TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Reasons to Exercise That Aren’t Weight Loss

Why you shouldn't give up the gym

Despite conventional calorie-burning wisdom, some people appear to not lose weight when they exercise, says a new study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In fact, some actually gain weight, and it’s not all muscle mass.

The study, by Arizona State University in Phoenix researchers, looked at 81 sedentary, overweight women who exercised three times a week for 30 minutes in a lab. After 12 weeks, the researchers found that some women lost weight while others gained weight. But when they tried to identify what was causing the differences, they couldn’t come to any conclusions. “In reality, most people do not achieve or sustain weight loss, no matter what method they try,” wrote New York Times writer Gretchen Reynolds on Wednesday.

Basically, major bummer. But there are many other reasons to exercise besides trying to shed a few pounds, and they’re equally important for your health:

1. Memory Loss: Chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalances are a couple of factors that can play a part in memory loss, and exercise can help both. Exercise promotes better blood flow through the body, and the brain works better with a healthy blood supply. For example, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that people who spent time on a stationary bike had better memory recall than those who were sedentary.

2. Stress: Exercise has long been prescribed as a way to burn off steam and relax. It’s even recommended as a way to fight depression. How? Exercise keeps the brain occupied, and keeps the stress hormone cortisol in check which can lower symptoms for anxiety and restlessness, according to The Exercise Cure, by sports medicine physician Dr. Jordan Metzl. After a rough day at work or before a big exam or interview, even just a walk around the block can ease nerves.

3. Fatigue: It may sound counterintuitive, but working out can actually make you less tired than skipping the gym. A 2007 University of Georgia study showed that sedentary people could lower their fatigue by 65% if they started engaging in regular low intensity exercise. Increasing energy through exercise is also a safer and cheaper alternative to turning to quick fixes like energy drinks.

4. Cardiovascular disease: Getting regular exercise does the heart some good. In a 2012 study, researchers found that people who partook in moderate intensity exercise like brisk walking compared to leisurely walking reduced their chances of developing risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. The effect might be related to exercise’s benefits on lowering inflammation in the body.

5. Lower back pain: Back pain is a very common ailment, and studies have shown that the right kind of exercises like strength training can lower pain. Exercise is also one of the simplest ways to protect your body from future injuries.

 

TIME advice

One Easy Way to Tell if You’re Susceptible to Stress

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Getty Images

Heart rates correlate with levels of psychological distress

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Stress affects us all in different ways. But, some of us are just a little more vulnerable to the nasty ways stress can mess with us. And, now, researchers at Concordia University have found that variations in heart rate may be a predictor of stress susceptibility.

In the study, published in this month’s issue of the journal Stress, 76 undergraduate students first completed an online questionnaire to assess their levels of stress, anxiety, and depression during a low-stress period of the academic year. Then, in the lab, they had their baseline heart rate measured for seven minutes. Next, while their heart rate was still being monitored, participants were asked to worry about something in the future that could potentially have a negative influence on their life for five minutes. After this “free worry period,” the participants were interviewed about their personal worries, and were asked to rate how likely and how awful each future consequence would be. Then, about three months later, right before finals week, the participants were given another mood questionnaire.

(MORE: The 9 Worst Ways Stress Messes With You)

It turned out that the variation of participants’ heart rates was correlated with their levels of psychological distress. Specifically, a lower resting rate during the low-stress time frame, combined with a higher level of reactivity in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (the way our heart rate naturally varies with our breathing patterns) in response to the worry conditions, was linked to more drastic changes in psychological distress during the high-stress time period. This means that those participants with lower variable heart rates (but also higher levels of change) had higher increases in anxiety ratings.

(MORE: Target Heart Rate: You’re Doing It Wrong)

So, this suggests that health professionals might be able to use our heart rate variability (based on the interbeat interval, which is pretty easy to measure) to screen for people who are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of stress. It also suggests that heart rate might be a good target for those of us trying to relieve anxiety — which indicates that breathing techniques and focusing on the present rather than the future could be especially useful stress-relief tips. And, there’s already technology on the way to help us out. But, even without the gadgets, finding your zen should be a definite priority.

