10 Things You Can do to Destress
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Stress can be a really difficult thing to manage. We know that it’s something that we need to get “under control,” but sometimes it can be a real challenge to know just how we can.
Some of this comes from the fact that we are conditioned to attach our sense of achievement to productivity and output, meaning that if we have things we need to do and we haven’t been able to do them, we feel an increase of pressure leading us to become stressed. Sometimes your stress comes from things completely beyond our control, or from interactions that leave a bad taste in our mouths.
Whatever the cause of your stress, one thing remains – sometimes it can be just too stressful to even think of ways that we can alleviate our stress!
Before getting to the things on this list that you can do to destress, I want to remind you that it is ok to stop and take some time away from the things that are causing you stress. There is nothing wrong with taking a moment away to help compose yourself, and if doing something on this list helps with that, then please remember that!
I say this because there are things on this list that require you to take some time for yourself, and all too often do we feel guilty when we need to reset!
These things are in no particular order, and some may take five minutes, while others may take several days of repetition to make any significant difference for you.
Let’s get to it:
Adjust your eating
Surely you’ve heard the archaic saying “you only get out what you put in”? While that may not be strictly true, there is some merit to that when you consider that what you eat is what is fueling your body.
I’m not a dietician or nutritionist, and I would urge you to seek some advice from a specialist when it comes to what specifically you might need to adjust if you come to the conclusion that your diet is impacting your mental health, but there are many many MANY people in that space that will tell you the same thing: healthy body = healthy mind.
If you are not entirely convinced that adjusting your diet could directly impact your stress levels, then there are several really good studies that you can find in reputable journals focusing on nutrition and physical wellbeing.
Your eating can have a big impact on your mind and body. When you’re not fueling your body well, it can make you feel lethargic, or make your fatigue worse. Eating whole foods, fruit, and vegetables isn’t going to make you feel automatically less stressed, but it can help reduce some of the physical symptoms that add to your stress levels.
To build on the “healthy body = healthy mind” train of thought, the way you feel physically can have a detrimental impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing, and make any stress you are already carrying feel a lot heavier. Like adjusting your eating, this may not have an immediate impact on your stress levels, but it can definitely help reduce some of the symptoms that are adding to it. The time you take to exercise can work wonders for your mental health, because your body is releasing endorphins and serotonin which can improve your mood, and you are also giving yourself a chance to work through things or reflect while you are moving your body. It’s a win-win.
When I say exercise, I’m not necessarily meaning to launch yourself into your local F45 Challenge, or invest in a personal trainer and a hefty gym membership – especially if that is not how you usually take care of your physical self. Introducing or increasing the exercise that you do in your daily or weekly routines could be simple changes such as only taking the stairs every day or doing a yoga or stretching session two or three times a week. If running a marathon or signing up for boot camp is your cup of tea, and it helps you to navigate your stress then by all means go for it!
Get a massage
Alright, I know that this one isn’t necessarily realistic for everybody, but if you have the ability to get a massage, I seriously encourage it. This one requires time, and depending on where you go for one, can be a little pricey, so keep that in mind.
Getting a massage is a really great way to relieve the physical tension that your body ends up carrying when you are stressed. It is also beneficial to help you slow yourself down, and relax. You’d be surprised how much your body is physically impacted when you are stressed and that tension can really build up. Depending where you go for a massage, you may find that the actual space is just as relaxing as the massage itself, with tranquil sounds and scents, your stress will melt away with all the tension in your shoulders!
Limit Your Screen Time
Limiting your screen time is helpful for so many reasons! It can definitely be tricky to do considering that our entire lives tend to revolve around a screen or device of some kind and like the things above, it can be beneficial for treating some of the symptoms that are adding to your stress.
It’s no secret that limited screen time before bed can help you sleep better, as you are allowing your body to wind down without blue light, which helps your natural circadian rhythm. But how often do we look down at our phones or check social media for “just a moment” and look up to find an hour has passed? It may be that your screen (in whatever form it takes) is enabling your procrastination, or causing you to ignore some of the things that are stressing you out in the first place. That procrastination can then compound the stress, and you end up feeling worse!
