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Lily Avnet Headshot

6 Things I Want to Stop Stressing About (And 1 Huge Thing)

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Interning with Healthy Living can be a truly immersive experience: We buy salads while discussing the benefits of kale over spinach, we yawn as we look over new sleep research, and, of course, we stress over creating content that will help people better understand why and how they stress.

From my experience here, I've learned that stressing is part of a biological process that has helped humans react to danger. I've learned that the hormone cortisol is strongly responsible for those swift responses to threatening scenarios. But while this sophisticated stress response can save your life in the moment, when we're chronically, perpetually stressed, it can ultimately harm you slowly over time.

De-stressing is a personal experiment in discovering what makes you calm down -- I personally love, for instance, unwinding with a good book or a hot shower. So in my efforts to de-stress, I'm joining some of my colleagues in making a list of a few things I'm determined to stop stressing about.

I avoid germs like it's my job. The task becomes overwhelming when reading about the spread of viruses and writing about staying healthy is your job! I obsess over the germs that cover everything -- from the handle on the faucet to the bathroom doorknob, and from what the bottom of my shoes have touched to the fabric of my coat smushed against the subway seat. The list goes on and on. It's exhausting and mostly unnecessary. I am just going to trust that reasonable hand washing and being sensible is enough to stay appropriately germ-free. Besides, the human body has more bacteria covering it than somatic cells!

High Heels
They're striking, a staple of high fashion, and they make your legs look killer. For me they are painfully beautiful. Since I still haven't found a way to accessorize the bruised chin that inevitably goes with my sky-high shoes (true story), I'll remain at sea level. Just because I lack the poise to balance and maneuver in high heels doesn't mean I am any less feminine. I'll pass, rock my combat boots and speed walk instead.

"Is This Weird?"
Sometimes I ask this question weekly if not daily, as if to perpetually quantify my behavior. Perhaps it's unusual to use Greek yogurt as a topping for everything, but what's wrong with enjoying something delicious and healthy? Nothing. Is it weird that I pick my cuticles until they bleed? Maybe a little gross. Or that I use my teeth as scissors more than I'd like to admit? Regardless of how weird (or not) you find these things, I shouldn't worry about the judgment of others based on my quirks and preferences when we're all just pretty strange anyway. Sneaker wedges, anyone?

Keeping Up With The Cultural Beat
There's not enough time in an entire day to make yourself aware of every unique, revolutionary, show-stopping art exhibit, film, book, concert or play in New York City, let alone the world. Each week living in New York brings extraordinary possibilities of what to do with your time. Catch a classic movie? Get last minute, cheap tickets for a play? A book launch in Brooklyn? Yet as the possibilities pile up, decisions becomes more difficult to make. The overwhelming amount of choices overshadow the initial excitement of the potential activities. I enjoy exploring the high and low end of culture, so I should keep it that way. Why let something that intrigues me become a chore instead of a leisure hobby? I propose to relax with The New Yorker when I can and see the things that strike my fancy, if I have the time. Besides, the Metropolitan Opera streams performances online!

Being More Or Less
I am, like everyone, a work in progress. I always feel that I could be doing less and more of so many things. I could be spending less money, using the word "like" less, spending less time on social media and more time reading, more time calling my family, more time at the gym, more time in the kitchen, more time volunteering, more time writing, but I am trying. And on the days that I feel like I've accomplished a lot, I need to just pat myself on the shoulder and be proud of what I've done, instead of thinking about all the laundry I need to do.

The Unknown
Like the disillusioned young ladies on HBO's Girls trying to follow their dreams (after they decide what they are), I am in the process of figuring out how to be a fully functioning human being -- from paying bills on time to remembering to purchase toothpaste. I could go from trying to be a writer to becoming a dentist, or a ninja for justice, who knows! The Internet could crash tomorrow and we'll have to revert to an agrarian lifestyle. I'll deal with that then.

Facing The Real Fear
In the grand scheme of things, I sweat the small stuff. All of the little things that I stress about only reflect the great, big thing that I fixate on. Washing your hands to the tune of happy birthday, eating organically, sleeping eight hours, grocery shopping wisely, ensuring you're well-liked, drinking loads of water, exercise: Are these not all grouped under the notion of living longer? Don't we act out all these little things in an attempt to avoid the main event?

The one big thing I want to stop stressing about the most: death.

It's an exhausting premise, the lack of existence. Chasing after answers only leads to more questions -- or in my case a half-read facsimile of Heidegger and another of Sartre. Still, I'm aware that everything I do is an avoidance of the end, or an attempt to prolong the third act.

Rather than avoid the overwhelming thought that one day we will no longer exist, why not acknowledge the impulse and then relish the present. Rather than stress about the unknown, immerse yourself in the known: You are alive right now.

Instead of focusing on the daunting premise that everything will ultimately come to an end, it's much more liberating to appreciate existence at all. This shift in perspective makes everything miraculous. From reading the word on this screen, to the invention of the screen itself; the involuntary process of your brain controlling blood pressure and keeping your heart beating; that human beings and countless other creatures came to exist on a habitable planet at all, these are the things to remind yourself of when the cortisol takes its toll. Rather than stressing about all that we cannot -- and may not -- ever know, why not dwell in the possibility?

For more on stress, click here.

For more by Lily Avnet, click here.

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