April 6, 2016

Finding Simple Ways to Decrease Stress in Your Life

Stress. Just saying it kinda makes my throat close up a little bit. But stress isn't all bad. It serves an important purpose...to help us respond quickly to danger or disaster. Stress is also good when it comes to things that challenge us, like giving a speech to a huge crowd of people or playing sports.

But too much stress is not a good thing. I used to think being stressed was just a way of life for some folks. That there were some of us who rode the waves of crisis in a state of frenzy, and then there were others who took everything in stride, not letting it bother them.

I'm not sure what I think now, but I know that a constant state of being stressed is terrible. When the normal kind of situational stress becomes chronic, your body never gets a chance to recover from the tense feelings it is experiencing, and it begins to wear you down. This leads to something called toxic stress, which poisons our bodies, minds and spirits.

This kind of stress can really affect your health.

April is National Stress Awareness Month and because I'm trying to decrease the stress in my life, I thought I'd share some simple methods that have helped me. I hope they help you too!

Create Something - 

For me, being creative is a huge way to relieve stress. I don't put any pressures on myself when I'm creating art or being crafty. If the project turns out to be a Pinterest fail, no big deal. It's the process that I most enjoy, not the final outcome. 

"But I'm just not creative" you might be thinking to yourself. Nonsense! I believe each of us is creative and has the capacity to create. If you need some direction, I recommend you get a Wreck This Journal. 


It will give you a place to start and some guidance, but lots of space to cut your creative teeth. I find this a little less intimidating than a blank sketch book.

There are no rules, and you're free to make mistakes. See, doesn't that help decrease your stress already?

Let Your Mind Wander - 

Do you ever feel like your day is planned out to the very last minute? Sometimes having to keep a tight schedule can be a source of stress. It's like building a house of cards and knowing that one tiny change in movement can send the whole thing tumbling. 

Just the other day, I was stuck in traffic and started thinking about all the things I could have been doing at home, for work, etc. Instead of getting frustrated, I decided just to take advantage of the time and daydream. It was so nice! 

Something else I did recently was give one of those adult coloring books a try. There was a moment when I felt this pressure to create something pretty, but instead I decided to just let my mind wander while filling in the lines. I ended up having a pretty good time doing it, and I felt more relaxed afterward. 

Be Grateful - 

Gratitude has been known to help people dealing with all sorts of different things. But it definitely helps me find a healthy perspective when I'm feeling stressed. 

It's so easy to get pulled into the frenzy, and focus on everything negative when you're in a stressful situation. Taking a moment to focus on what I have to be thankful for has come to my rescue in the midst of many a stressful situation.

I was recently given a great 5 year memory book (pictured above), and I think I might turn it into a gratitude journal. It has five blank spaces for each day, so you can write something each day for five years. I bet this would be a great exercise in gratitude. And how cool to be able to look back at five years worth of stuff you had to be thankful for!

Grow Something - 

There's something about nature that has the power to enhance our calm. Maybe it's because there's a certain balance to be found in the natural world. 

I do not have the greenest thumb, but I have found some plants that are fairly easy to grow and I stick with them. Succulents work pretty well for me, as do Mother-in-law's Tongue.

Available to buy online here

Kalanchoe is another plant that I've had great results with. It all started with one small plant (bought at my local grocery store), and because they are so easy to take cuttings from, I've now got pots of this plant all over my house. Mine have a lovely red flower like the one pictured above, but they come in all different colors.

Get Some Professional Help - 

I'm no doctor, so none of these things is based in any sort of scientific knowledge. But each of my de-stressing tips has helped me along the way. 

Sometimes stress can become too much for you to handle alone. Maybe you're in a situation at work, or with your family and it's eating away at you. I've been there and it's the pits. Please don't let toxic stress rob you of your joy for life. 

If you need some help, consider talking to a professional. Don't have insurance or don't have a plan that covers mental health care options? In Knoxville, because of the University of Tennessee's Psychology Doctorate program, we have a counseling center where folks can see an advanced doctoral student and pay on a sliding scale. Maybe your city or nearby university has something like this. 

There are even apps and websites that allow you to connect online with therapists. Please don't keep suffering if you are living a stressed-out life. Talk to a friend or family member. Think about getting some professional guidance. Whatever you do, know that your quality of life is important. I have wasted too much time feeling stressed out in the past. Let's relax a bit, shall we?

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