5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out

Wow, you look like you've been through hell. Rough week on the job, huh? Yeah, that's to be expected. But before we get into this, we just need to go over some stuff.

No no no, this isn't an interrogation. I'm not from the CIA or the FBI. I'm just ... well, I guess you could say that I'm a mental health counselor, here to help you cope with your experience. Not a lot of people have managed to survive what you just managed to survive, and I want to make sure you decompress properly. The last thing we want is you making some dumb mistake now and getting hurt or, ya know, "disappearing."

For example, you should know that ...

#5. Video Games And TV Can Actually Make You More Stressed

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Look man, I understand what you went through: First your boss tells you to fly your minijet out the back of his cargo plane, and even though you haven't finished your training videos yet, you go for it, because that's the culture at work, and in this economy you don't want to take any chances. Then you find yourself tumbling through the air thousands of feet above the ground, trying to remember how to operate the vertical stabilizer, and man, it's not even 10 a.m. yet. You got at least seven more hours of this shit. After a day like that, I'm sure all you want to do is go home, boot up your PlayStation, and unwind by machine-gunning some jungle cats in Far Cry 4.

Ubisoft
Like a soothing cup of tea.

Except, according to recent studies, that may not actually work: Some people felt more stressed out after playing video games or watching TV -- especially if they'd had a particularly stressful day. It all depended on the kind of stress. People who'd put in a good, long day that they were proud of tended to see video games and television as a reward or "recovery experience" that let them detach from responsibilities and enjoy their free time. But people who finished their work day feeling worn down or guilty about not getting everything they wanted done tended to feel worse about all the time they were wasting sitting on their ass. So, does this mean that you should avoid video games when you're freaking out?

Prrrrrooooobably.

The science of how video games affect you is controversial, to say the least. Some scientists say that they're clearly relaxing, while other scientists compare those first scientists to climate-change deniers. So, really, it comes down to what the little health-bar in your heart tells you: If you're just letting off some steam by using that GTA5 mod that makes it so guns fire cars instead of bullets, then hey, maybe it's fine. But if you're feeling stressed out and worn down all the time, then your hobby may not be the healthiest one for you. But, then again, your job is pretty dangerous too, so who am I to tell you what to do?

#4. Comfort Food Can Bum You Out Even More

XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images

So you finally get your craft stabilized and (belatedly) fall into formation behind the cargo plane. Over the radio one of your co-workers sneers, "Nice of you to finally join us." Ugh. Jenkins is such a dick. But before you even have time to explain that this is your first time in a goddamn minijet, your boss' cargo plane opens fire on you! You look around and realize that the U.S. military has shown up, and rather than giving orders to attack, defend, or flee, the goddamn upper management just started firing blindly. You roll your eyes. Maybe you should've known better than to take a job with a company like Terrordoom Inc. Oh well. At least once you get home, you can cook up a big ol' plate of nachos, right?

photokitchen/iStock/Getty Images
Or chili fries!

Well you can, but it's really not a good idea. Despite the pop culture motif of a sad woman eating an entire pint of ice cream while watching Sex In The Girls on Cinetime in order to get over Ryan Goslin-Levitt having dumped her, the reality is that eating junk food just exacerbates your bad mood. Provided we're talking about college-aged women, I guess: After giving 131 sexy co-eds hand-held computers that prompted them to answer questions about their state of mind after eating, the scientists found that these hot and wild college girls had heightened anxiety and depression after eating food that was high in fat, sugar, and other unhealthy stuff that those crazy sorority sluts decided to munch on.

Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
She's gone fucking wild!!

Of course, this whole situation is made all the worse by the fact that when you're stressed out, your body has a harder time processing unhealthy food. So not only are you making your mood worse, you're being meaner to your own guts than you need to be. I mean, not as mean as the .50 caliber machine guns fused to the back of your boss' Doom Plane, but ya know. Still pretty bad.

#3. Venting Your Anger Just Makes It Worse

Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Just when you think your day at work can't get any worse, your radio lights up and Dr. Terrordoom's voice booms through your minijet's cockpit.

"Terribly sorry to inform you this way," he titters in his annoying (and probably fake) British accent, "but I'm afraid that Terrordoom Inc. has been forced to downsize its henchmen division this quarter. Fortunately, I've found a new form of employment for all of you: as human shields! AHAHAHAHA! I know that you'll show the same dedication to absorbing American bullets that you showed toward endlessly patrolling the halls of my secret volcano lair. Ta-ta, and have a nice ... die!"

At least you think he said "die." It might've just been the accent. The important thing is that, naturally, you're pretty pissed off. All you want to do is slam your fist against your minijet's canopy, call him a treacherous buffoon, or maybe punch a pillow. That'd make you feel better, right?

Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images
I mean, that looks pretty punchable to me.

I really hate to say it, man, but no, it won't. Even though "letting off some steam" is a common enough idea to get its own colloquialism, study after study has revealed that expressing anger either directly or indirectly tends to just make the whole damn thing worse. In one study, subjects were cruelly insulted and then asked to pound on a nail, and pounding the nail just managed to make the aggression much, much worse. More recent studies focused on people who channel their aggression into sports like football, and they also found that the supposedly "cathartic" exercise just made them angrier. Then they found that the same was true of violent video games. Yes, I remember when I said that "letting off some steam" with video games is fine. I was lying to you. Right to your face. Don't you get it? Nothing that feels good is good, and on top of all of it, you can't even trust me anymore. But I'm sure you're used to that, what with the industry you're in.

Turns out the only constructive way to express anger is to channel the energy into problem-solving. So, while Jenkins just punched a hole in his own cockpit and then was immediately exploded by a surface-to-air missile, your best bet is to channel your frustration into flying that ship as well as you can, dodging and weaving like a leaf on the wind, twisting through the air with eagle-like elegance until finally ...

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J.F. Sargent

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