In a world that is becoming both more complex, and more physically and mentally exhausting every day, it is more important than ever before to find ways to destress. It may seem like a daunting task to find the time to do that when everything around us seems to be spinning out of control. It can seem like an oxymoron to talk about how in today’s stressful society, we need to find time to destress, when the reason that we are so stressed in the first place is that we have no time. We could all use some tips on ways to destress not only at the end of the day, but in the moments that we steal throughout the day to take a breath. They may be short-lived, and far between, but if we can optimize them to help us to focus for the rest of our long days, we can not only make these moments worth it, but we can give ourselves a boost throughout the rest of our day.
Breathing Exercises – Like most ways to destress, breathing exercises are not one size fits all. Take the time to try out some different techniques for using breathing to calm down in stressful situations, when life feels like too much, and other specific situations that you personally struggle with. There is most likely at least one that will help you to find center when it feels like everything is coming apart. That being said, the one that I have listed below is a fairly simple one that can help you to be in the moment, and focus on something you can control. Let me know how this one worked for you, or even what worked better for you in the comments.
Three Minute Breathing Focus
- Set a timer for three minutes
- Inhale 5 Counts
- Hold 5 Counts
- Exhale 5 Counts
- Repeat for at least the full 3 minutes
Create a Sanctuary – Find a space in your home (All that matters is that this space feels safe to you already. Things like size are not important.) Clean this space to your satisfaction, and fill it with things that make you feel at ease. Focus on each of your senses as you do this, and then add activities to the space that comfort you.
- Scent: Get some Incense, scented candles, scented plug-ins, candle warmers, potpourri, or other preferred scent.
- Taste: Comforting Drinks / Snacks
- Feeling: Weighted Blankets, Comfortable Pajamas or Sweats, Robe, Slippers, etcetera.
- Sound: Create a calming playlist of videos, music, or podcasts; watch a movie/tv show that make you feel comfortable.
- Sight: Fill the space with plants, your favorite colors, art, and other visual media that makes you feel positive and safe.
- Activities: Use this space to color, sketch, read magazines, journal, meditate, or any number of other activities that put you into a relaxed state. Even if you cannot spend time here every day, you know that you have this space to look forward to when you do have some time.
Journal – There are a lot of ways to journal and finding the way that feels right to you is a deeply personal journey, one that never truly ends. The act of expressing your deepest anxieties, fears, and other feelings, however you choose to do it, can be just as hard as it is necessary. You do not have to journal every day, write pages and pages of feelings, detail your whole day the way you may have in middle school or high school, and you do not have to use any of the methods bellow. Take the time to figure out what works for you, or if this is something that will work for you at all.
- Stress Journal – Keep track of how you feel from day to day. Write down the date, what you are feeling, and a brief synopsis of your day. This can help you to track your stress patterns and pinpoint what may be causing or raising your stress levels. You can then make changes to eliminate or at the very least minimize these things in your life. Let’s be honest, if we had the ability to just eliminate everything that causes us stress, we would have done it already, but if something that you really cannot avoid is causing you stress, you can start to develop coping mechanisms to help you to reduce the effect that these stressors have on you in your daily life.
- Bullet Journal – Use the bullet journal method to keep track of your tasks, goals, memories, etcetera, from day to day. Make it as simple or as complex as you feel compelled to. Remember, this is your journey of self-expression, and stress management. You are in control of the entire process.
Replace your Caffeine Intake – Caffeine is something that just about all of us rely on to get through the day, but there is no question that it can be a major contributor to stress at the same time. Replacing your daily caffeine intake can provide you with more long-lasting energy without the shakiness, inevitable crash, accelerated heartbeat, increased anxieties, or other negative effects. As always when it comes to herbal additions to your diet, talk to your doctor about what is safe for you personally to consume, as well as dosage and any other concerns that you may have.
- Golden Milk – Golden Milk Reduces inflammation, prevents cell damage, improves mood and memory, supports brain function, boosts immune system, and so much more.
