know the jitters you get from having too much caffeine? Since coffee is a stimulant, it can trigger your “fight-or-flight” response which can be bad news for anyone with anxiety. Additionally, too much coffee can make you moody, hyper-aware, and nervous, and it can make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Aka all things that someone with anxiety does not need help with.
4. Get Moving
I hate myself for including this one on the list, but it really is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a workout class feeling anxious af and leaving feeling so much better. It increases endorphins (aka nature’s Xanax) which boosts your mood and helps you sleep better. Go to a workout class or the gym, take the stairs, or just walk more. Whatever you do, the more you move, the better you feel.
Blame It On Limit The Alcohol
Having a nice
bottle glass of wine after work or a cold beer to unwind is sometimes a necessity. I get it. We’ve all been there. But in reality, alcohol can wreak havoc on your anxiety. Alcohol is a depressant, which lowers your mood and can temporarily make you forget about your stress. While this may be effective in the short term, once the alcohol wears off, you’ll be worse off. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, and low blood sugar are just some symptoms you may experience, which we have all probably experienced at one point, but did you know there’s such thing as an emotional hangover too? Yeah, turns out alcohol can make you anxious once it wears off. Great.
6. Avoid Sugar
If you are an emotional eater like I am, this one might be the hardest tip to help reduce anxiety, but I swear it helps. Although the copious amounts of ice cream may feel like just what you need in the moment, it’ll make you feel a hell of a lot worse in about 15 minutes (not unlike our good friend alcohol). The crash you experience after eating a ton of sugar is worse than Brit’s breakdown when she shaved her head. The drastic swing in your blood sugar increases cortisol and adrenal levels—aka you feel tired, lightheaded, and sick. Sound like similar symptoms to a panic attack?
Remember, what helps me might not help you. Sometimes, all you need is a good cry or an episode of Keeping Up to remind you that things could be a lot worse for you.
Images: Kinga Cichewicz / Unsplash; Giphy (3); Saje
What do you do after becoming the Bachelor? For most alumni, it’s hawking fit teas and watches on their Instagram. But some of them have legit businesses, Nick Viall being one of them. The two-time Bachelorette contestant and one-time Bachelor decided to team up with his sister and start his own business, Natural Habits essential oils. Naturally, we were curious, so we sat down with Nick to discuss his new venture. Nick talks all things essential oils, including his personal experiences with oils, the inception of Natural Habits, and how his oils are different from the ones your aunt’s friend keeps messaging you about on Facebook.
Read on to learn more about the beneficial ways you could be incorporating essential oils into your daily routine.
How did you learn about essential oils?
I’ve been using essential oils for going on six years now. I got into it because, like a lot of people, I get anxiety, and that anxiety would lead to me grinding my teeth, and subsequently, I’d get headaches. My sister, who’s a holistic nutritionist, is always looking for alternative forms of self-care and improvement, and so she turned me onto them and suggested I try them. I understand that when it comes to anxiety and headaches sometimes you have to medicate, but if you can try to do other things before you get to that stage it’s always beneficial, so I wanted to avoid relying on medication for anxiety.
Did you have any doubts about using essential oils at first?
I reluctantly started using essential oils. It honestly sounded kind of hocus-pocus-y to me. And the two biggest companies and players in the space are doTERRA and Young Living, who are, as a lot of people know, multi-level marketing (MLM) companies. And there are some red flags with that concept. But there’s other, smaller brands out there so I started using those, and to my surprise, they really helped with me sleeping, relaxing, and anxiety, and then especially also with headaches.
Why did you decide to start your own essential oils company?
It was a bit cumbersome for me because you can have individual essential oils, like peppermint oil is really popular for headaches, but when you blend essential oils together you can maximize the medicinal benefits. That’s kind of time-consuming for the average person. I just wanted to use them as a way to make myself feel better. I also found it surprisingly interesting that it was a challenge for me to find essential oils that were USDA Organic Certified. So that’s kind of how Natural Habits started, with two ideas in mind: first, being able to offer an organic oil that was certified by the USDA, and then we specialize in blends.
What does it mean that your oils are USDA Organic Certified?
