Last time I covered some of the effects stress can have on your body and briefly went over some ways to deal with that, but I want to go a little more in depth on how to handle stress as opposed to just listing all the terrible things it can do to your body.
First it's very important to identify the sources of stress in your life. If it is something you can't avoid (in my mom's case it's her job) then you should try to work on limiting unnecessary stress. (By the way mom, time to find a new job.) Here are some things you can do to help with limiting your stress. (This website does a great job of explaining them)
- Learn to say NO.
- Avoid people who stress you out.
- Make your environment comfortable and reduce sources of anxiety
- Express your emotions instead of bottling them up
- Be willing to compromise and let some things go
- Attempt to maintain good time management, but not to the point it stresses you out more.
- Look at the big picture
- Focus on the positive
- If you're a perfectionist, try not to be so hard on yourself
- Realize there are things you can't control, and don't try to control them
- Try to find the silver lining
- Learn to forgive (yourself and others)
- Share your feelings
Here is the part I REALLY wanted to focus on. I have stress... I am hurting and I feel miserable from my stress, what can I do!?
- Take a walk
- Sometimes just getting out of the house and away from everything for a minute will help clear your head. I often find if I am stressed that physical work helps me to kind of shut my brain off from all the things I am worrying about. If I am walking or working out or doing yard work I tend to zone out and focus on my task as opposed to obsessing over whatever is bothering me.
- Spend some time in nature
- Spending some time just sitting in the sun and listening to the birds or wind in the trees can be very relaxing. Sunshine provides us with much needed vitamin D and it is, in general, very good for your mental health. (There is a type of depression called S.A.D. which is Seasonal Affective Disorder. This most commonly happens during winter months when there is less sunlight and can be treated by photo-therapy and U.V. lights. Just goes to show sunshine is important!)
- Call a good/trusted friend
- Sometimes talking to someone who you love and trust, who is willing to just listen and let you vent, can make you feel worlds better. It really helps to get all that anxiety out and express it in a healthy way.
- Go work out
- This is along the same lines as physical activity for me. I only focus on the work out. Sometimes stress or anger can fuel a very intesive work out. It's a great way to get some of that anxious energy out of your body and you will usually feel exhausted but satisfied at the end.
- Keep a journal and vent in it
- For people who don't like venting or talking to other people as much, keeping a journal can be a great way to get all of those negative emotions out. By putting them down on paper you are getting them out of your head and not keeping them bottled up. You can write whatever you want in the journal, scribble up the pages, and get all that stress and frustration out in a safe way without worrying about 'bringing someone else down'. (Even though your friends are happy to listen and support you and they love you, sometimes it's just hard to talk to people.)
- Take a long hot bath
- Aaaaaaaaaaah, So relaxing. Just don't fall asleep in the tub.
- Light scented candles or other aromatherapy
- Just having some nice smells around the house can be great. Especially when coupled with a hot bath or with your massage. For those of your who scoff at thinking just smelling something can help you feel better, there is some scientific evidence that it really does work. If you're interested The Mayo Clinic offers a brief explanation on aromatherapy and this site explains a little more how it actually works.
- Drink a hot beverage, like teas or hot chocolates. (Maybe not Coffee as it has a lot of caffeine).
- Sometimes holding something warm in your hands can make you feel safe and relaxed. And teas and hot chocolates are yummy. Just make sure you're staying away from things with high volumes of sugar and caffeine as that can have the opposite effect of what we are trying to achieve.
- Pet an animal.
- Scientific studies have shown that petting an animal significantly lowers your blood pressure and reduces stress and depression. There are lots of programs now that will take dogs, cats, and even rabbits into retirement communities and hospitals for people to pet. If you don't have a pet you can always go to your local shelter and spend some time loving on the animals there.
- Spend time on a hobby away from electronics,
- I have found (and I am probably going to get a lot of crap for this) that hobbies involving electronics, like video games, don't do a great job of alieviating stress. It has been my observation that they provide more of an escape then a stress relief as they can be very intense and mentally taxing. When I play a video game, I get very wrapped up in it and when I finish after playing for an extended period of time I feel tired and anxious. Gamers will probably deny it, and don't get me wrong, I LOVE video games, but I don't think they're the BEST source of stress relief. Especially if you like first person shooters and play online, it can be frustrating and irritating when you die over and over or can't get past a certain point in the game, etc etc. Then you wind up even more stressed out than you started with. (although there are some really cool games like Flower that can be relaxing in their own way) In today's world with everything so inundated with electronics and instant updates, try getting away from that and going back to basics. Paint, draw, garden, build models, read, write, fish, hike, bike, haiku, sudoko, jigsaw puzzle, the possibilities are nearly limitless!
- Get a massage
- I set this in bold because massages are AMAZING. I could go on and on about all the awesome benefits of getting a massage. They help your muscles relax, increase blood flow, release stored toxins so your body can flush them, and all kinds of other wholesome goodness. They're awesome. Get one. And drink lots and lots of water when you're done.
- Learn or practice meditation or yoga
- Meditation can help you focus your mind and clear away distractions. It can be calming and can help you find your center when you are feeling frazzled or overwhelmed. Yoga is a great work out that incorporates stretching, breathing and meditation. It's pretty sweet stuff.
- Listen to some upbeat music
- Music can have a huge affect on your mood. If you are stressed or down, don't listen to heavy metal screamo music. Listen to something light and positive to help bolster your good mood and positive attitude.
- Watch a comedy movie
- Laughter is undoubtedly one of the best medicines out there. Look up a funny video on you tube, watch your favorite silly movie, talk to people who make you laugh. Laughing releases endorphins into your body and can make you feel great.
- Dare I say it... this last one... intended for mature audiences only. You'll have to highlight the text to read it. Otherwise, move along and don't be offended. ^_^
- Have an orgasm. That's right. I said it. Get frisky with your partner or your favorite toy. If you think laughing releases a lot of endorphins into your brain... it's marginal compared to what your body gets after you have an orgasm. Enough said.
In my last article I talked about setting a healthy lifestyle which included eating good whole foods, making time for exercise, reduced caffeine and sugar intake, and avoiding alcohol and drugs. It can take some work to get these habits established if you don't already do a lot of these things, but the benefits are well worth it.
So now, everyone go get a massage and feel better. (Especially you mom!)