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(Note: This article is a part of our 31-day series, “31 Days to a Whole Body Makeover“.)
Stress management is something I struggle with all the time. I’m always finding myself taking on way more than I can handle, and before I know it, I feel like my head might explode. Eventually, I find myself emotionally paralyzed and can’t get anything done!
Can you relate? (I imagine that the majority of you would say yes!)
Now let me ask you this: Do you also put off the things you need to get done for yourself, even if it means sacrificing your own health and wellness, to be able to help someone else?
If you answered yes to this too, then I hope you will join me in incorporating more stress relief into our days. In fact, I’ve listed for you 23 small stress relievers that make a big difference!
I recently heard a fellow blogger say that there was a time in her life when she was dealing with cancer, and she knew that it was from how much pressure she felt she was constantly under. I totally agree with her that what we think and feel manifests in our physical bodies. There are major repercussions to chronic stress.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Think about the last time you were sitting in an airplane about to take off. There is a reason that the airline crew tells you that in case of emergency, were oxygen masks to drop down, you have to put yours on first, before helping anyone else with their mask. Being a mother, I immediately think, “Oh no, there is no way I would put them second.” But if you think about it, if you don’t put priority on your own health first, you just might not be around to help your children. If you are in a smoke-filled airplane cabin, unable to breathe and fumbling around with your child’s oxygen mask (who is most definitely in panic mode right now), it would be ten times more difficult. Had you put on your mask first, it would have taken you no more than a few seconds to get situated, and then you would have the oxygen and the wherewithal to help your children. Your child needs you to be well so you are the calming force in his life.
So it goes in our every day life, that the small things we can do for ourselves now will prevent major problems down the road. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?
Small Things You Can Do to Relieve Stress
1. Write it out. Keep a feelings journal where you can just pour out your thoughts, even if it’s just in a long stream of consciousness where you are writing with no real point or structure. Write just to get it out onto paper. A lot of clarity comes from writing it out!
2. List Your To-Dos. If I have a long list of things to get done just floating around in my head, I will feel like they are impossible to tackle. But if I put them down on paper, I see that they aren’t so bad after all. I can also see what can be put off until tomorrow. At the end of the day, having just one crossed off is a big win! Also, I suggest that if you are about to finish something small, or just finished doing a task that had not been written down, write it down anyway just so you can have the pleasure of crossing it off! You will realize you have been far more productive than you ever would have given yourself credit.
3. Do something that makes you happy. What is it that makes you happy? Music? Herbal tea? Sewing? A pedicure? Going out with your friends? Spend some time doing something fun just for you. I like to knit and crochet, and those who also knit and crochet know that there is something trance-like about the repetitiveness and the cadence of looping each new stitch… it’s very meditative!
4. Count blessings. I have previously written that what we think and feel expands. So when we are caught up in the negativity of our problems, writing out a list of things to be grateful for really puts things into perspective and will help you realize you have blessings that many others would love to have for themselves.
5. Laugh. Put on a comedy, surf around on Vine (the app), or read a funny book. Laughter truly is the best medicine.
6. Exercise. Getting your heart rate up is a great way to relieve stress! With that new rush of endorphins, you are always one workout away from a good mood! Plus, exercise is very energizing, giving you the pep you need to face your day!
7. Someone to talk to. Sometimes you just need someone to listen. Not someone that wants to fix your issues for you, but someone to just say, “Hey, me too! I can relate!” A therapist is another GREAT person to talk to because they come from a place of non-judgment, and if you do want solutions, they have a whole arsenal of suggestions that are tried and true.
8. Essential oils. Aroma has a huge effect on our bodies. The aroma molecule literally enters the brain, into the hippocampus where memory and feelings are stored, and sets off a chain reaction that triggers a real, tangible change in your body. Choose aromas that have the effect you most desire.
Relaxing: Lavender, Rose, Vanilla, Chamomile
Energizing: Grapefruit, Tangerine, Lemon, Orange
Depression/Mood Lifters: Peppermint, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Bergamot, Tangerine
Warming: Cinnamon, Eucalyptus
Cooling: Rosemary, Peppermint, Geranium
Use for a Cold: Lavender and Eucalyptus mixed
For Digestion Issues: Peppermint, Ginger
9. Eat Healthy Food. I know that it’s tempting to raid that emergency stash of chocolate, but you may end up feeling worse. Sugar is a depressant, and although it feels good in the moment, long-term it will leave you feeling worse.
