I Deleted My Instagram—Plus 7 Other Things That Calmed Me Down
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I Deleted My Instagram—Plus 7 Other Things That Calmed Me Down

I never realized how anxious I was until my phone analyzed the stress in my voice.

1 / 8

By Ediva Zanker

My life in New York City is seemingly perfect. I have a job doing what I love, close friends who care about me, the sweetest boyfriend in the world and a family that showers me with affection. But for some reason, I can’t shake this feeling of overwhelming stress.

It turns out, I’m not alone: 79 percent of Americans have reported feeling the effects of stress at one point or another. And in a recent poll, Everyday Health asked 3,000 women between the ages of 25 and 65 what influenced their personal wellness most. What topped the list? Stress and anxiety.

So, I decided to make a change. The first step? To figure out why I’m stressed all the time with the help of the Sharecare app (snag it here for iOS or Android). For 30 days, I tracked the stress fractals, or measurable stress levels, in my voice.

Here’s how it works: the app analyzes your voice after you speak into your phone’s microphone for 30 seconds. It instantly measures and rates your stress level: calm, productive, uneasy, intense or very intense. As you may have guessed, my stress levels were usually teetering between intense and very intense. But what I realized about my stress might surprise you.

I’m stressed even when I first wake up

2 / 8 I’m stressed even when I first wake up

Every day, I recorded my stress levels when I first woke up. I thought there was no way I could be stressed out so early in the morning—how can you be stressed when your day hasn’t even started?! It didn’t matter if it was 6:15 a.m. on a Monday or 7:45 a.m. on a Tuesday, my stress levels were always in the red.

Why? Thinking about everything I needed to accomplish each day made me nervous. But as the days went on, I realized I had nothing to be worried about. I was building up things in my head.

My triggers are never anything big

3 / 8 My triggers are never anything big

One day, when I was especially stressed out, I decided to write down everything that was making me feel anxious. I realized that none of my triggers were too serious on their own—but combined, they were overwhelming. It seems silly to get stressed out about buying a bridesmaid’s dress or about booking a plane ticket to go home for the holidays. But when I had to buy a bridesmaid’s dress, book a plane ticket and go to the gym on top of getting my work done, my stress levels were high. Tackling each stressor on its own made me feel calmer.

There’s one place where I feel most calm

4 / 8 There’s one place where I feel most calm

I’m a self-proclaimed workoutaholic. The adrenaline boost I get after a 20-minute sweat session on a boxing bag makes me happiest. I knew working out had a major calming effect on me, but I never realized how much exercise truly boosted my mood until I tracked it.

Before hitting New York City Sports Club, my stress levels were usually high. But no matter how long I worked out for—whether it was 20 minutes or 90 minutes—when I left the gym, my stress levels were low.

I wear my stress on my sleeve

5 / 8 I wear my stress on my sleeve

I realized that if a device could tell I was stressed, real-life people probably could, too. Whenever my boyfriend would ask, “How are you?” I would instinctively respond “I’m fine.” I learned that he could usually sense that I really wasn’t fine. In fact, I was super stressed and tense.

Knowing that he could hear the stress in my voice actually helped me improve the communication in our relationship. Instead of saying “I’m fine,” I would say, for example, “I’m actually really stressed out about money right now.” After talking about the difficulties of saving money in New York City, I felt like a weight was lifted. I was worried that being upfront about my emotions would have him running for the hills, but it turns out, people are much more receptive to the truth.

When I check things off of my to-do list, I can breathe easy

6 / 8 When I check things off of my to-do list, I can breathe easy

I realized that once I actually accomplished whatever was stressing me out, I’d feel a wave of relief. Instead of worrying about all the things I had to do, I just started doing them. If I was stressed about not booking a flight home, I would go ahead and book it. If I was worried about not making it to the gym, I would wake up at 5 a.m. to make sure I got my workout in. I realized I couldn’t let stress run my life. Identifying what was stressing me out and being proactive made me calmer.

Social media doesn’t help

7 / 8 Social media doesn’t help

About two weeks into tracking my stress, I realized there was something else bugging me: social media. How? Seeing beautifully edited pictures of fitness models on Instagram made my self-esteem tank.

So, I did something that every millennial in their 20s could never even imagine: I deactivated my Instagram. And it paid off! During the last two weeks of tracking, my stress levels improved. Instead of checking the app every five seconds, I checked the news. Instead of stressing about my body, I told myself I’m happy the way I am. I felt like a free person!

The real shocker? I think I’m done with the app for good. I haven’t had the desire to reactivate it—and I realized I wasn’t actually missing out on much… besides cute photos of puppies.

For how much I’m stressed out, I should probably seek professional help

8 / 8 For how much I’m stressed out, I should probably seek professional help

After tracking my stress for a month, something became apparent: I need professional help—and I’m not afraid to admit it. Someone shouldn’t feel so stressed out or anxious all the time. I realized if I improved my stress levels, I would improve my relationships. I would improve my everyday life.

Life without stress is a happy mental image: I’m living in New York City, and I have amazing friends, a sweet boyfriend, a family who cares about me, a job that I love—and that’s it. Now, I know all it takes to achieve that image is getting the help I need.