So I can only speak in the essential oils space, I don’t know the qualifications for shampoo or whatever, but it’s just making sure there’s no contamination, there are no chemicals, especially when it comes on the farms. Like, we have to make sure there’s no runoff that comes into the soil, no chemicals are added, no adulterants are in there, and a lot has to do with the farming. And the fact that it is a third party, it’s the USDA that we have no relationship with other than the fact that they’re approving our oils so we can legally fly that symbol. There’s a lot of companies that would call themselves organic. Anyone can say they’re organic, but they can’t say they’re verified by the USDA.
What sets Natural Habits apart from other essential oil companies?
We’re not the only ones who do blends, but we specialize in those blends, and we’ve taken time to create the blends. And we try to keep it simple and safe. So the combination of us being USDA Organic, the fact that we’re simple. Right now, we only have four blends. We’re going to keep those for a while, the same four blends will be in our diffuser line. Eventually, I’m sure we’ll have more, but these are the four blends that I’ve used for the past five years that have really helped me, and honestly, if you use these on a regular basis, they will help your emotional, physical, and mental well-being. We try to make it simple for the average user, not over complicate it. I’ve seen the memes like, “What’s the essential oil for bae not calling me?” But it’s almost a little out of control, and I think some of the companies make it more confusing than it needs to be.
Which essential oil is best for getting people to stop talking to you
— Stephen Lee ?? (@shopkins776) November 30, 2018
What products do you currently offer?
Our roll-ons are out of the box, ready to go. You roll them on just like you would a perfume, anywhere your blood flows, on your temples and like that. We created four blends, Rise, Protect, Center, and Release, with very specific ideas. The idea being that these are habit forming, to get you through the day. Rise to wake up, get your energy boost. Protect for an overall immunity boost, and anything in terms of keeping your immunity up. Center is great for headaches, so if you are prone to headaches it’ll help reduce the headache that you have, but more importantly, it helps make sure you’re not getting that headache in the first place. And then Release is perfect for sleep and anxiety.
Why is diffusing essential oils better than burning candles?
Candles aren’t good for you. Basically, the fragrances and the chemicals they put in to make them burn longer and last longer, to smell the way they do, are all things that you’re literally putting on fire, and by putting them on fire you’re breathing in toxins. Think about how much beneficial using a diffuser : You can control how much or how little is going into the air, as opposed to setting your place on fire.
What is the mission of your company?
You know for me, obviously with my platform, I reach a lot of women, but gender neutral. I use essential oils, guys have anxiety and headaches too, and everyone can benefit from what they can do. I think we’re just trying to get the message out about essential oils and how they’re beneficial, and kind of fighting against some preconceived notions of essential oils.
Do you have a favorite blend or oil that you go to?
Mine is the Release, I use that a lot. I mean, that’s the one that’s designed for sleep and anxiety, and that’s really what got me into it, and so that blend with peppermint, clary sage, lavender, and grapefruit is the one I use the most. I use it every day when I go to sleep, and I use it throughout the day if I ever go to yoga or do meditation, which I don’t do as much as I should. Thankfully, I get less and less headaches now, but the Center’s been really helpful for that. I find that my second favorite one is probably the Protect because I like the way it smells, and when I’m traveling I put it on and it helps with the immune system. I hate getting sick, and I always try to avoid it, so I’m using it every day for that extra boost.
How do you incorporate essential oils into your daily routine?
That’s how we came up with the name Natural Habits. should be habit forming, it should be something you do on a regular basis to maintain that healthy lifestyle. It’s like when you want to get in shape, you don’t just hit the gym and eat donuts, you look at a holistic approach to having a healthy lifestyle. Essential oils have been a big part of , and they’ve really helped me.
I’m sold! If you’re officially drinking the essential oils kool-aid too, check out Natural Habits’ current line of roll-on oil blends, and the diffuser line, available now. And for a limited time, Natural Habits is offering Betches readers a discount on their purchase. Use code BETCHES for 20% off your purchase on Natural Habits.
Images: Natural Habits
Cannabidiol, more popularly known as CBD, is officially taking over the world. Hemp is now legal and CBD products are being sold in stores. I remember when my mom didn’t even let me touch the Hempz lotion on the shelf at CVS… good times. Now I’m writing a CBD wellness post for Betches. LOOK AT ME NOW, MOM! (She’s definitely going to see this. Hi, mom.)
Okay, so I battle chronic Lyme disease and anxiety on the daily. I also train Brazilian jiu-jitsu 3-4 days/week. What I’m trying to say here is that I’m basically an ideal candidate for CBD because I’m always broken and hurting.