10. Unplug. Take a break from the electronics. Turn off notifications. If you have to, uninstall social media apps from your phone. I find I can’t get anything done if I’m surfing online; the Internet is like a crazy, endless rabbit hole that I often fall down when I’m not being careful with my time.
11. Prayer. Hash your thoughts and feelings out, and send them up into the universe. Don’t forget to pause periodically to listen for inspiration!
12. Meditation. Meditation has been proven to re-wire your brain into new thinking patterns that will break old habits. If you don’t already know how, here is a guide to get you started meditating.
13. Coloring books. Adult coloring books are everywhere now! This is my go-to when I’m winding down for bed. It’s very soothing.
14. Scale back. Look at all the things you are doing on a regular basis that are truly stressing you out. What can you scale back? What can you cut out all together?
15. Learn to say no. This is a true story, name changed: Jane was so happy to hear that her little sister was getting married, and that her sister wanted Jane to have the honor of planning the wedding for her. Problem? The wedding was in two weeks! Poor Jane didn’t want to let her sister down, but there was just no way she had the time! Eventually, Jane called her sister and said, “I will be happy to do your flowers, the invitations, and book the venue, but you are going to have to delegate the rest to other people.” Well, guess what? Jane’s sister did delegate them to other people, the wedding was beautiful, and Jane was able to relax and enjoy the wedding. All it took was the courage to say no.
There are two things wrong with saying yes when we should say no:
- Doing things you don’t want to do makes you angry and resentful, and then you end up lashing out at others (like your kids) for small things when they didn’t deserve the negative attention.
- If it is something you truly do not want to do, it would be a service to say no, so that the person asking can find someone else who will do it with love and to the best of their ability.
16. Accept that you can’t do it all. If there is a task you are in charge of, and it just is not going to work out to the exact way you had hoped, with all of the bells and whistles, accept that you did the best you could under your circumstances. There is an interesting interview with the author of “Eat, Pray, Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert, where she said, “Sometimes done is better than finished.” Amen, girl.
17. Take a nap. This is the most effective form of stress relief for me!
18. Go in the sun. Put on your sunscreen and get outdoors to be in nature for a good 20 minutes. Sometimes when we are so stressed out, we hide away indoors trying to get work done. But being in the sun is actually very good for your mood!
19. Breathing exercises. This is something you can do anywhere, so long as you can close your eyes and shut out the world. Just breathe in deeply through the nose to the count of five, then breathe out through your mouth to the count of five. Every time your mind starts to wander off, just bring your attention back to your breath. The goal is to keep your mind only on your breath. Eventually, being able to switch into this deep breathing mode will become automatic, and access to instant stress relief.
20. Physical touch. Hugs and kisses do wonders for your stress levels! If you can’t get a hug, consider getting a professional massage. Being a massage therapist myself, I loved my clients who just needed a non-judgmental someone to spend all of their focus on them, if only for an hour.
21. Get a good night’s sleep. Not getting enough sleep raises our levels of the stress hormone cortisol, making it super hard for your body to deal with the day’s stress.
22. Clean house. I think we all know someone who cleans out of anger and stress, and when the kitchen is finally spotless, she feels completely rejuvenated. There’s a reason for that. Like exercise, cleaning house raises the heart rate, gets those endorphins pumping, and gives you a great sense of accomplishment! Plus, I think keeping at least the living room clean is important for good mental health.
23. Ask for help. Ah, the hardest one on here. Funny how we have a hard time saying no, but often can’t ask for help, right? Just remember that there is always a time and season for everyone when it comes to stress, so if you can find a friend who has the time and resources to help, then take advantage. Then when you are going through a season of non-stress, you know that you will be happy to pay back the favor when she is going through her rough patch, and you will even pay it forward to someone else.
What are some things you do for stress relief? Is there anything you would add to this list? Please tell me in the comments below!