I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find you’re not,
I hope you have the strength to start all over again.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
You can also find some of my articles on the R.A.R.E. Project’s blog!!
Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapist
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.
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.