(MORE: This Is The Best Way To Beat Stress)

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Answering Emails After Work Is Bad For Your Health

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The new science on "telepressure"

Email was supposed to free up time in workplace communications: Send some in lieu of an in-person meeting! Work remotely! Take your time crafting one instead of blurting out something stupid!

But now that everyone is so instantly reachable, work email has slipped its tentacles into our off-the-clock lives, subtly demanding evening responses and extending the workday indefinitely. Now, 52% of Americans check their e-mail before and after work, even when they take a sick day; ignoring email can seem more stressful than dashing off a quick response. But all that continuous connection comes at a cost to our health, finds new research published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Larissa Barber, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University, has a name for this phenomenon: telepressure. It’s the urge to respond immediately to work-related messages, no matter when they come. “It’s like your to-do list is piling up, so you’re cognitively ruminating over these things in the evening and re-exposing yourself to workplace stressors,” Barber says.

This continuous work connection has very real health effects, the study found: employees who reported more telepressure also reported worse sleep, higher levels of burnout and more health-related absences from work. “When people don’t have this recovery time, it switches them into an exhaustion state, so they go to work the next day not being engaged,” Barber says.

Why do we feel this need to reply so fast? Nobody’s forcing us to respond—only 21% of workplaces have policies about communication use outside of work hours, found a 2012 survey from the Society of Human Resource Management. “It’s so new to us, this idea of boundary-less work, that we’re just not sure how to manage it yet,” Barber says.

Barber’s study also looked at whether individual traits predicted who felt telepressured, or if being a type-A overachiever made you more or less susceptible than those with more laidback working habits. Her results revealed that individual differences are only weakly associated—telepressure is a workplace problem, not a worker problem. We learn how to respond to email through our colleagues’ behavior, she found, and it’s a consequence of the social dynamics within a work environment.

“‘As soon as possible’ means different things to different people, but of course if you’re nervous about impressing your boss or coworkers, you probably think it needs to be immediately,” says Barber.

How can you make yourself a little less telestressed? First, think about where your own telepressure is coming from, Barber says. It may be worth having a conversation with your supervisor about email expectations—or, if you’re the boss, try to be a good role model for connectivity and recovery, Barber says.

Changing the conversational nature of your emails also helps. “We’ll talk to people like we’re having those synchronous conversations, face-to-face,” she says. “We’ll send an email and say, ‘Hey, what do you want to do for lunch today?’” Conversational back-and-forth emails like that all but demand an immediate response, partly because it seems rude not to reply. But being explicit about the purpose and timeline of your email really helps. Barber keeps a kind of email office hours, letting her inquirers know what time she’s available to answer messages. She ends her emails to me with phrases like “No need to respond to this message” and “I look forward to hearing from you between 8:30-11:30am tomorrow”—and it does feel pretty satisfying.

But as much as we hate being telepressured, we absolutely love telepressuring others. “We all get kind of used to that immediate gratification of getting fast responses and having those communications that are complete,” Barber says. “We all like it when other people are telepressured, because it helps us complete our tasks faster.” Still, it’s neither sustainable nor good for our health—and it might take an email revolution of a different sort to change things.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Not Taking a Vacation Is Costing You an Insane Amount

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R. Kikuo Johnson

It won’t even help you get a raise.

Last year, American workers walked away from $52.4 billion in unused vacation time, forfeiting a total of 169 million paid days off, according to the U.S. Travel Association. While it’s well-known that American companies are less freewheeling with paid time off than their counterparts in other industrialized countries, it seems that a lot of workers here don’t even take the allotment they do get.

