If you're anything like me (or anything like the vast majority of the population), you probably feel stressed out, to some degree, every single day. Maybe your inbox is overflowing, or your kids won't stop yelling, or your stack of bills is mounting, or you have too much pressure on you at work, or you had an argument with your spouse or partner, or you're just feeling overwhelmed in general. For me, my stress is usually related to everyday things - too heavy of a workload without enough time, a toddler who doesn't like to sleep, schedule issues around my husband's on-the-road job, worries about money. The causes behind feeling stressed are virtually endless, they can quickly exacerbate anxiety when we begin to feel overpowered by them, and they're everywhere. Stress isn't always a bad thing, of course. We feel stress when we're moving into a new home, when we're planning a wedding, when we're anticipating the birth of a baby, when we're going on a first date, when we're planning a big trip. A little stress can even make us stronger, mentally and physically. They key is finding ways to properly manage it.
I've learned over time that avoiding stress completely is impossible, and that my past attempts to dodge it altogether backfired and ultimately led to heightened anxiety in the process. Finding ways to control stress levels via positive methods for coping and intentional relaxation techniques has been key for me in getting my stress to a healthy place. So much of my personal issues with stress and anxiety over the years have been a direct result of how I handled things, much more so than the actual things causing me to feel tense. By recognizing when I start to feel stressed, making an effort to see the positive in the situation, and turning to one or more of the stress relievers in the list below, I'm able to get to a place where things are under control. Sometimes I even feel better than I did before the stress struck in the first place.
MY TOP 10 WAYS TO RELIEVE STRESS
1. Go for a walk or run. It's admittedly been a few months (you suck, Chicago winters) since I've been able to rely on this one, but it still makes the list because it's probably the most effective way for me to combat stress. Even just a half hour of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise can transform my state of mind and put things into perspective. Exercise has been scientifically proven to be one of the absolute best ways to reduce all kinds of stress.
2. Breathe. I'm going to group breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga into this one for sake of space, even though they're very different things when you get into specifics. All incorporate intentional, controlled breathing though, and I practice all of them as a means to reduce stress. If you Google "breathing exercises," you can find hundreds of ways to get your stress under control in a matter of minutes just by utilizing the power of breath. Sometimes I channel my hippie roots (I used to be a big one, guys), sit on the floor surrounded by my favorite crystals and plants, and just breath in and out, in and out. It works.
3. Listen to music. Music has been proven to positively affect the human stress response, and it's easy for me to see why. When I'm feeling overwhelmed, popping in my headphones or putting on a record and just listening to a couple of my favorite songs always calms me down and improves my mood.
4. Watch a movie. There is little I love more at the end of a stressful day then cuddling up with a blanket, a bowl of popcorn, and Netflix on my iPad. This one can be tricky, as stressful movies have actually been shown to increase heart rate, but if I choose something easy going and positive, it's amazing how relaxed I can feel by the end. It's one of my favorite ways to unwind.
5. Read a book. Like watching movies, reading books can be a wonderful means for escaping the anxiety of everyday life. Reading is even more effective for stress management than vegging out in front of a movie, thanks to less stimuli and the ability to follow along at your own pace. I often read before falling asleep because it so quickly and powerfully relaxes my mind.
6. Call a friend. After I graduated from college, I lived in eight different states all over the country before moving back to the Chicago area. I met some life-long friends along the way, many of whom I don't get to see more than once every couple of years due to distance. Picking up the phone and spending just thirty minutes catching up takes me out of my own bubble and allows for quality, real-time connections. Even though it's not face to face, it's a vast improvement over communicating via text or social media, and leaves both parties feeling the fulfillment of human bonding.
7. Eat a RESCUE Pastille. These homeopathic candies (I like the Black Current flavor best) taste great and contain flower extracts to naturally help you de-stress less and stay in control. I eat one if I'm feeling especially overwhelmed or nervous - it's an easy, convenient way to attain a sense of calm. They're gentle and safe for the entire family (they were developed by a doctor), and are non-habit-forming with no side effects. RESCUE products have also been around for generations, and come in a variety of forms: Pastilles, Sleep Liquid Melts, Pearls, and more. They're available at CVS, Walgreens, Whole Foods, Sprouts and wherever you find natural products. (Pssst… Here's a link for a BOGO coupon!) I keep a tin in my purse and one in my nightstand.
8. Unplug. Despite the fact that the use of devices (see #3, #4, and #6 above) has the power to decrease my stress level in several ways, unplugging from electronics from time to time makes a massive difference in my state of mind. Even just a few hours on the weekend of completely unplugging from my phone/iPad/computer and replacing them with real life experiences can make a profound impact on my headspace come Monday morning.
9. Enjoy a cup. Tea has almost become synonymous with stress reduction (how may times have you been offered a cup of tea when you're feeling unsettled?), and I think there's definitely something to be said for that. Whether you're having a calming variety or just a cup of regular old tea, it's impossible not to be soothed by the comfort of the hot liquid combined with the act of slowly enjoying it. I'm a huge coffee lover too, and either a small cup of regular coffee or larger cup of decaf can also be incredibly relaxing for me.
10. Play. Sometimes you just need to take a break from being a grown-up, man. Get down on the floor with your kid and play with toys together. Run around outside with your dog. Meet up with your friends and just be silly. I am a worrier by nature, with an almost ingrained pressure to constantly do more and be better. By taking time for play - even just a few minutes - every single day (and lots more on the weekends), I have (truly) developed a whole new way of looking at life. We're not supposed to work or be serious all the time you guys. Life should be enjoyed, period.
I hope that my personal tips for relieving my own stress are helpful for you guys as well. I'd love to hear your tips for managing stress too!
Thank you for supporting Bubby & Bean by allowing me to post occasional sponsored content. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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