Stress happens. Whether at work or school, some days you’re pushed to the edge, you feel the tension all over your body, and you aren’t sure whether to punch something or cry. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had bad days. But it’s not the end of the world (yet), and there are plenty of wholesome and pleasant ways to center yourself again. Here’s a list of 21 ways to keep your cool.
- Diffuse a soothing blend of essential oils. Of course you’ve heard the saying, “Take time to stop and smell the roses,” but did you know that Rose essential oil is even more potent for relaxation than Lavender oil? Diffusing a blend of Rose, Lemon, and Lavender oil will chill you out, lift your mood, and make your house smell awesome.
- Stick your nose in the coffee pot. Coffee usually gets a bad rap, since the caffeine can cause stress for some people, but simply smelling freshly brewed coffee or warm coffee grounds can reduce stress. I switched to a French press a while back and will never again use a traditional coffee maker. If you’re worried how you’ll make coffee in a power outage, you need one, too!
- Listen to calming music. Whatever genre helps you find your zen, be it country or Celtic harp, listening to about 30-45 minutes of music with a slow tempo can clear your mind and relax your muscles.
- Read. Yes, put aside your computer, tablet, or cell phone, and take an hour or so to read something on paper. There is something very stressful and anxiety-triggering about being in front of a screen 24/7, and it is not good for your brain to be constantly switching from app to app, or scrolling through a dozen pictures at a time. Reading requires focus, and patience, and helps your mind to center itself after being stretched a thousand different ways.
- Color. I know, right? Crazy, but not only are adult coloring books are actually a huge thing right now, it’s also National Coloring Book Day on August 2! A good quality coloring book and some fancy Prismacolor colored markers and pencils, and you’re groovy. Our set has 48 colors, which is plenty for providing intense, blendable color.Many adults, both men and women, are enjoying the revival of this old-time hobby from their childhoods. (If you want something really special, Johanna Basford’s coloring books are amazing!! I’m working my way through “Lost Ocean“.)
- Drink some tea. Rose tea, chamomile tea, passionflower, or kava kava are all natural, caffeine free, soothing beverages that are perfect for bedtime or an afternoon chill session. For me, there’s nothing like sitting in a cozy corner of the couch with a cup of hot tea, slightly sweetened, and then finished off with just a tablespoon or two of heavy cream or almond milk. If you’re not into tea, just drink plenty of water, keeping your body hydrated and flushing out toxins.
- Go for a run. Put on some tennis shoes and pop outside to soak up some vitamin C and get your heart working. Many studies have shown that physical exercise of any sort can boost your mood. It also requires focus and mental discipline. Plus, who knows when you may need to run for your life? May as well get in some training for that.
- Clean up. You know that closet you’ve been meaning to go through for, like, ever? After a stressful day, it might finally be time to do that. Working with your hands, sorting, and seeing a tidy end result is rewarding and therapeutic. Turn on some music, podcast, or audiobook, and go to town! An organized space is soothing.
- Cook or bake something challenging. The same principle as cleaning up, but with more of a creative outlet and a delicious end result. Try a new recipe, technique, or cuisine! And it doesn’t even have to be duck de l’orange, your dish can be cheap and easy as a casserole or soup.
- Make a fruit salad to go with your dinner. Bananas, oranges, mangoes, and blueberries are examples of healthy fruits that contain stress-relieving, mood-boosting qualities. Plus, who doesn’t just like to say, “banana”? Even that will make you smile.
- Pick up a handicraft. Knitting, embroidery, whittling, you name it, just choose something that you enjoy, then plop into your comfiest chair and take your sweet time on it. Repetitive motion helps calm nerves.
- Pet your dog. Or your guinea pig. Or your cat, if she’ll let you (mine won’t). You don’t really need a study to be done to know that cuddling your furbaby, while whispering sweet nothings in their floppy ears as you rub their noggins, can just make everything magically okay in your life.
- Journal. Did you know that people who journal regularly actually live longer than people who don’t? Sit down during either breakfast or dinner and write about anything upsetting you or that you’re excited about.
- Get it all on paper. David Allen, in his book, Getting Things Done, says that writing down every. Single. Thing. On your mind helps you focus on the tasks at hand, and also helps prioritize what needs to be done. This is a good practice to add to your bedtime ritual. What you’re gonna have for breakfast, that guy you need to call for such-and-such a thing, your worries about the kids, a reminder to clear out your inbox, packing an emergency kit, etc. Just get it out on paper.
- Play. What?? First coloring, now playing? Yes! Some purposeless but fun and silly activity that you used to do as a kid, whether it’s tag, hide-n-seek, homemade play-dough, or finger painting. It’s a great way to unwind, and laughter is the best medicine.
- Put a pencil between your teeth. No, it’s not just to make you look dumb. Holding the pencil between your teeth forces your mouth into a smile. Staying like this for two minutes can fool your mind into producing your happy hormones. Who knew?
- Work on your survival breathing. Special forces operatives use this technique to steady themselves when in stressful situations. It lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, and the extra oxygen clears your mind.
- Try acupressure. Gently squeeze the part of your hand between your thumb and index finger for thirty seconds, then switch sides. This has been shown to relieve tension in your upper body by about 30%.
- Clean up. Not your house this time, but you. Even if you showered that morning, grab some soap in a scent that makes you go, “Mmmmm“, like this bar of luxury soap, and let the hot water and steam relax your muscles. Then, ditch your work clothes and put on your comfiest clothing items.
- Spend time with family. Did you know that children whose families regularly ate together for meals were more stable emotionally throughout their lives? That same benefit can extend to parents, as well. So sit down, relax, and talk about your day with the people you love most. Here’s a fun idea for family conversation starters, if you need it.
- Spend time alone. When in doubt, kick everyone out. Just kidding, but truly, no one will blame you if you just need a break from society.
By the way, every one of these ideas come in handy during normal, humdrum stressful days but also keep them in mind for the severe crisis. No one is at their best and makes the best decisions when under high levels of duress. If everything hits the fan someday, you’ll need some time every now and then to unwind.
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