The amount of vacation we take as a nation is at a 40-year low, USTA says. As recently as 2000, the average worker took roughly 20 vacation days a year. By last year, that had fallen to 16 days. For most workers, wages and income have stagnated since the recession. But for all the complaining we do about our paltry paychecks, a lot of us are willing to literally work for free.

By giving up vacation, “U.S. employees are serving as volunteers for their companies,” Adam Sacks, founder and president of the tourism economics division of Oxford Economics, the group that prepared the report, said in a statement. In total, American workers essentially donate just over 1% of their salary back to their companies in the form of vacation days they give up. (Of course the USTA is hoping you’ll take more vacation.)

Another survey, this one conducted by Harris Interactive for the job and salary site Glassdoor, says we only take about half the time off we’re entitled to, and 15% of workers who get vacation don’t take any of it.

People forfeit their vacation for a variety of reasons, Glassdoor found. On a related survey question about people who take vacations only to work through them (which about six in 10 workers do), a third of respondents said they do so because nobody else can do their job, and about 20% said they do so in the hopes of getting a promotion.

The new USTA survey finds, though, that people who don’t take vacations are actually less likely to get ahead in the workplace. People who forfeit between 11 and 15 days are actually 6.5% less likely to get a raise or bonus than colleagues who take all their vacation.

That might be because they’re too stressed to do their jobs well. Survey respondents who leave behind more than two weeks of paid vacation are more likely to say they’re “very” or “extremely” stressed at work. “America’s work martyrs aren’t more successful,” says USTA president and CEO Roger Dow. “All work and no play is not going to get you ahead — it’s only going to get you more stress.”

TIME ebola

How to Talk to Your Kids About Ebola

Electron micrograph of Ebola virus
NIAID/EPA

Here's the best way to calm kids' fear and anxiety over Ebola

Even Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden admits it: “Ebola is scary.” But for kids seeing alarming headlines without understanding the context of the disease, Ebola can seem like a looming and personal threat.

TIME spoke to Dawn Huebner, a clinical child psychologist and author of the book What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety about the best way to talk about Ebola with your kids—without scaring them silly.

What should I say to my child who is really scared about Ebola?
Let them know that it’s important to think about proximity—how close they themselves are to the virus. Which is to say: not very. “It’s really important to underline that we are safe in the United States, and that people who have contracted Ebola have been in West Africa or were treating patients with Ebola,” says Huebner. “Not only should parents underline how rare Ebola is, and how far away the epidemic is occurring, but also how hard the disease is to contract.” Huebner says parents can tell their older children that direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids like vomit or diarrhea is necessary to spread Ebola. “This has been reassuring to the children I see, as they know they are not going to be touching that,” she says.

By ages 7 and up, kids begin to grasp that their worries and fears aren’t always rational. “Parents can talk to kids about how one of the ways worries and anxiety get their power is by making us think about things that are very unlikely,” says Huebner.

Should I keep my child away from the news?
Your kids can watch the news to stay informed, but media overload is not always a good thing. “The news is often sensationalized and gives kids the idea that they are at an imminent risk,” says Huebner. When kids see endless stories about Ebola on the news, they don’t always realize they’re hearing the same thing on loop. “I’ve had kids come into my office who are under the impression that there are hundreds of people in the U.S. with Ebola.”

How do I know if my child is reacting appropriately to the news?
“An appropriate reaction would be to feel nervous and ask some questions, but to be reassured by the parents’ answers,” says Huebner. Psychologists distinguish between questions that are information-gathering, and questions that are reassurance-seeking. If a child asks reassurance-seeking questions—like “Are we going to be ok?”—once or twice, that’s normal. But asking the same questions over and over signifies that a child is really dealing with anxiety and that their concern is not being curbed. At that point, parents may need to sit their children down for a longer conversation to address their fears and concerns.

