We know all about the tried-and-true ways to reduce our work stress. We journal. We go outside. We take more frequent breaks. These methods are all backed by multiple studies to take away the bundle of nerves keeping us anxious.
But if these methods are not working for you, it’s time to get creative. For those of us who need new forms of stress relief, here are unexpected actions you can take to lower your stress levels:
1. Pet a dog
Canine animals with soulful brown eyes are proven to soothe us. One single drop-in therapy dog session made a measurable positive impact on stressed students at a university, according to a new study published in Stress and Health. The researchers found that cuddling a therapy dog boosted students’ moods ten hours after the short experience. They were markedly less stressed.
“These sessions clearly provide benefits for students in the short-term, so we think universities should try to schedule them during particularly stressful times, such as around exam periods,” the study’s senior author, Frances Chen told Science Daily. “Even having therapy dogs around while students are working on their out-of-class assignments could be helpful.”
So if you are anxious about a high-pressure deadline, go find a pup to pet.
2. Organize your desk
Cleaning clutter from your workspace is one minor way you can majorly reduce your stress. One UCLA study found that just looking at mess was enough to raise women’s psychological stress levels.
When our stuff transforms into a mess, it causes us stress. “Our excess becomes a visible sign of unaccomplished work that constantly challenges our deeply ingrained notions of tidy homes and elicits substantial stress,” the co-author of the study, Anthony P. Graesch, said.
3. Sniff your partner’s shirt
This is a more unusual, primal answer to stress, but a new paper has proven that sniffing your romantic partner’s sweaty shirt can make us calmer. While the scent of a stranger does not make us feel at ease, the scent of a loved one does, new research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found.
The researchers first instructed the participants to take a one-minute whiff of a smelly, unwashed t-shirt. The odors were strong. The wearers of the shirt had been told to forego deodorant for 24 hours. After smelling the t-shirt, the participants were then made to undergo a mock job interview purposefully designed to induce stress.
Participants who smelled an unworn, clean t-shirt or a smelly t-shirt that was not worn by their significant other did not report feeling less stressed after the interview. But participants who sniffed their lover’s smelly shirts were less stressed overall, showing lowered cortisol levels.
“The smell plus the recognition that it is your partner’s smell seems to reduce the physiological stress response,” Ashley V. Whillans, the co-author of the study, said.
You can use your nose to get ahead in your career. This research could explain why people choose to wear their partner’s clothing when they are physically away. One work-related way you can use the power of a loved one’s smelly clothing is to pack an item of it on your next stressful business trip. Just don’t bring the sweaty shirt to the meeting.
4. Sit up straight
If you’re feeling down and anxious, don’t hunch. Your slouching posture can be causing your bad mood.
In a study published in Health Psychology, researchers had participants sit upright or slouch before undergoing a mock job interview. The participants who sat upright boosted their self-esteem and overall moods while lowering their fear levels. The slouching job candidates reported the opposite. Posture even affected how candidates would answer questions —the slouchers use more negative descriptions in their interview answers.