25 De-stressing Mini-tips

25 De-stressing Mini-Tips

Are you under stress?

Do you feel like you have no spare time to relax?

Well, this article is for you.  Here are 25 de-stressing mini-tips that you can use in the quick five minutes between meetings, or the half-hour you have on your lunch break.  These tips are great ways to collect yourself when stress is high and time is limited.  Some of these tips may work well for you, and others may not.  You will have to figure out which helpful tips work best for you, and work best with your schedule.

1. Go for a walk.  Whether it is just for five minutes to get out of the house or office, or a longer ten-minute walk, some mild exercise and fresh air does wonders when we are under stress.

2. Chocolate! Chocolate’s link to PEA (Phenylethylamine) and endorphin release (check it out here: http://www.allchocolate.com/health/basics/brain.aspx) make it a great option for a quick 5-minute fix.  But here’s the catch: this is not an excuse to eat an entire pint of chocolate ice cream as a “snack”.  The yummy benefits of chocolate come from the actual cacao bean, and dark chocolate has a higher concentration of cacao than milk chocolate, so you will be able to reap better rewards if you stick to the more potent and healthier chocolate.  Also, moderation is key.  There is no point in eating chocolate to relieve stress, if one is just going to over-indulge to the point of causing more stress (“great, now I have to add ‘working out’ to my giant to-do list today.”) Try planning out your chocolate fix.  Look at your schedule, and find your most stressful points of the day.  Are there two, or three? Maybe even five?  Pick out three times in your day where you feel the most stressed, and then pack three bite-size pieces of dark chocolate in your bag.  This will keep you from eating the entire bag, or caving at the snack cart and buying the Snickers bar instead of the healthier dark chocolate.  The idea is to keep your quick-fix a stress reliever and not a stress producer!

3. Eat a healthy meal.  What we put into our body is what we get out in return, and fueling up with a nutritious meal will not only make you feel good, but give you more energy as well!

4. Make yourself a warm drink.  A soothing cup of de-caf tea, or even just an apple cider will do the trick!

5. Get cozy and read a book!

6. Sing your favorite song! We all have a favorite song.  Not just any favorite song, but the song that puts you in a good mood no matter what is going on around you.  (You know, the song that you stop and dance to no matter where you – even if that means dancing down aisle five at the grocery store)  Turn the song on and blast it as high as it goes (or as high as you can get away with where ever you happen to be), and sing away!

7. Laugh! Watch a funny movie, read a great joke, or listen to a comedian.  Do whatever it takes to get yourself to laugh!

8. Make a de-stressing CD or playlist for your Ipod.  Gather some songs, even if it is just a few, that make you feel relaxed.  Take advantage of the five minutes before a meeting or doctor appointment by popping in some ear buds and listening to a calming track, or take advantage of a commute from work and pop in the CD.

9. Write. Using the word “journaling”, always produces some cringes, as the next thought is usually “Dear Diary …”, but wash that image out of your brain.  Pick up a sketchbook from the store.  You can usually find basic ones for about $4.  Sketchbooks work the best for this because they allow more flexibility and creativity.  You don’t have to have a purpose for why you are writing, or even a set format.  Just write.  Maybe you can’t find the words? Draw instead.  Possibly you have seen a picture in a magazine, book, or a picture of your own that reflects what you are feeling – tape it inside the sketchbook.  Quotes are another great starting point for those who are hesitant.  Don’t worry about what you are writing about, and just let the words flow from your hand.

10. Tear up your stress! Think about what is bothering you the most, or what has been on your mind, and write it down on a piece of paper.  Then, tear the paper into shreds!

11.  Do you have too many things on your mind? Are your thoughts racing? Write them down.  Cut a few strips of paper, find a bowl (a fish bowl or mason jar would be fine), and keep them in a handy spot.  When you feel that you can’t focus your thoughts, write down each thought that is causing stress on a piece of paper, fold it up tightly, and place it in the jar.  You can always go back into the jar when you are feeling less anxious and address the things you put in.  By doing this, you allow yourself to completely let go of the thought until you feel better able to tackle it.