My kids don’t want to fly on an airplane over the holidays. How do I convince them they are safe?
It’s important to emphasize that the vacation destination is one that is safe, and not at great risk for Ebola. Parents can also stress that no one in the United States has yet contracted Ebola from a plane ride. However, parents should avoid making comparisons, like “It’s more likely to get in a car crash than to get Ebola.” That will only stress a child out more.

Ebola freaks me out too, and I accidentally overreacted in front of my child. How do I fix this?
“One of the wonderful things about children is that you really can revisit things that didn’t go so well the first time,” says Huebner. If parents slip up with an overreaction, they should have a conversation with their children and reference the moment. She suggests a conversation opener like this one: “I was thinking about when you overheard me on the phone with my friend. I was really overreacting. I got nervous when I heard about Ebola, and you saw me when I was nervous. Now I’ve gotten information and I’ve calmed down, and I’ve realized this is a very sad thing that’s happening far away. It’s sad, but it doesn’t have to be scary for us.” Rational, calm conversations will help ease a child’s fears about Ebola.

TIME psychology

What Are the 3 Steps to Becoming Stress-Proof?

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

1) Know What Really Works

Most of the things you instinctively do to relieve stress don’t work.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

The APA’s national survey on stress found that the most commonly used strategies were also rated as highly ineffective by the same people who reported using them. For example, only 16 percent of people who eat to reduce stress report that it actually helps them. Another study found that women are most likely to eat chocolate when they are feeling anxious or depressed, but the only reliable change in mood they experience from their drug of choice is an increase in guilt.

So what does work?

According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. (The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours.)

2) It’s All About A Feeling Of Control

As is often said, stress isn’t about what happens to you, it’s how you react to it. This is true.

We’re not as stressed when we feel in control. Again, the emphasis is on feel. Even illusory feelings of control can eliminate stress. (This is the secret to why idiots and crazy people may feel far less stress than those who see a situation clearly.)

Anything that increases your perception of control over a situation — whether it actually increases your control or not — can substantially decrease your stress level.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

Steve Maier at the University of Boulder, in Colorado, says that the degree of control that organisms can exert over something that creates stress determines whether the stressor alters the organism’s functioning. His findings indicate that only uncontrollable stressors cause deleterious effects. Inescapable or uncontrollable stress can be destructive, whereas the same stress that feels escapable is less destructive, significantly so… Over and over, scientists see that the perception of control over a stressor alters the stressor’s impact.

Why do people choose to become entrepreneurs when working for yourself often means more hours for less money? Control:

A number of studies show “work-life balance” as the main reason people start their own small businesses. Yet small business owners often work more hours, for less money, than in corporate life. The difference? You are able to make more of your own choices.

Do things that increase your control of a situation ahead of time. According to one study, the stress management technique that worked best was deliberately planning your day so that stress is minimized.

The best way to reduce job stress is to get a clear idea of what is expected of you.

The trick to not worrying about work stuff while at home is to make specific plans to address concerns before you leave the office.

3) You Need Some Stress To Be Your Best.

Heavy time pressure stresses you out and kills creativity. On the other hand, having no deadlines is not optimal either. Low-to-moderate time pressure produces the best results.

Via The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work:

If managers regularly set impossibly short time-frames or impossibly high workloads, employees become stressed, unhappy, and unmotivated—burned out. Yet, people hate being bored. it was rare for any participant in our study to report a day with very low time pressure, such days—when they did occur—were also not conducive to positive inner work life. In general, then, low-to-moderate time pressure seems optimal for sustaining positive thoughts, feelings, and drives.

In his book The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin discusses one of the key elements that pro athletes like Jordan use to perform at their peak: spontaneous relaxation.

“…one of the most telling features of a dominant performer is the routine use of recovery periods.”

They’re not Zen masters who experience no stress. Far from it. But they’ve taught themselves to turn it on and off. The pros are able to fully relax during the briefest periods of rest. This prevents them from burning out during hours of play.

