Life can be a very stressful thing. Every day we may experience the stresses of finances, work, relationships, responsibilities and even sometimes guilt. Usually, behind all of that is peace of mind, but we need to learn how to navigate our way through the stress and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
In honor of National Stress Relief Month, we want to help you wade through stressful times by giving you skills to relieve stress and focus on the positive things in life.
Keep a gratitude journal
Stress happens to even the best of us. But something to remember is that life isn’t all about stress — there are so many good things that surround us! One of the ways that can help you focus on the good things during stressful times is through a gratitude journal. Your gratitude journal can be any sort of notebook — it can be a spiral-bound notebook from the dollar store, or it can be a leather-bound notebook. Whichever you choose, take good care of your journal. When it comes to your gratitude journal, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
When you’re feeling particularly stressed, open up a notebook and write down all of the things that you have and are grateful for. That could be your apartment, your car, your clothes, your cutlery — anything. Joni Emmerling, a wellness coach in Greenville, NC, said that “being grateful for your blessings cancels out negative thoughts and worries.”
It may be hard to see the good that surrounds the stressful situation, but a gratitude journal really makes a difference.
Target tension areas and relax
When someone is dealing with stress, their muscles see that as a threat, so they flex and tense up to protect your body. While it’s pretty amazing that your body can sense potential danger and protect you from that without your even having to think about it, the tension can cause headaches, muscle pains and digestive problems.
If you can target the tense muscles on your body, you can release the tension in each muscle individually. Start by either lying back in a recliner or lying on your bed with your head on a pillow so that your head is raised just a little bit. Close your eyes and breathe deeply.
Next, start by relaxing your shoulders. Drop your shoulders slowly and feel the tension in them disappear. Repeat the process in each muscle group from head to toe (e.g., toes, forearms, chest, abs, glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, toes). If you’ve done it right, you’ll feel so relaxed that you may even fall asleep!
Take a meditation bath
A trip to the spa can be a little expensive, but you can get the same stress-relieving experience right in your own home. You can turn your own bathroom into an environment of relaxation. Start off by giving yourself enough time to relax and be free from distractions.
Elizabeth Scott, MS, a stress management expert at About.com, suggests that you “block off at least 15 minutes where you won’t be interrupted … [put] the phone straight to voicemail [and tell] others in your household not to disturb you unless it’s an emergency.”
Next fill up your tub with warm water and add in a bit of lavender oil to the water. Lavender is a great natural remedy that soothes and calms you down in times of stress. With the combination of the hot water soothing your achy muscles and the lavender-filled vapor that comes from the hot water, you’ll be able to relax away the stress.
Dr. Scott also suggests focusing on each sensation that you feel in your body — “the warmth of the water on your skin, the pressure of the tub against your back.” This will help you focus on the moment at hand and not the things that are causing the stress.
Exercise and get some fresh air
Our moods depend a lot on a hormone called serotonin, and when we’re stressed, that means we may be a little low on this hormone. Getting outside and into the sun will jumpstart your mood by giving you a breath of fresh air and boosting your serotonin levels. The vitamin D that we receive from the sun’s natural light helps with mood and serotonin production.
If you want to maximize the stress relief when you’re outside, take the dog for a walk. Not only are there studies that say light exercise can reduce stress, but interacting with pets has actually been known to relieve stress as well.
So with your walking shoes, fresh air and your furry friend, you can walk the stress away.
Spend some time in the kitchen
This may come as a surprise because of the stress that you may deal with in preparing meals on a daily basis for your family, but what goes on in the kitchen can help lower stress levels. When you’re putting together a recipe for someone other than yourself, you are able to focus on the smells and the sensations that come from preparing food.
Once the food is prepared, the finished product makes others happy, which, in turn, will make you happy and can lower stress levels.
If you just want to take time out of your busy life and relax with a good meal and good company, visit your local Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen and let us cook for you. It’s hard to be stressed when you’ve got a plate full of made-from-scratch goodness right in front of you.