CBD is said to work wonders for pain management, stress relief, overall health improvement, as well as beauty and skin care. Since I need all the help I can get, I put a few products to the test for a week to see just how effective CBD products are for relieving pain, easing the mind and body of stress, chilling TF out, and improving my skin. Here’s how well they worked:
Skincare routine who? Yeah, I don’t have one.
As someone with eczema and super sensitive skin, trying any form of beauty or skin care product on my face or body (aside from my tried-and-true usuals) has always scared me. Was I going to break out in pimples and rashes everywhere or was I going to turn into a magical goddess with flawless skin? Nobody knows!
I tried CBD For Life’s Eye Serum and Face Cream on Sunday night after I showered and found out for myself.
I pumped a glob onto my finger and wiped what I thought was a respectable amount of serum underneath and around my eyes. I had some extra serum left over, so I wiped it into my hands then struggled to open the jar of face cream because I had eye serum all over my hands. Again, NOT a beauty pro.
So, did I turn into a pre-pubescent teen all over again or a beautiful goddess?
My skin felt healthier after applying the eye serum and the face cream, and continued to feel that way all week long during this trial run. It was shiny and glowing. It looked so good that I sent my mom a selfie then got yelled at when I told her I wasn’t sharing. Bad daughter, good skin. Oh well. Here’s photographic evidence of my skin before and after applying the cream, so you don’t just have to take my word for it.
I also swapped out my fragrance-free and hypoallergenic Aveeno for CBD For Life’s CBD Hand & Body Lotion as a daily lotion and moisturizer throughout the week. I didn’t have any reactions or break out in any rashes at any point, and it kept my skin smooth and hydrated, but it didn’t cause any drastic, noticeable differences compared to the Aveeno I usually use. It actually felt about the same.
FINAL THOUGHTS: CBD works pretty well to heal and rejuvenate your skin. My face didn’t break out and has been glowing ever since I started using the eye serum and face cream. The lotion wasn’t life-changing but kept my skin hydrated like any other lotion I’ve used. Regardless, I think I’ve officially converted from a non-skin care believer to a regular CBD beauty product user.
Stress & Tension Relief
As a betch with anxiety, I need something to calm me the hell down, so I found the perfect product to try: Baked Beauty Co.’s CALM THE HELL DOWN CBD Anxiety Salve.
For seven days, I applied the salve first thing in the morning once I woke up to relieve my already stiff and aching neck. I also applied it onto my shoulders and behind and around my knees after training Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Lucky for me, I was PMSing during this experiment so I was able to see if the product worked to reduce these symptoms as well, like headaches, lower back aches, and cramps. I massaged the salve into my temples, lower back, and pelvic area. Worked like a charm within a few minutes and lasted for a while! This 1,000 mg salve 1,000% helped to relieve stress and tension from my head and body. It soothed my inflamed joints after exercising and literally calmed me the hell down like the product name told me to.
FINAL THOUGHTS: If you struggle with
life anxiety, bad PMS symptoms, or stress from work, your relationship, or anything else, then you should try a CBD anxiety/stress relief product. It’s crazy how much better your day can be when you’re not holding as much tension in your shoulders, body, and mind.
P.S. Can we please take a minute to appreciate how amazing this company’s branding is? SO cute.
Last but not least, the biggest, baddest test of all: Can CBD help manage and reduce pain from exercise and everyday/chronic ailments? I put Blue Ridge Hemp’s 200mg CBD-Infused Salve to the test for the week to find out.
I’m currently dealing with a displaced rib, a stiff neck, and aching bones. My pain started acting up after BJJ class Monday night, so I rubbed some of the salve into my calf for the first time. I’m not even kidding when I say I experienced immediate pain relief. I couldn’t believe it.
During Thursday night’s class, my hip popped like the grandma that I am and caused a rude amount of pain that radiated down to my knee. I couldn’t even walk without
crying limping. As soon as I got home I applied the salve around my hip and all over my leg… and woke up with little to no pain. I have absolutely no idea how that happened, but I’m so grateful for this miracle rub because that hip pop felt like it should have kept me bedridden for days.