Via The Art of Learning:

The physiologists at LGE had discovered that in virtually every discipline, one of the most telling features of a dominant performer is the routine use of recovery periods. Players who are able to relax in brief moments of inactivity are almost always the ones who end up coming through when the game is on the line… Remember Michael Jordan sitting on the bench, a towel on his shoulders, letting it all go for a two-minute break before coming back in the game? Jordan was completely serene on the bench even though the Bulls desperately needed him on the court. He had the fastest recovery time of any athlete I’ve ever seen.

One Last Thing:

I’m stressed RIGHT NOW!!! What’s the quickest, easiest thing to do?!?!?!

Watching a video of a cute animal can reduce heart rate and blood pressure in under a minute.

Via Richard Wiseman’s excellent book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

In an innovative study, Deborah Wells examined whether merely looking at a video of an animal can have the same type of calming and restorative effects as those created by being in its company… compared to the two control conditions, all three animal videos made the participants feel much more relaxed. To help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure in less than a minute, go online and watch a video of a cute animal.

Here you go:

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME health

Why So Many Women Are Crying at the Gym

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Yoga mudra Stefano Oppo—Getty Images

For a generation of stressed-out working women, exercise is as much about emotional release as it is physical training.

“Let it out! Let out the sludge!”

It’s 7am on a Tuesday, at a small dance studio in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, and Taryn Toomey is stomping her feet into the floor like thunder. “Get rid of the bullsh*t!” she shouts. “Get rid of the drama!”

Two dozen women in yoga pants and sports bras sprint in place behind her, eyes closed, arms flailing. Sweat is flying. The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” is blaring in the background. There are grunts and screams. “Hell yes!” a woman bellows.

When the song ends, Toomey directs the group into child’s pose, torso folded over the knees, forehead on the floor, arms spread forward. Coldplay comes on, and there is a moment of rest. “Inhale. Exhale. Feel your center,” Toomey says. Heads slowly come up, and suddenly, tears are streaming down the faces of half the room. A woman in front of me is physically trembling. “I just let it all out,” a middle-aged woman in leggings and a tank top whispers.

This is “The Class”—one part yoga, two parts bootcamp, three parts emotional release, packaged into an almost spiritual… no, tribal… 75 minutes. It is the creation of fashion exec turned yoga instructor Toomey, and it is where New York’s high-flying women go for emotional release (if, that is, they can get a spot).

“During my first class I didn’t just cry, I sobbed,” says McKenzie Hayes, a 22-year-old New Yorker who has become a regular in the class. “Whether it’s your job or your relationships, I literally picture my emotional problems being slowly unstuck from my body and moved out.”

Toomey calls that “sludge”: it’s the emotional baggage we carry in our muscles that has nowhere else to go. She’s not a doctor. But week after week, she encourages participants to sweat, scream and cry out those emotions, in the company of a group of mostly women who are doing the same. “I’ve had classes where people are literally on all fours sobbing,” Toomey says. “But it’s not just my class, it’s happening everywhere. Emotional release in public can feel very uncomfortable. But I think there’s a growing movement of people who want to find a space for it.”

Indeed, the message to women has long been to hide your tears lest you look weak. (Among the tactics: jutting out your jaw. Breathing exercises. Chewing gum. Drinking water.) Yet while crying in the office may remain a feminine faux pas, tears at the gym seem to have lost their stigma — to the extent that there are a bevy of fitness courses that even encourage it.

For Asie Mohtarez, a Brooklyn makeup artist, it began in hot yoga. The music was on, the floor was warm, the instructor was standing over her encouraging her to let go. “I was in child’s pose and I just lost it,” she says. Then, two weeks later, it happened again – this time at Physique 57. The Dirty Dancing soundtrack came on and it was waterworks again. “There’s something about these classes that feel safe,” says the 33-year-old. “I can’t cry at work. I’m not emotionally distraught enough to cry in the shower. I can’t just burst into tears in front of my husband. So, what does that leave you with?”

