Reduce stress with these tips

Sep 1, 2010 at 5:00 am

A recent issue of Wired magazine included a story about Stanford University neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky’s quest to create a “stress vaccine.” Such a vaccine would allow us to avoid stress’ long-term health consequences but continue to over-schedule our lives, manipulate our loved ones, snipe at our co-workers, watch cable TV news, drink heavily and get into bar brawls — and then post all the details on Facebook while driving home on the Watterson. Finally, medical science is beginning to pay some real dividends!

Advances in brain research have proven stress to be an insidious killer. According to Wired, “the list of ailments connected to stress is staggeringly diverse and includes everything from the common cold and lower-back pain to Alzheimer’s disease, major depressive disorder and heart attack. Stress hollows out our bones and atrophies our muscles. It triggers adult-onset diabetes and is a leading cause of male impotence. In fact, numerous studies of human longevity in developed countries have found that psychosocial factors such as stress are the single most important variable in determining the length of a life.” Also, it tastes great with a doughnut bacon cheeseburger and a side order of self-doubt.

Alas, until scientists come up with that vaccine, the only way to reduce stress naturally is to change your fast-paced lifestyle. Fortunately, we here at LEO Labs have consulted the leading Wikis, men’s room stalls and the character “Rat” from the comic strip “Pearls Before Swine” to bring you the latest research into stress reduction. So put down your Crackphone, fire up some Nag Champa, open your third eye, and check out these helpful stress-busting tips:

First, examine your relationship with technology. I know it hurts, but turn off that iPhone. It’s very stressful to be always “on.” Research shows the only people who die younger than those who Tweet during sex are those who have sex with those who Tweet during sex. If not for yourself, do it for your loved ones.

And while you’re in bed with the phone off, be sure to get plenty of sleep. Recent studies have shown that a good night’s sleep not only makes coffee more delicious but is one of the most effective non-pharmaceutical ways to convert the memory of that uncomfortable encounter with a co-worker into an exciting action sequence featuring Megan Fox, a semi-automatic Glock, a Porsche Carrera and 64 ounces of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Can’t you already feel the stress melting away?

It’s also important to avoid intentionally frightening yourself. Fear triggers a fight-or-flight response in the brain that causes a massive adrenalin rush that in extreme cases is powerful enough to make Richard Belzer and Ice T seem like plausible cops. Many of us become addicted to this fear response and seek it out via a steady diet of news about global warming, terrorism, crime or the lyrical poetry of Lil’ John. Conservative Christians, for example, have been obsessing over a proposed mosque in New York because such worries set off a pleasant fear response in the brain, and it’s no wonder: If there’s one thing religious people keenly understand, it’s that religious people can’t be trusted.

Others on the left, meanwhile, have become fascinated lately with “grolar bears,” a hybrid cross between grizzly bears and polar bears, caused by climate change. Experts believe global warming has driven grizzly bears north, where they’ve gotten schwasted on frozen margaritas and hooked up with polar bears, resulting in this formidable new hybrid animal. (This might also explain how we got Hoosiers.) Still, others enjoy being terrified by the prospect of a Senator Rand Paul, even though Dr. Paul seems to be merely trying to take America back to yesteryear, a time when stress levels were lower for rich white people.

Another great way to fight stress is with exercise. Many of us complain that we don’t have time to work out, but we can make meaningful strides in our battle against stress by combining the efforts described above. For example, you can burn a surprising number of calories by repeatedly hurling your iPhone through your television during Tweet-free sex.

Finally, many doctors believe prayer and meditation are helpful in reducing stress. And that is an excellent idea. I think I’ll pray for Dr. Sapolsky to hurry up with that vaccine.


Jim Welp is the author of “Summary of My Discontent — Constructive Criticism for Discerning Americans.”