- Peppermint Tea – Peppermint tea sooths an upset stomach, improves digestion, treats bad breath, improves mental focus and awareness, prevents nausea, helps to reduce stress, and more.
- Chai Tea – Chai tea can provide an energy boost, antioxidant properties, digestion aid, anti-inflammation, relieving stomach pain, improves heart health, aids in weight loss, and more.
- Green Tea – Green Tea can increase fat burning, improve brain function, treat bad breath, aid in protection from diseases, and more.
- Matcha – Because it contains the same amount of caffeine as a shot of espresso without the added sugar or chemicals, matcha can give you a boost of energy without the negative effects sometimes associated with coffee, that will last for longer and allow you to avoid that mid-afternoon slump. It can also improve focus, immunity, and heart health, increase weight loss, and reduce stress, as well as breakouts. These are only a few of the benefits to switching from coffee or energy drinks to matcha.
- Drink Lots of Water – This one is definitely not going to solve all of your caffeine related problems, but it is important to remember no matter what your relationship with caffeine is. Even if you plan to continue to drink coffee, energy drinks, or other caffeinated beverages (trust me, I get it, no judgment at all), make sure that you are hydrating.
Find a Creative Outlet – Creative outlets do not have to be painting, sketching, or sculpting, though they can be. Anything that you consider to be a form of art can be. If you put your soul into cooking or baking, making music, writing, designing, or anything else, it becomes your art form. Find something that feeds your soul, and makes you feel alive.
Find an Exercise You Enjoy – Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. There are a ton of ways to get moving every day without spending hours on a treadmill. Try a handful of things and see what works for you, and don’t be afraid to get creative. Try out something you may not initially have thought of as exercise. Get outside of you comfort zone or fall back into an old hobby. Learn a new dance, go for a hike, try out those yoga poses you saw on Instagram, or put on those roller skates you haven’t worn in years. Getting your body moving will help to reduce your stress levels, as well as the negative effects that it has on you physically.
Prioritize Sleep – We all know the importance getting proper sleep, but in a society that continuously prioritizes productivity over health it can be hard to turn the things that we know are healthy into practices, especially ones that last. The same things do not work for everyone, but there are a few key guidelines that we can all follow as we craft the perfect sleep schedule to fit our individual needs.
- Get up at the same time every day (even on days off and weekends).
- Establish a pre-bed routine and stick with it whenever possible.
- Wind down for about a half an hour before you go to sleep. This includes shutting off any electronics, and moving to a low light, low sound activity that will help you to prepare for sleep.
- If you are not asleep after twenty minutes, it may be tempting to reach for your phone even though it will actually be making it more difficult for you to get to sleep. Try getting up and doing something such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or even reading for a bit. Then, try again to fall asleep. Make sure that you are giving yourself enough time to get to sleep and still get about 8 hours.
Reach out to Good Friends – It doesn’t matter if you have a hundred close, trustworthy friends, or one, we all need people sometimes. When you are feeling overwhelmed, it is easy to descend to a place that it is hard to get out of without help. Let the people who care about you help you. Remember that when if you need someone to talk to there are resources available to you, but sometimes all you need is a friend to vent to, to help get you back on the right track. Sometimes, when you need people the most, is when you have the most trouble reaching out to them. Whether you struggle with your pride, feeling like a burden, shame you may feel about being overwhelmed in a seemingly “normal” situation, the motivation or focus to talk about the way you are feeling, or any other number of feelings that could prevent you from reaching out to loved ones, know that you are not alone. Something that has worked for me is to have a friend that I check in on periodically, and they do the same for me. This makes it easier for both of us to talk about negative feelings, mental health struggles, and stress in our lives because someone who cares about us is the one who is reaching out. In times when it is easy to forget that there are people who care, it is exactly the reminder that that we need.
All of this being said, these are ways to manage stress and anxiety. None of the suggestions mentioned here are meant to be used in place of reaching out to mental health professional, medications that have been prescribed to you, or are to be viewed as a solution or cure to any mental health issue.