5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out

The last thing we want is you making some dumb mistake now and getting hurt or, ya know, 'disappearing.'
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 ...

Video Games And TV Can Actually Make You More Stressed

5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out
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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.

5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out

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?


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?

Comfort Food Can Bum You Out Even More

5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out
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?

5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out
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.

5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out
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.

Venting Your Anger Just Makes It Worse

5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out
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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?

5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out
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 ...

5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out

Having A Drink Before Bed Makes It Harder To Sleep

5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out
John Lund/Annabelle Breakey/Blend Images/Getty

Oh no, you're hit! Yeah, these Terrordoom-brand minijets aren't the most nimble things in the sky. Remember that for your Amazon review, right? Ha! You're not sure exactly how you're hit, because this thing is basically one big blind spot, but there's a lot of smoke, the whole thing is pulling to the right, and the "check engine" light is on. Shit, so is the oil pressure light. Oh, goddamn -- there goes the SRS light.

westernstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Shit, now you have to deal with the "beach ball in your lap" warning.

But that's OK. You can still control your plane. And as you aim that fucker right for the Terrordoom flagship's butthole, only one thought goes through your head: "If I get through this, I am gonna need a drink." As far as last thoughts go, that's pretty badass -- too bad it's not actually a good idea if you want to sleep well.

Though the idea of a nightcap is a popular one, it turns out that even though having a drink before bed makes you fall asleep faster, it ends up ruining that sleep: While measuring the brainwaves of some more naughty college boys who had been given a vodka and orange juice nightcap, it was found that their brains had a surplus of both delta and alpha activity -- delta activity shows deep sleep, like the kind of sleep you'd have after a long day having naked pillow fights with your hot and dirty frat brothers, but the alpha waves are more likely to happen during a light sleep, like when your head is resting on your frat bro's sweaty, meaty chest and you're less interested in sleeping than you are in focusing on his slow, deep heartbeat. Basically, those two brain waves are more conflicted than a beefy frat boy the first time he touches his sexy roommate's sweaty, bulging bicep.

But to hell with it, man: You landed that goddamn minijet in the body of the cargo plane, like Anakin Skywalker at the end of Star Wars: Episode I, or maybe a more badass comparison that you can't think of right now. You're a bit busy.

Talking Out Your Problems Can Make Them Worse

5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out
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You kick the canopy off the cockpit of your minijet and crawl out. The blackened remains of your co-workers are strewn about you like rag dolls. The few that remain in one piece are twisted and pummeled like grotesque henchmen-themed gummy candies. The air stinks of burning hair and flesh. In the distance, an irregular rat-tat-tat of gunfire punctuates the steady roar of the Terrordoom flagship's twin turbo-jet engines. You wipe the blood from your eyes and, coughing, make your way toward the ship's cockpit.

Inside, Dr. Terrordoom stands alone at the controls. He peers through a windshield streaked with blood and soot. Beyond him, you can see his target: It's the Navy's aircraft carrier! The crazy son of a bitch means to kamikaze his flagship directly into the biggest target he could find! You can't let that happen and, luckily, the crazy doctor (it's a doctorate in French Literature, by the way. You dated his personal assistant for a while, and personal assistants are always big-time gossips) is too distracted by his maniacal laughing to notice you sneak up behind him and smack him in the back of the head with a crowbar. He slumps to the ground, pretty freaking dead.

Dr. Wolfgang Rosemary Terrordoom 1962-2015 But for me, it was Tuesday.
Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.ne

This is a symbolic image. Supervillains don't get respectful gravestones.

You grab the ship's joystick, and even though you just barely know how to fly a minijet, you're still able to steer the hulking air-monster away from the Navy aircraft carrier. For a fleeting second you hope that maybe this will convince the soldiers to stop firing at you, but sadly, that is not your fate: They mean to bring you down. Your only hope is escape. Grabbing the nearest parachute, you make to leave the cockpit, but a soft groaning stops you at the doorway.

Terrordoom is still alive. Goddammit. The man may be a monster, but searching your heart, you know that the same just isn't true of you. You can't leave a man behind. You know he has to face justice.

You hurriedly strap your parachute to your back before grabbing your (former, probably) boss and throwing him over your shoulder. As the plane begins to fall apart around you, shredded by more .50 caliber rounds than any man could count, you dash toward the nearest escape hatch and throw both yourself and the unconscious megalomaniac out into the bright blue sky.

5 Ways To Relax That Secretly Just Stress You Out
icholakov/iStock/Getty Images

Disclaimer: This is a reenactment, not an actual image of the event.

Sadly, the moment you tug the ripcord on your parachute, you realize your mistake: There's no way in hell you can support a man's full weight during that kind of shock. As your parachute blots out the sky above you, Terrordoom is ripped from your arms and tumbles helplessly to the sea below you. Super freaking dead. It's the most horrifying thing you've ever seen, and you're probably going to want to talk your feelings out with your friends.

However, that may not be the best idea, depending on your approach: While a lot of people do benefit from talking out their problems, others don't. See, "talking about your concerns" isn't the only step toward healing; you also need distance and perspective, and dwelling on your experience by reliving it over and over again actually gets in the way of that. Unsurprisingly, this is particularly common among high-school girls, who engage in a behavior called "co-rumination": They express concern when Raphael doesn't text them back, and then keep re-expressing that concern until that missing message seems like a way bigger issue than it actually is (Raphael thought he was playing it cool by not replying quickly -- he didn't realize how crude that tactic is).

Which is why, when the CIA interrogation agents show up and question you about your involvement in the Anchorage Incident, you keep your goddamn mouth shut about everything you saw, heard, or did. Just insist that you can't. What with the way the justice system works these days, in two weeks, you'll be scot-free.

Between you and me, kid, Terrordoom was just a pawn in a game so complex it makes chess look like Hungry Hungry Hippos. We expected this incident -- what we didn't expect was your frankly standout performance. So, we're offering you ... an opportunity. Just do exactly as I told you, and maybe a couple strings get pulled, and you're back in the real world in no time. Hell, something tells me there may just be a job waiting for you.

So congratulations. Oh -- and welcome to The Company.

JF Sargent's cover is that he's an editor and columnist for the popular comedy website Cracked.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

For more from Sarge, check out 5 Insane Lies You Probably Believe About American Families and Why Ultron Is A Secret Criticism Of Marvel Movies.

These men -- these hallowed leaders of the free world -- want to kick your ass. And only Daniel O'Brien can help, with How to Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against the Badasses Who Ran This Country!

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