I even let my friend who trains muay thai try it, because sharing is caring (especially when you hold the cure for pain relief and you’re surrounded by people who enjoy beating the sh*t out of each other). The same exact thing happened for him too. We were sitting on my couch obsessing over how quickly it helped to relieve our shoulder, knee, neck, and joint pain. Yay, the joys of getting old!
FINAL THOUGHTS: CBD DEFINITELY works to manage and reduce pain stemming from chronic illnesses, exercise, and injury. It drastically reduced the aches and pains I have on an everyday basis and from training a very physically demanding contact sport. The salve was so soothing and healing that my friend tried to steal it the night I let him try it because he loved it so much. I know I just said sharing is caring, but IDC—that sh*t is MINE and I need it.
CBD is my new miracle drug (which isn’t a drug at all). I can confidently say that after trying all of these products for a week, CBD absolutely works to improve your skin, reduce stress, and relieve pain.
It might sound like I’m promoting the products I used by saying they all worked well but that’s SO not the case. They seriously helped me and I’m genuinely advocating the benefits of using CBD for these reasons based on my experience. I’m just really excited about it, okay?
This was a really fun experiment that has changed my life for the better in many ways. I mean, I’m still an anxiety-ridden betch with a few chronic ailments, but at least now my skin looks and feels healthier, my stress is reduced, and my pain is manageable thanks to these awesome wellness products.
Thanks, CBD! 10/10 would definitely recommend.
You know those days where if you get one more email, you’re going to throw your iPhone under the subway? Then your mom calls and you start freaking out because no, you don’t have a plan. And then, Whole Foods is out of Halo Top and you have to wait in line for 30 minutes because everyone decided to go grocery shopping at the same time. But all you wanted to do was lie in bed and watch Friends all day. If only being lazy all day was, like, an actual job.
Acknowledging that we’re stressed is a growing movement. And since long periods of stress cause cortisol (the primary stress hormone) to spike and higher cortisol levels lead to weight gain, heart disease, memory problems, headaches, and depression, feeling stressed out is not a joke. In addition, there’s more awareness that anxiety is an actual problem that affects at least a third of the world. And honestly, the number feels like it should be higher since literally all of my friends complain of being anxious (but maybe it’s because we’re stressed out millennials).
In any case, since stress is bad for both your physical and mental health, I’m always looking for ways to de-stress. A year ago, the New York Times wrote an article about how the “Prozac Nation is Now the United States of Xanax,” so sure, I’m well aware there are plenty of drugs that doctors love to push on their patients. But since I’ve always loved trying weird things, I wanted to test out some alternative methods of de-stressing. Since I have no background in anything medical (does dropping out of pre-med count?), I turned to Google (which we all know is totally reliable) and decided to try them out.
Here are the results in my totally scientific one-test subject study on alternative medicine/new age-y ways to chill out.
I invested in a diffuser and some oils from Urban Outfitters. Lavender oil supposedly reduces stress (plus, you know, smells lovely) so I thought I’d try it. Some essential oils can also be applied to the skin when diluted, but a word of warning: like most things in a very contradictory health industry, there’s not much definitive evidence on whether essential oils should be ingested. Personally, I would probably steer clear from swallowing essential oils. Also, don’t diffuse around your pets. Anyway, I have no plans on accidentally dying in the pursuit of journalism, so I just stuck with spritzing lavender in the air. The whole experience felt quite spa-like and did temporarily relieve some tension. I suppose I could have lit a candle instead, but for some reason, essential oils are all the rage. Plus I’m trying not to get expelled for accidentally burning down Stanford.
Breathing actually weirdly works. Inhale through one nostril, and then exhale through the next. The act of focusing on my breathing seems to have a calming effect for some reason. It’s basically, meditation, which I’m sure it would work—in theory. If I could sit down and not have my mind wander after 30 seconds (“this is a waste of time. I really could be finishing that paper so I can get blacked tonight at a mixer…”) that would be a miracle. I believe the whole point is to let go of your thoughts and just connect with your nature, but it’s kind of hard when my thoughts are freaking out all the time. So, let’s just stick to breathing for now.
Did these make a difference or did I want to buy one more random thing from Urban Outfitters? The world will never know. But hey, apparently, rose quartz promote good vibes, so I figured, why not get a few? At the very least, they make my glum cement block of a dorm room slightly less hideous.