You could go to therapy – or you could hit the gym. Women are getting teary in SoulCycle, and misty-eyed at Pure Barre. They are letting out wails in yoga and rubbing the shoulder of the weepy woman next to them at CrossFit. “I think people have started to notice that their clients are just showing up to class and just unloading, and so they’re tailoring their classes to create space for this,” says Hayes, who is a pilates instructor by day. “When I take private clients I end up feeling like a therapist for them.”

These fitness instructors aren’t trained in that, of course. But they’ve probably been there.

“I usually just go over to the student after class and quietly ask how they’re feeling,” says Kristin Esposito, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles who sees criers often. “My classes are focused on release so it feels pretty natural.”

Physiologically, it is: Exercise releases endorphins, which interact with serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals that impact mood. In yoga, deep hip openers – like the “pigeon pose” – are meant to stir emotions (yogis believe our emotional baggage lives in our hips).

But many of the newer courses are specifically choreographed to release emotion, too – making it all that much more intense. The lights are dim, candles flicker in the background. It’s not an accident that just as you’re starting to relax, coming down from the adrenaline, you’re blasted with a throaty ballad. Those playlists are meticulously constructed. “I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years, so I’ve basically seen it all: crying, laughing, throwing up, overheating,” says Stacey Griffith, a Soul Cycle instructor. “There are moments in the class that are directly programmed for that reason – but it’s not like we’re trying to get people to cry. We’re giving them the space to step outside of themselves.”

And indeed, that may be necessary. We’re busier, more stressed and more connected than we’ve ever been. Simply finding the time to have that “space” can be near impossible, making the release that these courses offer – packaged neatly into an hour – a kind of fix. “The night before, I can’t wait,” says Hayes of Toomey’s class. “I already know what will be the flood that I’m working through. And sometimes conversations with friends just don’t cut it.”

Getting those emotions out is a good thing – at least in moderation. Emotional tears contain manganese, potassium, and a hormone called prolactin, which help lower cholesterol, control high blood and boost the immune system. Crying reduces stress, and, according to one study, from the University of Minnesota, actually improves the mood of nearly 90 percent of people who do it. “You really do feel lighter after,” says Hayes.

“To me, it’s a sign of being present, it’s a sign of feeling your feelings, of being in the moment,” says Toomey, just after “the class” has ended. Plus, shoulder to shoulder in a hot room, there is almost a sense of communal release. Of high-charged emotional camaraderie. “I so needed this,” a woman tells her on the way out, with a hug. And, of course, with that much sweat, the tears are almost hidden anyway.

Read next: I Taught Fitness and Failed a Fat Test

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

3 Reasons Holding a Grudge is Bad for Your Health

BuzzFoto Celebrity Sightings In New York - September 15, 2014
Taylor Swift on Sept. 15, 2014 in New York City Josiah Kamau—BuzzFoto/Getty Images

Taylor Swift has never been one to hold back on how she feels about her ex-boyfriends, but it’s a song about a grudge with a fellow female artist in her upcoming album that’s getting all the buzz this time around.

Swift told Rolling Stone that her new track, “Bad Blood, delves into her feud with another chart-topping vocalist, though she stopped short of naming names. Several news outlets are reporting that it may be Katy Perry, and USA Today noted that the “Dark Horse” singer posted a cryptic tweet right after the Rolling Stone interview went online. Perry tweeted “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing…” making reference to Rachel McAdams’ queen-bee character in the movie “Mean Girls.”

So what could two pop princesses possibly have to argue about? In the interview, Swift said it’s not about a guy but rather that the other artist tried to hire several people away from her (although again, not naming names).

We all have people we don’t particularly like, but is it harmful to harbor those angry feelings? Seth Meyers, PsyD, breaks it down.