12. Cardio: get your heart pumping with some cardio.  Challenge yourself to see how fast you can go on the treadmill, or try something new and learn how to kick-box.  Getting your heart rate up and releasing energy through physical activity is a great way to let go of stress.

13. Try some mindful meditation or breathing exercises. When we exhale, we turn on our parasympathetic nervous system, slowing our body down, which is why many forms of meditation involve extended exhalations.  (Sapolsky, 2004, p. 48)  Are you new to mindfulness or lacking some good breathing exercises? For an introduction to mindfulness and meditation, I would recommend The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh, which is available on Amazon.com for under $6.  For practical application, I would recommend The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions by Christopher K. Germer, PhD.  Germer’s book covers self-compassion, practicing loving-kindness, and customizing your self-compassion, with practical breathing and meditation exercises weaved into each chapter.  This book can also be found on Amazon.com for as little as $9.

14. Try yoga.  Yoga incorporates breathing and meditation with exercise to treat both our physical and mental self.  There are many different types, or teachings, of yoga, making it easy to find a style that is most fitting to your own.  Yoga is a great practical way to incorporate meditation and breathing exercises for those who are more active/need more of a physical release.

15.  Remind yourself of something that you admire about yourself.  Better yet, make a list of all the things you admire about yourself.

16. Call a friend.  That’s what they are there for!

17. Flex your creative muscles.  Whether is it dancing, painting, drawing, composing, creating, or even a DIY project – just let the energy flow out of your body and create something.  Creativity allows for a flexible release of energy!

18.  Take a short, 30 minutes nap.  Sometimes a little rest can turn a day around.

19.  Get more sleep! This is probably a no-brainer, but one that almost everyone is guilty of neglecting.  There are a million excuses for not going to bed early, but it is better to go to bed early and tackle unfinished projects in the morning when our minds our well rested, as we are better able to concentrate and are actually more productive (despite the fact that we swear we are not a morning person!) Are you a night owl? Start small and head to bed fifteen minutes earlier than you normally would.  The next week set your goal for 30 minutes earlier.

20. Take 30-minutes to yourself each morning.  Don’t do what you have to do, or what you should do, but do what you want to do.  We often spend most of our day doing things for others, and when there is finally time at the end of the day for ourselves, we are often too tired to take it.  Reverse this pattern and make the first thing you do in the day for you.

21. Plan your day.  Take a few minutes to plan out your busy day.  When you are prepared, things go much smoother and you are better prepared to deal with natural bumps that occur.

22.  Treat yourself to a massage.  Only have a couple of minutes, or are trying to save money? Even little, self-administered massages are great.  Try gently massaging your temples, nose, or scalp when you are under stress.  A scalp massage would also go great with a nice hot shower, recommended in #24.

23. Immerse yourself in nature.  There is something about our natural environment that brings a sense of relaxation and grounds us.  When you are stressed, surround yourself with nature.  If you only have five minutes at work or with the kids, go for a brief walk outside, eat your lunch on the grass, or just enjoy the breeze from an open window (We rely on our air conditioning systems way too often!).  Do you have more time? Go on hike, enjoy a lake, or head to the ocean.  In my opinion, nature’s most calming element is rain.  Next time it rains, take five or ten minutes to enjoy it in its entirety.  Open the window (you can lay down a towel to protect the window sill or floor), and smell the scent of fresh rain.  Feel the cool, humid air rush in.  If you’re really brave, sit outside when it rains and feel the raindrops bounce off your body.

24.  Take a nice, long, hot bath or shower.  Not the kind of shower that you take to do the everyday scrub down.  Take a shower just to feel warm water run over your skin, and focus on how your muscles relax as you feel the beads of water drip down.

