Are You Stressed Out? Learn to Relax!
When I was young, I had this strange idea that once I was older, life would somehow be all fun and games. I thought being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want, would be ah-mazing. Do I want pizza for breakfast? Boom! Pizza for breakfast. Ice cream for dinner? Sure. Sleep until noon? Who’s gonna stop me?
And then…reality hit. It hit me pretty hard, too, since I got pregnant with child number one at 18 years old and gave birth to child number two just a short three days before my 21st birthday. While others my age were hitting the clubs, I was breastfeeding a newborn while caring for a two-year-old, and don’t even ask about their father. We’ll just say adulting turned out to be way too hard for him and I was a single mom long before I was really a single mom.
Fast-forward to now, 25 years after my first-born threw reality (and spit-up) in my face. I work full-time in a fairly stressful job while trying to pay enough attention to my husband to keep our marriage intact, get the last of our kids to adulthood safe and sound, pay a few bills here and there, and keep my sanity in check all at the same time. It’s not always easy. Hell, let’s be honest here – it’s rarely easy. While I do take daily medication for my major depression and anxiety, pills alone sometimes just aren’t enough. Often, I have to consciously remember to find ways to relax and recharge my batteries. Let’s talk about a few techniques that work for me and apparently, work for others, too.
1. Listen to music.
Some people like to listen to calm, soothing music. While I enjoy that from time to time, what really gets the stress out and makes me happy is listening to LOUD music, often heavy metal, and singing/screaming along. I do this in the car on my way home from work every day. My commute time is usually the only “me” time I get, and I take full advantage. I turn the stereo up as loud as I can stand it, and I don’t just quietly sing, I SING! If the people in the other cars are looking at me, I don’t notice and I don’t even care.
2. Go to the beach.
I know many of you are landlocked, but if you can get to a beach, do it. Maybe you can’t get to the ocean, but surely you must have a nice lake or river nearby. Sitting on the beach, listening to the waves crash is just about my favorite thing in the whole world to do.
3. Talk to someone.
Maybe you have a BFF you can share anything with. Maybe you go to church and talk to your clergy. Maybe you go to a psychologist. Whichever option you choose, it’s important to talk to someone who will listen to you, give you advice if you want it (and keep it to themselves if you don’t), and let you vent. It helps to know you’re not alone in this world and for some (myself included), it’s easier to talk to someone who is a completely neutral third party who plays no other role in your life.
Many employers have Employee Assistance Programs. Mine does, and it allows for five completely free counseling sessions per year. If you don’t know if your employer offers EAP services, ask someone in HR.
4. Use essential oils.
Aromatherapy can have tremendous effects on our mental and physical health. Lavender smells wonderful and has a very calming effect, which can help you sleep, too. There are also many stress relief blends you can try, usually containing some variety of lavender, bergamot, vanilla, sage, and others. Use a quality oil and a quality diffuser and you should find it very helpful. Some diffusers are so pretty, they serve two purposes being both functional and pieces of art.
5. Take a walk.
Many studies have proven that walking releases endorphins, reduces depression, helps you get better and more restful sleep, and increases your brain’s cognitive function. Taking your walks in nature provides even more benefits to your brain, so take a hike in the trees instead of on the street if you can.
6. Get a massage.
When your brain is tense, your body is usually tense, too. You may get more frequent and/or more severe headaches or migraines. Your neck and shoulders may ache and you may even feel physical lumps or knots in your muscles. A good massage by a licensed massage therapist can do wonders for your physical and mental health. If you’re short on cash, you can often find great deals on Groupon. You might even get a spa package including a massage and a facial. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for that right now.
7. Practice yoga
Even the prestigious Harvard Medical School embraces the benefits of yoga on one’s mental health. It lowers the heart rate, lowers the blood pressure, and makes breathing easier. It has profoundly positive effects on depression, anxiety, and – you guessed it – one’s stress response. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, either. All it takes is a little searching on the internet to find free or very inexpensive yoga classes.
In my local area (Sacramento, CA), we have Yoga in the Park. Groups of people, ranging from beginners to experts, meet in public parks and do yoga together. Often, professional yoga instructors lead these groups for free or for a small donation. Check your local Facebook groups or even Craigslist and you’re sure to find a group to join. If you’re too embarrassed or too shy, you can find lots of free videos on YouTube, as well, so you can practice in the privacy of your own living room.
As the old saying goes, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Most people know laughter can reduce your stress levels, but did you know it also strengthens your immune system can even lessen physical pain? Sometimes when I’ve had a particularly stressful day, I will come home and watch the funniest movie or TV series I can think of on Netflix or Prime TV (Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial or Give the Gift of Amazon Prime). It really helps me relax and let the stress of the day go when I laugh hysterically at a comedy, especially a really stupid one. Some of my favorites are Napoleon Dynamite, Family Guy, The Office, Portlandia, Stepbrothers – I’m seriously smiling just thinking about these. 🙂 A little bit of humor can erase a hard day at work in no time at all.
Making someone else smile is a quick and easy way to make yourself feel good. Something as seemingly insignificant as telling someone you like her hair or you like his shoes can not only change your mood and outlook, but it can change theirs, as well. You don’t know what internal struggles they may be having and just a kind word or a genuine smile could turn their world around.
Well, I hope you found at least one helpful tip in this list. Please let me know if you have any suggestions to add in the comments below. I’d love to hear what works for you.
Remember to take long, deep breaths occasionally throughout the day and remember, your mental health is just as important as, if not more important than, your physical health.
Take care and be kind to one another. ♥
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