They stress you out

“Countless studies have shown that holding grudges and keeping in negative feelings is bad for your mental health, increasing anxiety and frustration,” says Meyers. Case in point: Research published in the journal Psychological Science found that when people were told to nurse a grudge when thinking about wrongdoers, they had stronger negative emotions and greater stress responses (namely, higher heart rate and blood pressure) than those who were instructed to imagine granting forgiveness.

They may hurt your physical health

“You may think a grudge is all in your head, but your physical health can be affected, too,” says Meyers. Researchers from the Medical College of Georgia found that people who said they held grudge for years had an increased risk of multiple health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, back pain, and headaches.

They may not be worth fixing

When you notice that you’re holding on to hostile feelings, ask yourself, “Is this person truly important to me?” If so, you’re going to need to have a frank conversation with them and say why you feel hurt so you can attempt to work through it. But more often than not, the people we hold grudges against aren’t terribly vital in our lives, Meyers says. If this is the case, make an effort to figure out the real source of your frustration—are you really upset that an acquaintance bailed on your birthday party, or are you more bothered by the fact that you and your BFF aren’t as close anymore? Drilling down will help you let those bitter feelings go and focus on what matters.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Family

We Need to Stop Guilting Parents into Cooking Dinner

Happy family dinner images like this may be doing more harm than good for working families Klaus Vedfelt—Getty Images

A new study suggests that the emphasis on family dinners may be more stressful than beneficial.

On the highway of hallowed institutions, there are few so venerated as the family dinner. Maybe reading aloud to your kid, breastfeeding and playing catch come close, but those have a limited lifespan. The family dinner is the church at which all parents, especially moms, are expected to become regular and lifelong worshipers.

Studies have repeatedly shown that kids who eat en famille are less likely to be overweight, more likely to eat healthy foods, have reduced incidence of delinquency and have better grades, mental health and family interactions. The evidence appears to be pretty overwhelming: cook for your kids and eat with them or they’re doomed. You’re consigning them to a life as chubby little lowlifes with a D-average and no self esteem. It’s not much to ask, right?

Problem is, the plurality of kids today are being raised by people who work outside the home. That means somebody, having put in a solid eight or so hours, has to drag his or her weary derriere home and then get his or her Martha Stewart on. Takeout, as all right-thinking parents know, is not at all the same thing as a home-cooked meal. Which is also not the same thing as an organic, locavore, humanely raised, fairtrade, low in fat, salt and everything else except labor meal. A meal which will no doubt be greeted with an aghast face and a whiny demand for plain pasta.

So a new report that suggests the benefits of the home cooked family meal may be outweighed by the pressure of providing said meal should be welcome. Researchers from North Carolina State University interviewed 150 families and found that the whole whip-up-something-for-dinner directive is more like a whip-a-very-overburdened-horse for many families and utterly impossible for others. “Cooking is at times joyful, but it is also filled with time pressures, tradeoffs designed to save money, and the burden of pleasing others,” says the study, which was published in the summer 2104 issue of Contexts.

“The emphasis on home cooking ignores the time pressures, financial constraints, and feeding challenges that shape the family meal. Yet this is the widely promoted standard to which all mothers are held,” the researchers write, adding that it is moralistic, rather elitist and unrealistic. “Intentionally or not, it places the burden of a healthy home-cooked meal on women.” The researchers found that particularly among low income women whose inflexible and inconsistent work schedules prevented them from being able to be home for meals, let along cook them, the scoldy tone of the family dinner table fetishization crowd added unnecessary stress.

My go-to meal strategy is getting my husband to cook, since it involves fire and is therefore a very manly activity. Nevertheless I find myself having to prepare a couple of meals a week. (My second go to strategy, “international toast,” which involved toasting all the leftover crusts of different sorts of bread hanging around the freezer and serving them with eggs, no longer fools my kids, alas.) So you’d think I’d welcome the news that it’s probably better sometimes to skip it. But I don’t. Being both a breadwinner and an international toastmaker can be a drag, but it’s an even bigger to drag to be told that it’s not worth it.