25. Create a new space.  This depends on the space and the amount of freedom you have, but try changing the space you are in.  Re-arrange the furniture, reorganize, or change the décor.  If you really have a lot of flexibility, be bold and repaint the room.  Changing the space you are in will also change the energy and feel that accompanies the room. If you are questioning this one, think about the advertising business.  There is a whole industry built around creating different feelings and messages by creative placement.

Do you have any other great suggestions that I missed? Please, let me know! Pass along what great de-stressing mini-tips you may have as well!

Sapolsky, R. M. (2004).  Why zebras don’t get ulcers.  New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapist

© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Resurrecting Technology

Whether you are into rap music or not, the name Tupac Shakur probably rings a bell.  If you have never heard of Coachella before, after this year’s back-from-the-dead performance, I can guarantee you will know about the event now.

This year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, an annual three-day festival held in Indio, California, featured a performance like no other.  The performance was ground-breaking, and sent chills throughout the audience as they watched the famous rapper, Tupac Shakur give a live, original performance right in front of their eyes, despite being dead for 16 years.

The performance was truly astonishing.  Video of the performance shows Tupac’s image on stage, with clarity that allows viewers to count the ribs along his side and the ruffles in his jeans.  As he performs, his chain necklace bounces rapidly back and forth to match the flow and rhythm of his unique mannerisms.  The performance, which also includes a cameo performance from Snoop Dogg (another famous rapper), is an original performance created specifically for Coachella, and not a previously recorded performance.

Now, regardless of if you enjoy rap music or not – or even any music at all – I wanted to write about this to get some feedback from others.  As I sat watching the video of Tupac’s performance (which you can find here ) [WARNING: Content contains offensive and derogatory language and gestures], several things ran through my mind.  First, I thought of the artist performing with this digital image.  Snoop Dogg and Tupac had a history together, collaborated on many projects together, and were close friends.  The image of Tupac on the stage looked frighteningly real, and I immediately scanned Snoop’s face for some sort of emotional reaction to what he was seeing in front of him.  I thought, ‘What must it be like to perform next to a strikingly real image of your dead best-friend?’ I thought of all the memories that probably rushed through his mind before, during, and after that performance.  Was this something he was excited about doing, or did he regret it later when he got off stage? The second thought I had was about Tupac’s family, and specifically his mother.  During the wake of Tupac’s death, his mother Afeni Shakur, along with another deceased (rival) rapper’s mother, made several public appearances expressing their distress and contempt for the violence that occurs between rival rappers, that ultimately lead to the death of both their sons.  I thought of Afeni Shakur, and how this experience affected her.  According to CBS news reporter Camille Mann, Afeni did in fact approve of the performance before it was even created.  But I still wondered, what it was like for her to watch her son perform on stage, after not being able to see his image for 16 years?

I also thought of my own experience with death.  After three short years of losing someone close to me, I can barely remember what their voice sounded like, the unique curve of their smile, or their posture as they would walk.  Loosing these memories has actually been a very difficult part of loss for myself, and sometimes the experience leaves me feeling as if my memories are seeping out of my skull like evaporating water.  There are many days where I wish I could just remember that person without the aid of a picture.  What if I were in Afeni’s position – would I want to have that resurrecting experience? If this technology was affordable for the average person, would it be something I would want as a keepsake for loved ones that have passed away?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but am presenting them for the purpose of discussion.  I am curious as to what others think about this experience, and what they would do if they were Afeni or Snoop.  After watching the performance, I am left impressed by technology, and amazed by the stoic stance of Snoop, but yet still left with chills at the thought of seeing someone I lost, live in front of my eyes.

I want to hear your feedback! What would be your reaction if you had the opportunity to resurrect a deceased loved one via the same technology used at Coachella?

Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapy Registered Intern


What Is Loss?

What is Loss?

Death.  It’s one of the most taboo subjects.  If you ever want to end a conversation, start talking about death.  Death and the sadness that occurs afterward, are often met by friends and loved ones with attempts to return to happiness as fast as possible, instead of attempting to understand how to cope with the experience.  Avoidance is even found in graduate-level counseling programs, where grief/loss is completely removed from the required coursework.  Despite all of our avoiding, death and loss surround us and occur more often than we realize.