Cutting Out Caffeine
Someone once told me coffee boosts your metabolism, so I’ve been drinking it like mad ever since. The bad news? It also increases stress, so maybe my three triple shot lattes a day were not the best idea. In pursuit of de-stressing, I decided to give up caffeine for a few days and it was TERRIBLE. Honestly awful. I started falling asleep by 5pm, I had a splitting headache, and I did not in any way feel less stressed. Would I have felt less stressed if I decided to push through my caffeine withdrawal? Maybe, but you try writing a paper with a migraine.
Sounds kitschy, but crafts can totally release stress. Apparently, the act of doing the same repetitive action over and over is soothing, so drawing or scrapbooking or knitting are all good ideas if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Honestly, drawing is really therapeutic, as was scrapbooking all my memories of last year in a week, which I maintain will be cute one day despite the fact that all my friends think I’m incredibly maudlin.
If all of these sound stupid to you, then I recommend stress baking. At the very least, you’ll end up with some dope chocolate chip cookies or something.
Images: Giphy (2)
It’s time we get real for a second. Your mental health might be an area of your life that you’re neglecting, but it shouldn’t be. It can feel difficult to talk to someone about your mental health, so that’s why we enlisted Dr. Jenny Taitz to answer some of your most common mental health questions. Dr. Taitz is a clinical psychologist and author of How To Be Single And Happy: Science-Based Strategies For Keeping Your Sanity While Looking For a Soul Mate. Dr. Taitz has already given some great advice on how not to let being single depress you; now, we’re talking to her about anxiety. Read below for how to tell if you have panic disorder (what most millennials refer to as “having anxiety”), or if you’re just feeling temporarily anxious, and how to cure it.
Remember that time you had a barely noticeable pimple that you tried to “fix,” leaving your face looking worse? The way people handle anxiety reminds me of attacking a minor blemish to the point that you have a scar. I don’t want to minimize—it’s so frustrating to feel like you want to relax and can’t calm down. Yet, there are so many ways we make ourselves much worse. If you notice that worry is stalking you, you’re not alone—millennials’ biggest mental health complaint is anxiety. The good news is that if you truly have panic disorder, your life isn’t over. While you may think you belong in the E.R., the problem is so treatable that cognitive behavioral therapy frees 80% of people from symptoms in as little as 8 sessions. If you have other forms of anxiety, evidence-based therapies that teach you mindfulness, acceptance, and ways to approach your fears will empower you (studies have found these therapies work as well as medications) and won’t entail investing years lying on a therapist’s couch.
What’s A Panic Attack?
If you’ve been freaking out for more than 30 minutes because you have so much to do you and you don’t even know where to start, you are—technically speaking—anxious. As panicky as you feel, by definition, a panic attack hits people out of nowhere and lasts less than 10 minutes. Some symptoms of panic include sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, and fear of either losing control dying. While anxiety can include physical symptoms, panic is briefly terrifying and your stress is about your physiology (e.g. I’m going to pass out), not issues in your life. Some people feel so nervous about being overwhelmed by panic that they develop agoraphobia and try to skip any situation that they can’t easily escape (e.g. subways or concerts).
Anxiety is annoying—of course you don’t like worrying, feeling restless, uncontrollably tensing, or struggling to restfully sleep. Generally, if you worry excessively about others judging you, that’s known as social anxiety, and common fears include sounding stupid or introducing yourself in a big group (if you think you have this, 15 million American adults meet the criteria). If you have general anxiety, lots of topics from money to health run wild in your mind. Specific phobia, the most common anxiety disorder, describes irrationally fearing a specific situation (e.g., seeing rats or flying).
How TF Do I Get Better?
Action is the way out of anxiety, so please don’t wait to feel better in order to realize your goals (especially if your goal is feeling better). Avoidance literally maintains your fears, so therapy will cheer you on to approach what you want to postpone. Life is hard and learning skills to accept uncomfortable feelings (yup, that means skipping self-medicating with weed or wine) will set you free, since we all get screwed over when we won’t tolerate less than feeling comfortably. I love the quote, “the price of security is insecurity.”
Btw, do you know what you do in therapy if you have panic attacks? Your therapist will help you do things like hyperventilate so you realize that you can cope (on that note, more than 80% of what you worry about never actually happens). You got this, betches!
If you feel trapped by anxiety, you can find a therapist who specializes in evidence-based therapies by visiting www.abct.org.
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