I’ve put a lot of time and effort into making dinner—and making everyone eat the results. It’s stressful to discover that that’s probably too stressful to bother with. So I’m going home to cook dinner. But in act of protest against the forces which hold women to an impossible standard yet again, I’m probably not going make anything very good.

TIME health

5 Ways to Relax In No Time At All

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Ever felt like you just can’t unwind after a demanding week? That’s because stress triggers your body’s fight or flight response: your adrenaline starts pumping, your heart beats faster, and your blood pressure rises, explains Ash Nadkarni, MD, an associate psychiatrist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. “Long-term overexposure to stress hormones can cause increased risk of health problems such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, weight gain, and memory and concentration problems,” Dr. Nadkarni adds.

That’s not exactly a relaxing thought. So what should you do when calming classics like downward-facing dog and chamomile tea don’t work? Check out these alternative ways to de-stress recommended by experts and recent studies.

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Wake up early

It may feel counterintuitive to deprive yourself of sleep, but giving yourself an extra 15 to 20 minutes before you head out the door will leave you feeling more refreshed—and less frazzled. “Take time in the morning to center yourself,” says San Francisco-based psychologist Leslie Carr, PsyD. “A lot of people shoot out into their days like a rocket ship and it never gets better from there,”

Consider that caffeine takes 20 minutes to be metabolized for you to feel its effect. During that time, think about your goals for the day or read something inspirational. You might find that your normally crazy day goes a little smoother.

Health.com: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

Create a soothing space

Research suggests that warm colors like red excite you and cooler, muted colors like blue, green, or grey relax you, says Molly Roberts, MD, president of the American Holistic Medical Association—but surrounding yourself in any color you find soothing can help bring on calm. “The theory behind the use of color therapy is that colors enter the eyes, which then send messages along the nerve pathways to the area of the brain that regulates emotion,” Roberts says. “There are a lot of ways to surround yourself with colors that can ease stress throughout the day.” Her suggestions: at home, paint an accent wall; and at the office, drape a soothing-colored scarf over the back of your chair and change your computer screensaver.

Clean out your junk drawers

When you’re feeling emotionally drained, chances are whipping out your Swiffer is the last thing you want to do. But the truth is, tidying up your home can also tidy up your mind. “Having a mindset of de-cluttering helps to manage stress,” says Lauren Napolitano, PsyD, a psychologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Pennsylvania. “Purging unused items gives a sense of order to your physical environment, which helps you feel calmer about your stressors.” She suggests starting with a small project, like your kitchen junk drawer. “Tangible or visible organization leads to emotional organization,” Napolitano says. If you’re ready to take it up a notch, schedule monthly donation pickups with Goodwill to keep yourself in the de-cluttering habit.

Visualize your stressful thoughts

Your coworker just threw you under the bus. Your husband forgot to walk the dog. When it’s that kind of day, try thought diffusion, “a sort of visual mindfulness meditation, a way to sweep out whatever is buzzing around unhelpfully in your head,” says Erin Olivo, PhD, an assistant professor of medical psychology at Columbia University and author of Wise Mind Living: Master Your Emotions, Transform Your Life.
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Here’s how it works: Imagine your thoughts are like clouds in the sky, and let them drift by above you. “When you begin to observe your thoughts as mental objects that simply come and go, they become less unpleasant, less threatening and less emotionally powerful,” Olivo says.

Watch cat videos

There’s a reason Buzzfeed links are popping up all over your newsfeed. There’s nothing that will relieve some tension like watching a baby masterfully dancing to Beyonce or a cat riding a Roomba in a shark costume.

“After a stressful day, looking at these funny things actually activates the part of the brain that delivers tranquility and a calm physiological response,” says Rose Hanna, a relationship counselor and professor of psychology and women’s studies at California State University Long Beach. “This decreases anxiety and helps tremendously with reducing stress.”

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13 Ways to Beat Stress in 15 Minutes or Less originally appeared on Health.com.

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