The Scientific Case to TAKE FIVE
Disclaimer: Mr. TAKE FIVE is pretty obviously not a doctor and this advice should not be substituted for the advice of a qualified medical professional.
Calling what we’re all going through simply “stressful times” would pretty much be the understatement of the decade, but stress only builds up the more you try not to think about it. What some people may not realize is why we can get so worked up in the first place, and thanks to much smarter people than me we can use that knowledge to help decrease it slightly and get over those humps easier. Feelings of stress occur primarily thanks to the chemical cortisol, which is released in large quantities during high pressure situations. This release of cortisol is sometimes called a “fight-or-flight” response, because it’s most likely to have evolved to aid mammals in self-preservation within dangerous environments. Surprisingly, homo sapiens weren’t spiking in stress due to their Art History midterms.
Knowing that the same stress hormones that developed in response to literal life threatening scenarios weirdly explains why stress can make innocuous situations feel like life-or-death in the moment. Cortisol is perfectly healthy and normal, and most anyone can relate to a moment where a last minute surge of adrenaline got them through a challenging time when they needed it. However, high spikes in cortisol due to frequent stress responses have been shown to cause a myriad of health issues including high blood pressure, blood clotting, and higher rates of anxiety and depression according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Unless you fight fires or defuse bombs for a living, you shouldn’t be relying on constant fight-or-flight responses to get you through a day. It’s absolutely helpful to know relaxation techniques to counter these feelings when they come up, but you should also definitely try to identify triggers unique to you so the stress doesn’t build up in the first place.
If your work commute has been setting you off more due to subway delays or driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic, give yourself more time so your whole trip isn’t a mad rush to get through the office door. And honestly, maybe wait until after the work commute to chug a second or third cup of coffee. If it’s not getting to work, but the tasks of the day that are overwhelming you, try and finish the toughest tasks earlier in the day, so they aren’t bouncing around the back of your head the whole time. Dreading an upcoming hard task is so much worse than when you actually get up and do it, and waiting will just make it even more awful in your head until it’s unbearable.
If you’re really stressed over something, try to think about what will actually happen if you don’t do it vs. what happens in the purely hypothetical disaster scenario you conjured where you get scolded, fired, and then the zombies come. What’s most likely going to happen is that you will tell your co-workers you need a little more time, and it’ll be totally fine!
Most importantly of all, you should remember to ask for help. Too often when we’re extremely overwhelmed, we fail to notice our amazing support systems around us. Whether it’s our family, co-workers, roommates or friends, we all have someone who wants to see us succeed. Stress can be very isolating because you see people around you and wonder how they’re getting by just fine, but the truth is no one can avoid feeling overwhelmed sometimes. As much as it just feels like you and only you are a failure, things are actually just really hard for everyone right now! If you haven’t been giving yourself enough leeway recently, take some time after reading this and make a plan to do something you love with a friend as soon as possible. Now’s the time to TAKE FIVE folks.