Being stressed out has almost become the way of life for most of us. We are all going through life boosted up on caffeine, sugar, and other prescription drugs. But what if you have a particularly heinous day?
What if you have a day when absolutely everything goes wrong and you come home ready to give it all up?
On those days, I usually have a list of things that I know will bring me back to my center and to a calm place in the least amount of time. These are my emergency fix-it-ups for those days when you need extra reinforcements.
1. Meditation – I know meditation has been touted as the cure-all for years now, but it truly does work. When I need an instant calm-down, I come back home and sit in my favorite chair with my favorite cozy blanket around me, and focus on my breath and my heart. I focus on my heart because my heart usually starts pounding really fast when I’m upset and I need to calm it down before I can get any relief at all.
Your way of meditation might be different, but do what you can to get back to your center. In as little as five minutes, you could be feeling a whole lot better.
2. Fire breath – I have been practicing fire breath for a few years now. There are many different ways to do it. For me personally, I inhale as deeply as I can, and then, while exhaling, I open up my mouth wide, and stick my tongue out. I do this as many times as I can. It’s a great way for me to release stress, with no artificial means.
3. Pranayama – Breath is life, and if you can control your breath, you control life. My favorite Pranayama technique is alternate nostril breathing, where you breathe in from one nostril, while holding the other nostril closed with your fingers, and alternating. After a couple of minutes of this, I can really feel myself calming down and getting back to my normal positive self.
4. Dancing – Psychology is physiology. I have realized that a lot of mental blocks are actually physical blocks, so I have started using movement as a way of healing myself.
I have a couple of songs that always get me in the mood to dance. When I come home from a day that needs it, I put those songs on and I just dance in my living room as hard as I can. My eyes are closed, and I move my body, releasing anything that I might have accumulated during the day.
5. Yoga – The same concept as above applies to Yoga. I have a few poses that I do when I’m feeling really tense and need solace – like Child’s Pose, Forward folds, Downward Dog, Yoga squats, and Savasana. These poses help bring me back to my body, and help me to release any stress that I might be holding.
6. Journaling – I love to write and I release my emotions through writing. Whenever the occasion requires it, maybe when I’m feeling angry or upset or needing some sort of release, I’ll come home and write in my journal in a free-flowing manner. I don’t censor myself and I just write anything that comes up in my mind. It helps me release anything that is causing me to hold any kind of tension.
7. Self-massage – I use rollers or tennis balls to massage out tense spots on my body, like my shoulders, glutes, or calves. As soon as I’m able to get any kinks I have, I feel so much better. As I said, a lot of mental stress manifests itself in physical stress. As our bodies and minds are so closely interconnected, if you cure one, you cure the other.
8. Epsom salt bath – If I’m in need of an extra amount of solace, I’ll dump a cup of Epsom salts into a hot bath, and lay in it for 20-30 minutes. As soon as I dip myself into an Epsom salt bath, I can feel all of my stresses melting away as if they never existed. Most of us are magnesium deficient, so we would all benefit from a regular Epsom salt bath routine.
9. Walking – I go for a long, beautiful, aimless walk through my city, when I feel restless and stressed. I’ll carry a book with me in case I want to sit down somewhere, an apple, and a bottle of water. A few minutes of walking, and I always feel better about whatever is going on in my life. I love long, meandering walks through the city both for the visual effect and the physical benefit.
10. Stress-busting green smoothie – When I want to ensure my body is capable of fighting stress from the inside out, I add some cacao nibs, spirulina and chia seeds to some bananas and strawberries for a killer stress-busting smoothie. With all of this green goodness roaming around in my veins, I feel better instantaneously.
11. Aromatherapy – I love the smell of lavender and sage. Whenever I feel stressed out, I put some delicious lavender and sage into a diffuser and breathe it all in for a few minutes. The scent instantly puts me in a state of joy and bliss. I can feel myself relaxing as I smell these beautiful scents. You might have some other scents you like – use what you want, but aromatherapy is definitely an important tool in our stress-fighting arsenal.
12. Furry friends – Spending some time with your pet, or a friend’s pet has been so beneficial to me when I’m stressed out. Petting a cat or a dog for a few minutes has been scientifically proven to reduce stress in the body and reduce blood pressure. And you can’t argue with science! So next time you need to de-stress, grab your neighbor’s cat or dog (ask them first!) and start cuddling.
