6 Tips to Fend Off a Freak Out

6 Tips to Fend Off a Freak Out

Stress reduction is surprisingly simple, but not enough people give it a shot, says study.

By Julia Merz, Rodale News

The kettle is screaming, the phone is ringing, the TV is blaring at full volume, and amidst this cacophony, there’s something that needs to be taken care of right now!

Cue the freak out. According to research from the University of Cincinnati, college students are especially feeling the crunch and they aren’t coping well with it.

About 60 percent of college students reported having high stress, typically regarding school, lack of time, and worry over their future career. Even if you’re not in college, maybe this sounds familiar—a high pressure job, advancing your current career, and not enough time to divide between the office, home, and yourself.

“This study is looking at college students, but it is generalizable to all people,” says Keith King, PhD, a professor of health at the University of Cincinnati. “We recommend the students take this information and share it with their families. Let them know if they want to be happier, they need to focus on reducing their stress and getting some social support and care.”

Fortunately, King suggests six ways to avoid a total meltdown. “It’s not rocket science, but the reality of it is a lot of people aren’t doing the positive to get happy. People don’t really know or they think some of the basics to happiness that we suggest are too fluffy. They’re not. They’re research-supported. Do these things and you’ll feel happier,” King says.

RELATED: 6 Weird Signs that You’re Way Too Stressed Out

#1. Stop and Breathe
“In the moment when you’re stressed, you need to slow down, you pause, you take some deep breaths,” says King. “Maybe you count backwards from 10. Those types of things calm everything down and slow it down.”

As simple as this sounds, Danny Penman, PhD, author of Mindfulness, says that slowing down the racing thoughts is key to managing stress. “Rumination is one of the most powerful driving forces behind anxiety, stress, and depression,” he says.

Luckily, taking a few deep breaths, or trying a slightly more structured mindfulness practice, is a great solution. “Mindfulness gently brings you back into the real world—dispels all of your fears and worries—and helps you reconnect with the deepest and wisest parts of your mind.” For instance, give this mindful walking exercise a try

#2. See the Bigger Picture
King recommends people ask themselves a simple question: “Is what you’re experiencing really that big of a deal or not?” Is that presentation you’re stressing over going to make or break your career, or have you built up the stress in your mind to be larger than it actually is?

PLUS: 5 Drinks That Naturally Relax You

#3. Connect With a Friend
Importantly, this study found that students who reported the lowest perceived stress had higher emotional closeness with others. So King recommends using one of your “life lines” during high stress periods to phone a friend. “Everyone has phones on them,” says King. “Call your buddy and let him know what’s going on so you can express those feelings and get them off you as quickly as possible.”

#4. Take Care of Your Body
If your body isn’t happy, you can’t be happy. “People who eat healthy and exercise tend to have lower stress levels,” King points out. “Exercise allows for some of that negative energy to get burned off. Eating healthy helps individuals avoid feeling weighted down.”

PLUS: 9 Health Problems That Exercise Can Cure

#5. Take Time for Yourself
How can you expect to hear what your internal self needs if you’re bombarded with tons of external demands? “Take time out of the day that’s your time,” says King. “It could be just 10 minutes. Go outside and walk, just enjoy something for you. If you hate exercising, then do something you enjoy. That’s paramount.”

#6. H.A.L.T.
King and colleagues came up with a helpful way to do a simple self-checkin: H.A.L.T. “Make sure you’re not Hungry, you’re not Angry, you’re not Lonely and you’re not Tired,” explains King. “If you can take care of those four things, you’re significantly more likely to be unstressed.”

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