As we know, stress is a killer. It robs us of our thoughts, our motivation, and our energy. Being able to properly cope with stress will improve your life and lead to a much happier existence. Stress levels can vary and may be exceptionally higher in any given situation.
What are things in our life that cause us the most stress? Financial issues, relationship choices, thinking about future, and ruminating over past events are a few items that can invoke both stress and anxiety. There are innumerous situations that could arise to spike our stress and anxiety levels. If you are prone to be a “worrier” that can cause a lot of anxiety about the future.
The best thing to do to calm stress and anxiety is to take care of yourself. You need to do things that make you feel valued and fulfilled. This could include pursuing a hobby, going after a goal or something as simple as “self care”. I enjoy splurging on a pedicure with my daughter, trying out different makeup, and making a point to check out the latest in fine dining. A lot of us live on budgets and this sort of self-indulgence often becomes devalued and sacrificed. If these types of things are not in your budget, designate an evening to binge on a favorite television show once per week. Have a spouse or family member take care of the children and put your feet up. Adult time outs are necessary for mental health and we need to start caring for our mental health so that we are able to care of others.
Remaining mindful is a useful technique to stop the flow of ruminating thoughts. We all have seen the memes that discuss people being unable to sleep at times due to our thoughts keeping us up. One of my favorite song lyrics, by Brandi Carlile, goes like this,
“I never was good at sleeping
while the moon was full,
I just lie and burn,
wreck my mind while the planet turns.”
Being mindful means staying in the present moment. It is hard to master, but worth the practice. Recognize that your thoughts and feelings are just that, thoughts and feelings. They cannot harm us and we tend to give them an exuberant amount of time that would be used sleeping. We often analyze conversations that have happened during that particular day, and conversations that happened 5 years ago, at a Christmas Party, after we had too much to drink. Although these thoughts can be difficult to control and often drift into our consciousness, understand that they are not helpful or useful. Often times these thoughts alone trigger stress and anxiety. Focus and enjoy the “now”, just as it is. Meditation is an exceptional way to practice this skill.
Although recreation is an entire industry, our society doesn’t always give it the value it deserves. Recreation is beneficial to your mental health. It allows us to stay active, bond with our families and stimulates our brains. It allows us time to relax and enjoy the life that we all work so hard for. It is also beneficial to demonstrate a well-balanced life style to our children. Time to bust out the board games and brush off the sporting equipment. You might be surprised by the amount of strategic and critical thinking you can teach your children at a young age. Also, board games will help keep you sharp as you age.
Take a time out for fitness. There is an incredible amount of research linking physical activity to improving brain function and reducing depression and anxiety. Getting out into the fresh air for a daily walk will improve circulation, burn calories and increase energy. Take the dog along for a little companionship. While out and about you may meet some new people. When you pair increased physical fitness with a great meal prep plan, you really have a winning combination. Invest in your body! You will get out of it what you put in.
Take time out to talk with friends, family and/or a therapist. It is always valuable to get multiple perspectives on a situation that continues to cause you stress. Talk about it and talk yourself through it. Make a game plan and problem solve. Rally up the support you need and take control of the situation. Be aware that sometimes this means letting go.
It is okay to say “no” and boundaries are healthy. I cannot stress this enough, boundaries are healthy. If this is not your mantra, it should be. Let’s say it together, “boundaries are healthy.” There will come a time in your life when your response will be no, and some people may find it upsetting. This is actually a good thing because it allows you to get practice advocating for yourself, but also to evaluate your current relationships. Let’s be honest, we all do things we hate. Stop doing things you hate for crappy people. Just stop. Do not placate, do not negotiate, do not attempt to explain yourself. Done! Again, stop doing things you hate.
To recap, Let’s look at some fun low cost activities that assist with decreasing stress and anxiety:
- Go for a Walk
- Take a Class
- Discover Yoga
- Listen to Music
- Sit by the Water
- Talk with a Friend
- Enjoy some Netflix
- Host or Attend a Dinner Party
- Enjoy a Sporting Event
- Do a Craft
- Play a Board Game
- Read a Book
- Start a Project
- Get Organized
- Join a Gym
- Take a Shower or Bath
- Contact Local Parks and Recreation for Ongoing Activities
- Research Clubs in your Area
- Mani Pedi
- Learn a New Skill