By: Bonnie Carleton, BS, CHES, Health Educator
Stress! Our daily lives are filled with stress, ranging from commuting in morning traffic to meeting a tight deadline at work. Stress can have harmful effects on our bodies and minds. It is important to take time to reduce stress levels to keep ourselves healthy. There are some things that we can do to help lower stress the stress that we feel on a daily basis.
Spend time outside
Studies show that spending as little as 15 minutes in nature can lower your feelings of stress and anxiety. Stroll through your local park. Lounge in a wicker chair in your backyard. Walk barefoot on a sandy beach and watch the waves roll in. Find your favorite outdoor place and make an effort to visit as often as possible.
Drink green tea
Green tea is the only dietary source of the amino acid L-Theanine. This amino acid promotes relaxation and lowers stress and anxiety. Enjoy a cup of green tea hot or iced. Want it a bit sweeter? Try adding honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, or fresh fruit.
Listen to music
Listening to music can have a very relaxing effect on our bodies and minds. Although slow, classical music has been proven to be highly relaxing, listening to your favorite music should do the trick too. Bonus points if you sing along!
Enjoy a hot bubble bath
Fill the bathtub with warm (not too hot!) water. Add your favorite scented soaps or bath salts and relax for 20-30 minutes. Eucalyptus and lavender scents have been proven to boost relaxation and relieve stress. Adding Epsom salt into the bath can also relieve muscle pain and reduce stress.
Get lost in a good book
Studies show that reading for as little as 6 minutes can reduce stress, lower heart rate, and ease muscle tension. Pick up a new book by your favorite author or try one that your friend has been recommending. Allow your mind to drift and take a temporary mental vacation.
Take a deep breath
Put your hand on your stomach and take a deep breath, inhaling through your nose. Feel with your hand as the breath enters your body. Breathe out through your nose or mouth, whichever is most comfortable for you. For as many seconds as you are breathing in, try to exhale the same amount of time. Try this for a few minutes.
Write your feelings in a journal
Keeping a journal is a great way to express emotions and reduce stress in your everyday life. People can write about anything they would like to in their stress-relief journal. Some people like to write things that they are thankful for each day. Some people like to use their journal as an outlet for expressing difficult emotions. Some people write down their hopes and dreams for extra motivation. It is up to you! The goal is to reduce stress by finding creative ways to express your emotions and thoughts.
Find a creative outlet
Studies show that people who spend time doing creative activities that they enjoy (such as painting, dancing, or scrapbooking) have lower stress levels. Find an activity that brings you joy, and make time for it each week.
Here are some easy stress-relieving crafts to make at home:
Glitters jars are also called “calm-down” or calming jars because they can help focus your mind. They promote mindfulness and reduce anxiety. When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try shaking your jar and taking a few moments to watch the glitter swirl and settle. This little “time-out” gives your mind a much-needed stress break. You can use any color glitter you would like. Add food coloring to the water for a pop of color.
- Fill a bottle or jar 1/3 of the way with hot water.
- Add 1/2 a bottle of clear glue.
- Swirl (don’t shake!) to mix well.
- Use a funnel to add lots of glitter.
- Add more water, leaving a few inches of space at the top.
- Decide if you want to add more glitter or glue.
Add food coloring and a bit more water.
- Screw the cap on tight!
Mini Zen garden
Mini Zen gardens are designed to mimic the landscaped gardens found in Japanese Zen temples. Zen gardens use rocks, gravel and sand to symbolize the essence of nature. Swirling patterns in the sand represent water. Rock formations represent mountains or islands.
Mini Zen gardens can also help relieve stress. Arranging the stones and raking the sand relaxes your mind. Repetitive physical movements quiet your mind and allow you to focus on the present moment. You can keep your Zen garden at your work desk or at home. There is no right or wrong way to make your garden.
- Fill a small wooden box with sand.
- Add a handful of small stones and seashells.
- Use a small wooden rake or dowel to draw lines in the sand and arrange the stones and seashells.
Stress balls are another great way to relieve tension and frustration. Many people keep a stress ball at their work desk. Take a deep breath and squeeze the stress ball a few times before responding to an annoying email or making an uncomfortable phone call.
Soak a small scoop (about a tablespoon) of aqua beads in a bowl of water.Let sit overnight.
- Pour into an empty water bottle.
- Blow up a balloon and twist the end, but do not tie closed.
- Gently pull the lip of the balloon over the water bottle.
- Allow the balloon to untwist itself.
Tip the bottle upside down and shake the water beads into the balloon.
- Use your hands to squeeze the excess air out of the balloon.
- Tie the balloon closed.
In March of 2018, we held a DIY Stress Relief Activities class at the Falmouth Learning Resource Center. Participants drank green tea, listening to soothing music, and made some of the crafts mentioned above. Everyone had a great time and felt very relaxed after the class!
To wrap this up, here are some of my favorite quotes about stress-relief:
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” –Theodore Roosevelt
“Every time you feel yourself getting pulled into other people’s nonsense, repeat these words:
Not my circus, not my monkeys.” – Polish proverb, author unknown
“If the ocean can calm itself, so can you. We are both salt water mixed with air.” –Nayyirah Waheed
“You have enough. You do enough. You are enough. Relax!”
The health educators at the Learning Resource Center are happy to help. They provide trusted & reliable health information and connect people to local resources in the community. Connect with a health educator today! Be well, be well informed.