With world events as they are, staying calm and relaxed can be a struggle. We feel a need to stay informed, but reading the paper or watching a newscast on TV can cause us to feel anxious and on edge. Having a few stress relief techniques at your fingertips is one of the smartest things you can do to take care of yourself.
Staying well is easier when we’re able to keep our stress under control, and stressful times call for purposeful self-care. You can try these suggested techniques anywhere in your home.
Morning Stress Relievers
Put the kettle on and enjoy some tea
Green tea contains caffeine, so morning is the best time to try this tip. The chemical compound L-Theanine found in green tea is believed to relieve anger, and less anger means less stress. The feel-good feature of green tea kicks in about 30 minutes after you finish your cup. Alternatively, caffeine-free herbal teas and even hot water with lemon can help you sip stress away too.
Keep it clean
Having things neat and tidy gives us a sense of control. While perhaps not the most fun activity, cleaning IS active – it keeps us moving from room to room and maybe even up and down stairs as we work through a list of household chores. Start the day by making your bed and tidying up your sleeping space. Do the breakfast dishes and wipe the kitchen counters. Pick a closet or drawer to straighten. Each small task contributes to a cleaner, healthier home – and a sense of accomplishment.
Daytime Stress Relievers
Put anxiety on ice
Dripping cold water on your wrists can provide an overall calming effect on the body if you’re feeling anxious. Plunging your hands into cold water can also provide a distraction from what’s bothering you. What’s more, these two techniques will help you wake up and be more alert if you’re feeling sluggish or sleepy.
Give citrus a squeeze
There’s a reason that orange and lemon oils are so popular in products like scented candles. Next time you peel an orange for a healthy snack, squeeze the peel to release the citrus scent. Researchers at Mayo Clinic found that “any citrusy smell lessened anxiety,” and they suggest trying different citrus fruits to find the scents you enjoy most. Just squeeze, then breathe in and out, for as long as the scent remains in the air.
Cook your cares away
Chopping vegetables for a soup, stew or stir fry can be very therapeutic, as can kneading bread dough or rolling out a pie crust. Trying a new recipe is also a great way to unwind in the kitchen. Using a new technique or tackling a complicated dish with lots of prep can get your mind off what’s troubling you and onto creating something delicious.
Breathe in, breathe out
We often tell ourselves to take a deep breath before attempting to deal with a challenge or problem. Deep breathing forces us to focus on breathing properly – from the diaphragm – rather than taking small, shallow breaths. Deep breathing gets more oxygen into our bloodstream and can have a positive impact on blood pressure too. Find a comfortable place to sit without distractions so you can listen to the sound of your breath as you breathe in and out. Do this as often as you like throughout your day.
Mindfulness takes practice, but this proven technique for stress reduction is worth a try. Focus on how you feel in the moment, without judging yourself or trying to interpret your feelings. Just be, and be aware of your surroundings by using all of your senses. Focusing all attention on the present moment prevents you from projecting into the future and the unknown. When you eat, focus on how your food looks, smells, and tastes, and savor every bite. When you read, pay attention to each word, the cadence of each sentence, even the typeface or font used to create the story. Practice mindfulness each day until it feels natural and effortless to live in the moment.
Evening Stress Relievers
Stress makes us tense up, leaving muscles tight and sore. An evening session of simple stretches or chair yoga can help release tension and prepare your body for sleep. Don’t rush through your exercises. Enjoy the feeling of your muscles lengthening and loosening, and of the tension leaving your body.
Relax from the top down
Starting with your neck and shoulders, tense your muscles for about 10 seconds, then relax. Move on to your arms and hands, your chest and core muscles, then to your glutes, thighs and calves. Finally, flex your feet, curl your toes, and then relax to feel stress leaving through the soles of your feet. This technique, known as Progressive Muscle Relaxation, should help you sleep and may also reduce any minor aches and pains.
Write into the night
Evening is a good time to reflect on the day – what was challenging, what was good – and think about how to alter your tomorrow with more of the good stuff. You might try keeping a gratitude journal, or just focusing on writing down positive thoughts to end the day.
Listen to music or ambient sounds
Listening to instrumental music is a classic way to usher in a peaceful night’s sleep. Many public radio stations have music streams devoted solely to classical music that can help you relax. If you prefer something else, the patter of gently falling rain or chimes in a soft breeze are nice alternatives to music. You’ll find lots of options online.
Creating a stress-reducing routine that incorporates some of these tips each day can help you deal more effectively with the stress that life inevitably presents, and find the balance you need to keep your soul and spirit strong.