Anna Wootton

Hiking Grouse Grind Vancouver

You Know Your Stress Button. What’s Your DE-Stress Button?

As we age we get to know ourselves better. Even at 15 we know more about ourselves than we did at 10, and the same at 20, 25, 30…and on it goes.

In particular, we learn what our ‘sore spots’ are. Everyone has them. I have a friend who can make fun of her forgetfulness endlessly, while another friend is quite hurt and offended if you point out that she has a tendency to let things slip her mind. It’s a sore spot for her; she was teased about it in school and now it hurts her feelings when it’s pointed out. Of course, this doesn’t mean she’s uptight and the friend who makes fun of herself isn’t. That friend may be able to make fun of her lack of ability to recall events or her to-do list, but she’s extra sensitive when it comes to her cooking skills (or lack thereof), whereas I have yet another friend who thinks it’s hilarious that she burns toast. And on it goes.

We all have different buttons that get pushed to stress us out, too. For some it’s people being disorganized – for others, it’s people being too rigid and structured, and making them feel trapped. It’s good that we learn these stress buttons, so we learn how to work with others, how to communicate how we want to work, and learn how we best do our work (of course, these benefits apply to personal relationships out of the workplace, also).

What about how we de-stress, though? We spend so long thinking about what makes us go from 0 to 100 degrees that we don’t think about what cools us off again. That’s why so many of us just turn to the most convenient, easy option without giving it much thought – and for many, that’s food. Chocolate, alcohol, dessert, fries, takeout…you name it, it’s the easy, drive-home or order-in takeout that requires very little forethought and of course makes us feel good in the short term. Delicious foods have all kinds of biological effects, releasing seretonin, dopamine…all of those relaxing chemicals that make us feel great.

BUT what if we had another button that was just as easy and quick to push, that released those same chemicals and had the same calming effect on us, but didn’t involve foods that didn’t serve us, or cause guilt hours later or the next day?

For me, my de-stress button is music. I grew up playing instruments and singing in school choirs and even writing music on occasion (I don’t claim to be a good songwriter, trust me, I am not!). But still, I enjoyed it. I enjoy writing as well, though to be honest I cannot call that a de-stress button. It takes too long to simply be a button I can press, and because I usually have spent all day at work in front of a computer, no matter how much I love to write it just doesn’t cut it for me, sitting in front of a computer when I get home to unwind.

So for me, it’s music. I wind down the windows, blast some upbeat pop or rock or even classical music, and I drive home. I get some weird looks from time to time, but it’s what works for me. If I’m still restless or amped up, I have a dance party in my living room to an upbeat soundtrack, or I put on something calming and go for a walk on the beach. The negative ions do wonders to undo all that time in the artificial lighting and air conditioned environment of an office.

The question is: What works for you?

Chances are – especially if you’re turning to food – that you’ve barely given yourself chance to think about it. Or that you think your hobbies are too difficult to get going on. For example, if you unwind by painting, or playing sports, sometimes it seems too difficult to come home and just start painting to unwind. To that I say – what is actually the relaxing part for you? Creating something? Admiring art? Painting the strokes on a canvas? 

If it’s creating something, see if there’s something smaller you can work on that is more instant gratification. Perhaps you can pick up a camera and take some photos – even pulling over on your way home from work (after taking the scenic route) to take some roadside shots.

If it’s admiring art, consider having a book of your favourite paintings you can flip through on the sofa when you’re home.

If it’s painting strokes on a canvas, it could be the ritualistic practice of slowing your actions down and completing repetitive motions. Consider getting a zen garden for your coffee table (they come with a sand rake which you can use to relax) or having a water-based paint easel, where you can paint with a wet paintbrush to create white images on a chalkboard. It’s minimal mess and setup and you can just wipe it clean.

There are ways to adapt anything into something quick and easy and relaxing. For sports, perhaps you just have a boxing bag in one of your spare rooms, or a ball you can kick around, or even a Wii Fit version of the sport you can do right in your living room. Brainstorm options, and remember that everyone has something – you might just have to think about it for a while.

And if music is your thing, I thought I would share with you my current playlist of choice for driving home after a particularly hectic day at work:

  • Imagine Dragons – Hear Me
  • Ed Sheeran – Runaway
  • Adele – I Found a Boy
  • Fleetwood Mac – Tango in the Night
  • Cutting Crew – Died in Your Arms Tonight
  • The Golden Dogs – 1985 (give it a go just for the INSANE guitar solo)
  • Dire Straits – Money for Nothing
  • Lenny Kravitz – Believe (ditto on guitar solos, they really get me amped up!)
  • Sam Smith – Stay With Me
  • Sam Sparro – Black and Gold
  • Donovan Woods – My Boy
  • Ed Sheeran – I See Fire (Kyto remix)
  • Robert Randolph & The Family Band – Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That
  • Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman – Time to Say Goodbye
  • Blackstreet – No Diggity
  • John Mayer – Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
  • The Saint Johns – Your Head and Your Heart
  • Savage Garden – Break Me Shake Me
  • Rihanna – Diamonds
  • Pretty Lights – Finally Moving
  • Pharrell Williams – Happy