Loss can be camouflaged, but it lies in almost everything we experience.  Loss of identity is a common hidden loss.  This can occur for many reasons.  For example, after a divorce, many people experience a loss of identity as they transition from a married couple to a single individual.  It grows increasingly difficult the longer a marriage lasts, since the longer someone has held an identity, the harder it becomes to transition to a new identity.  Loss of identity can also be seen in children during divorces.  For some children, the change that occurs may mean taking a new role in the family, transitioning from son to “man of the household.”  This switch can cause stress, conflict, and confusion for the family member who is forced to take on a role they are not normally accustomed to.  Losing a job can also cause identity loss, particularly with men.  Society has labeled men with the social role of “provider.”  Working and providing for a family is an identity for many men, and when that is taken away via job loss, men sometimes have a difficult time adjusting to a new role as dependent.

Another common but hidden loss is the relocation of a home.  This loss is probably more common today as many families are forced to move because of the inability to afford their current bills, job relocation, or foreclosure due to a poor economy.  For many families, the home symbolizes much more than just a roof and four walls; it can hold history, memories, and an ongoing restructuring project and result of hard work.  Losing a home or being forced to move can be devastating and leave one with feelings of intense loss.   Our homes are also our place of comfort.  Do you remember your first move? How long did it take you to make your new place feel like “home”? This feeling of comfort is often grieved as well when losing a home.

Loss of ability is another example that can occur for people with chronic or terminal medical conditions.  For instance, some diseases like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which results in loss of muscle control, slowly strips away many abilities that a person once had.  Just one month after diagnosis, an individual may lose their ability to sleep comfortably.  Months later, they may lose their ability to walk without assistance.  Next goes the ability to walk at all, being bound to a wheel chair.  Loss of vision, the ability to control bowel movements, and the strength to feed oneself can also occur.  Each of these different stages in the disease results in a loss, and those individuals experience grief during each individual stage.  [I would like to note that this is a generalized example based on a severe course of MS.  Not all individuals with MS will experience these symptoms, and not all courses of MS follow the same path.]  Sudden loss due to either disease or tragic event is also a loss that requires grieving.

As one can see, there are many types of losses that are not the actual loss of a human life.  People experience these losses many times over, but often confuse the experience with other emotions.  Are we really mad that the staircase in the new house is placed in such an awkward place, or are we just grieving the loss of what was once our place of comfort and security? Are you really upset that your partner took on more hours at work, leaving no time to help you around the house? Or are you having a hard time transitioning out of the role in the family as “provider”?

One may answer, “What does it matter? Regardless of how I got there, I’m left feeling mad!” One cannot begin grieving something they have not yet acknowledged has been lost.  Appropriately defining these moments as a loss ― whether it be a divorce, losing a job or a house, gaining a new identity as a single, taking on a new role in the family, or declining physical abilities due to a chronic medical condition ― will help one gain a clearer understanding of what they are experiencing, and help one to better cope with the feelings they are having.

It is also important to recognize the actual loss to allow for the time and space to grieve.  Although it may not be seen by others as an “actual” loss, what was experienced is, in fact, a loss and can leave one with the exact same feelings.  Taking care of oneself during this difficult time is not only important, but essential.

Vanessa Lemminger M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapist

Check out my blog post featured on the R.A.R.E. Project site!


© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Coping when Tragedy Strikes

In a world of “How To, For Dummies”, Web MD, and the ease of Google search,  we are accustomed to finding fast solutions to problems we encounter.  With a quick search on You Tube, one can find tutorials on everything from “how to create perfect curls” to “how to pick a lock”.  There are books that range from “How to Run a Successful Business” to “How to Find Inner Peace”.  Information, guidance, and insight are at the tip of our fingers in our fast paced, highly connected society.  When tragedy strikes, we often have the same urge to find a solution, some guidance, or at least some insight into what steps we should take next.  Working in the field of therapy, this is something I see often.  “What should I do?” “How long will this feeling last?” “How long does it take to recover?” “Will things ever feel normal?” “What do other parents do?” “Am I taking the right steps?”