13. Sunshine – In a city like Toronto, where we only get maybe 20 days of real sunshine in the year, spending time in the sun can be hard. But I recommend you spend as much time outdoors in the sunshine as you can, especially when you are stressed out. The warm sun hitting your face and body will not only produce Vitamin D which a lot of us are deficient in, but make you feel so happy to be alive.
14. Sex – I don’t think I need to explain why sex can be a great stress-buster. Not only are you releasing endorphins from the pleasurable orgasms, but you are hugging and touching someone you like/love, which in itself is stress-busting. If you are single, then get a trusty vibrator and you will be zooming your way to stress-busting orgasms in no time.
15. Coloring books – Coloring books are becoming so popular lately as a stress-buster for adults, and I absolutely love them. I have got a really beautiful set of color pencils and markers that I use to color in my beautiful adult coloring books. Seeing all of the color and order on the page instantly makes me feel better.
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16. Wearing bright colors – A lot of times when we are in a funk, we start wearing greys, blacks, and whites without realizing it. I have realized that wearing a bright t-shirt, or pair of pants, or even shoes, helps me feel so much better. I love color, so I know if I’m not wearing color that I’m doing something wrong.
17. Painting my nails – I love color as I said previously, and I know color is therapeutic in the right format. I have found painting my nails not only focuses my mind, but also gives me something really pretty to look at. Double bonus.
18. Drinking tea luxuriously – A lot of us gulp down tea in a haphazard manner, because we are rushing out the door or because we have a cold. But if you want tea to work as a stress-busting technique, do it the slow way. Brew it slowly, steep it for a while, and take slow, intentional, mindful gulps that you are able to enjoy calmly. The slower you drink your tea, not only will you enjoy it more, but you will also notice your stress levels dropping substantially.
19. Legs-up-the-wall pose – I have found inversions to be so helpful in reducing stress. The more blood that you can get flowing towards your head, the less stressed you are going to feel, and the more clarity you are going to have in your present moment. If you are not comfortable with headstand or shoulder stand (which are the more advanced inversion poses), you can do the legs-up-the-wall pose. Basically, you put your legs up by the wall, and you stay in this pose for 5-10 minutes.
20. Gardening – I know this seems like a really random technique, but spending time getting dirty in anyway, getting cozy with dirt, or growing something, is a great way to bust stress. I always find myself getting happier when I work with dirt, or when I water my plants and notice them getting bigger and bigger. It just feels so gratifying.
21. People-watching – Why is people-watching such an addictive activity? I absolutely love it. I could spend hours doing this. But especially when I’m feeling stressed, I go out to my favorite park bench and watch the people, dogs, and bicycles go past me. All of it makes me so happy and calm. It’s like a hypnotic activity for me.
22. Watching a comedy – Laughing therapy is generally accepted as a great way of getting back to calm. Most of us as adults laugh only about 3 times a day. When I need it, I’ll put on a show like Seinfeld, or Friends. It always results in deep belly laughs that cure any stress I might be feeling.
23. Eating greens in any form – Like I said before, eating anything green and leafy can help you beat stress by helping you cleanse and get better from the inside out. Instead of binge eating chocolate or desserts, I spend my time eating salad (with olive oil and lemon juice dressings), and it makes me feel so much better.
24. Calling a friend and venting – Calling a friend isn’t an option only on TV game shows. I have a couple of friends who I can call whenever I feel the stress building up. I take the opportunity to call my sister or some other friend, and vent. I don’t ask for advice, but I’m just looking to get all of my frustrations out in the open. As soon as I do that, I feel a billion times better.
25. Organizing your closet – For me, organizing any part of my house is a major stress-buster. It makes me feel happy when I organize my closet or my kitchen, and I’m able to navigate through it better. It’s a wonderfully therapeutic and joyful activity to me.
Just a word of warning – these are some things I would avoid if stress is upon you:
- Reading beauty magazines – they only make us feel ugly.
- Spending time on social media – the comparison monster will hit you and you will feel like crap.
- Binge-eating – you are going to worry about getting fat, and end up feeling horrible rather than better.
- Drinking alcohol – alcohol is a depressant, and that’s how it works for me. I don’t feel better after a glass of wine, but maybe it works differently for others.
Let me know what you guys think of this list. Have any others to add? Let me know in the comments below.