While there is nothing wrong with taking a break and doing so on your device; when you find that you keep telling yourself “5 more minutes” while you are scrolling without any purpose then it may be time to put the phone down and be present for yourself.
Journaling is one of those things that takes a minute for you to find your rhythm in, but when you do it is a really beneficial tool for your mental health, and particularly stress management. You may already use a diary to record your schedule or what you did during the day, and that can be helpful for organising yourself, but when I am talking about journaling here, I am talking about the process of working through your thoughts, feelings, and stressors.
Journaling allows you an opportunity to unload, vent or reflect in an entirely private way. You can dig into how you are feeling about a situation that may be causing you unnecessary and unwanted stress, and work through it in one sitting, or reflect on it at a later stage. If you are wanting to arrange your thoughts before taking any actions to manage your stress, journaling gives you the chance to do so with no pressure.
The tactile nature of writing in a journal also forces you to slow down in order to be present in the process, include link to making it an easy way to quiet the noise that stress may cause. Gratitude Journals like this one from Best Self Co. are really helpful for developing and deepening reflective practice and helping to reduce stress.
This is a good one. Reading can transport you to a whole new world, and give you the chance to push pause on all of the things that may be causing you stress. It may feel like you are using a book as a way to avoid dealing with something, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary to step away and immerse yourself in something else before you are ready to deal with the things that are causing you stress. The difference between opening up a book and spending time on your device is that it is very unlikely that you are reading “mindlessly” in the same way that you may end up scrolling mindlessly on your phone.
Reading gives you a chance to engage in something removed from yourself while stimulating your mind. You can combine reading and exercise if you take a book with you to the gym and read while you are on the treadmill, cross-trainer or stationary bike. Otherwise, reading is another good way to give yourself a physical rest and slow things down. It helps you unwind, and can be part of a routine to limit your screentime before bed by reading a few pages before going to sleep. The benefits of reading speak for themselves really!
Drawing or Colouring
For some people, the idea of sitting down to draw or colour might seem a little silly or stress them out even more. The truth is that having a creative outlet can be a really good way to work through your stress – much like the process of journaling. Adult colouring books are wildly popular for the exact reason that they offer you the chance to focus your energy on something that is relatively low stakes while scratching a creative itch and helping relieve some stress.
Like many of the things above, setting aside time to engage in something artistic means that you are giving yourself permission to slow down a little bit, and taking time to focus your energy on something other than your stress. This in itself is such a good way to clear your mind so that you are able to better handle the things that are causing you stress at a later stage.
When you’re stressed it can be easy to disassociate. You may look for ways that you can ignore your stress rather than being present and finding the best way to manage it for yourself. Meditation can be a great way to pull yourself back into your body and remain present while taking time to focus on your physical self.
There are many different forms that meditation can take. Some meditation techniques help to ground you in your body by focusing on one thing such as your breathing, or the feeling of your body and muscles relaxing while. These techniques can help to relieve some of the physical tension that your stress can cause. They also give you something to concentrate your energy on without you becoming overwhelmed by the stress you are carrying.
Take a long bath or shower
Part of the reason why people associate taking a bath or hot shower with self-care may be because of the benefits that these may have for relieving stress. Having a soak in hot water with some salts or essential oils can help to relax your muscles and give you sensory relief.
Get a Facial or use a Face Mask
This is in the same category as getting a massage or taking a long bath or shower. If you want to get a facial, depending where you go to have one, it can be pricey, otherwise, you can invest in a face mask for your skincare routine. Or to use at any time you’d like to take some time to relax.
Ultimately it’s up to you
Whether you choose to try one or more of these things to destress, it is really important to remember that it is ok to stop and take some time away from the things that are causing you stress. There is nothing wrong with taking a moment away to help compose yourself, and as you can see from the above, a lot of these things need you to take time for yourself.
Your turn – let me know what you do when you need to destress!