My answer is never a simple one, and never a popular one.  In fact, that actual thought of one person having an “answer” to such problems, is ridiculous.  My reaction, instead, is this: If there was a “How To” book on what to do and how to cope when tragedy strikes, everyone would read it front to back, ten times over.  The book would be an instant best seller, but unfortunately, such a book does not exist.

There is no easy way to cope when tragedy strikes, and there is no easy answer on how to react.  What I can suggest, however, is helpful hints on how to make coping easier, and how to find solace in your own way.

Don’t panic:

Whether you have just been given a life-altering diagnosis, or experiencing another relapse through the course of a current condition, it is important not to panic.  It is easy to let our thoughts run wild, and sometimes when we are delivered what seems like unimaginable, out-of-this world news, our thoughts tend to drift into the unimaginable as well.  It is easy to instantly think of the worst that can happen, and get lost in a tumbling avalanche of fear and panic.

Although it is important not to panic, this does not mean you shouldn’t be experiencing feelings of sadness, shock, and fear.  All those reactions and emotions are normal to experience.

Give yourself time to cope:

This is a continuation of what I said above under “don’t panic”.  Disbelief, depression, anger, fear, and even euphoria are all emotions that can occur when tragedy arrives.  The different emotional states can occur in any order, and occur many times, or some not at all.   No matter what card you just been dealt, life continues to move at its normal lightening-fast speed.  It’s important to put take some time to yourself.   Put the breaks on when needed, and make sure to give yourself plenty of time during the day to just, simply, breathe.  Once you allow yourself to experience these emotions, you can start to reflect on the deeper meaning behind what is going on.

Educate yourself:

Don’t let shock and disbelief leave you helpless.  Educate yourself the best you can on what you are dealing with.  Information can help empower, thus leaving us to make better decisions that will lead us to more positive outcomes for ourselves.  Our bodies and our lives are as intricate as the ecosystem.  Making small, minor adjustments can create surprisingly large changes in how we feel.

Education can help us better understand the course of a disease, what the future may look like, common symptoms, and helpful ways to lessen or deal with side effects.  Education can tell us about what treatment is available, what treatment is not available, and what others in our position have encountered.

Education is similar to solving a Sudoku puzzle.  The more numbers that are available, the easier the puzzle is to solve.  Granted, this is a very simple metaphor, and “solve” is a very concrete and loaded word when dealing with tragedy, the point is to emphasize the importance of knowledge.  The more you know, the more control you can gain on the situation.

Now, here is the catch: it is also important not to obsess over information.  Moderation is key here.  Have you ever made a list for a list? (Guilty here.) Make sure that this stays helpful, and doesn’t lead to more stress.  Determine what would be helpful to know, and what you are content about leaving alone.

Self-reflection: What does this mean for you?

Find some time for self-reflection, grab a soothing cup of tea (or any thing that helps you relax), grab a notebook, and find a comfortable spot in your favorite room.

Take some time to think about these questions, how you would answer them, and actually jot them down in a notebook.  Physically writing down your answers will help give these answers weight.

1. How is this event going to change my life?

2.  How have these changes altered my identify?

3. How did I define myself prior to this event, and how do I define myself now?

4. What does this situation mean to me?

Whether you are experiencing an actual loss, or experiencing the loss of ability or lifestyle, these losses can be disorienting and alter our sense of identity.  Finding meaning in who we are and understanding how the changes in our life will redefine us will aid in the coping process.  It may take a while to feel content about our answers.  It is the process that is important.

Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937

Marriage and Family Therapist

This article can also be found on the R.A.R.E. Project’s blog! Check out link and learn more about the R.A.R.E. project!


© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.