After seeing so many great posts on World Mental Health Day a few weeks ago, I decided to write my favourite tips on how to de-stress. Nobody’s perfect and we all have our good AND bad days. Here are a few ways to make yourself feel just a bit better on those not-so-good days:
Meditate. Meditation’s benefits have been touted for years. If you look up ways to reduce stress and anxiety, I can almost guarantee you that meditation would be on all of those lists. It has been proven to alter brain chemistry to allow you to reap all sorts of health benefits.
Acupuncture (or Moxibustion). Acupuncture is an ancient practice that involves inserting needles into pressure points on your body, and it has become a popular alternative treatment for anxiety. Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning of mugwort, a small, spongy herb, to facilitate healing. Its purpose is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health.
Read. Reading lowers your heart rate, relaxes you physically, rewires your brain to be more compassionate towards others (including yourself), gives you perspective, reducing stress by easing tensions and changes your state of mind. It allows you to zone out for a bit and get lost in the world the writer has created for you.
Find Flow. A flow activity is one in which you challenged in a way that is perfectly suited to your abilities. It’s the sort of activity you do for hours and then you look up at the clock and go, “Oh my, where has the time gone!?”. You’re so involved and invested in this activity that time passes super quick! If you’ve never heard of it, I’ve included a diagram below to illustrate. A flow activity:
-Is useful and challenging, which makes it intrinsically rewarding
-Helps you progress toward a goal
-Provides feedback to help gauge the effectiveness of your efforts
My favourite flow activities include reading (mentioned above), drawing and painting, and dancing. Here are a few activities that can induce flow:
-Physical activities such as sports, yoga, dance, and martial arts
-Outdoor challenges such as hiking
-Music:writing, playing, mixing
-Art:painting, sculpture, mixed media, pottery
-DIY projects, such as home improvement
-Working with animals
-Cooking and baking
-Needlework:sewing, knitting, cross stitch
On the opposite end of the spectrum from flow, is a state of apathy. Activities like watching TV or scrolling on Instagram will induce this. These are activities where it takes very little effort or skill on your part to participate in. While these activities are good in moderation, doing too much of these doesn’t benefit your happiness in the long run.
5. Sleep Well. This is hugely important. Try for 8 or 9 hours, if you can. Studies have show that when the human body doesn’t get adequate rest, our bodies (including our brains) can’t function properly. Which leads me to my next point…
6. Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses aromatic essential oils medicinally to improve the health of the body, mind, and spirit.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, put a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow. Its calming properties will relax you into a peaceful sleep. A few other essential oils that reduce stress and anxiety include: cinnamon, eucalyptus, rose, orange, neroli, ylang ylang, clary sage, bergamot, frankincense, lemon grass, peppermint, and tea tree. Putting these essential oils into a diffuser is a great natural alternative to using candles. (I will talk more about essential oils and their uses in an upcoming post!)
7. The Five-Minute Journal (or journal in general!). I started the below journal about a year ago, and I love it. It helps me practice gratitude as I write in it 3 things I’m grateful for every day, and it helps me put my day’s priorities in order, as I write 3 things I want to accomplish that day. I like this one because it’s structured so I don’t have to think too much about what I should write. It also really takes about 5 minutes so you feel bad if you skip a a few days! Journaling in general is a good practice to adopt if you want to understand your own thoughts a little bit better. Getting your thoughts down on paper sometimes also helps you see problems in your own head objectively. Sometimes, once you’ve written it down, your problem seems a lot smaller than you had perceived it in your head.
8. See friends (or family members!). If your schedules don’t align, or you live far away from each other, hop on a quick call instead! Talking to, or seeing someone who makes you happy is always a nice way to lift your spirits! By the same token, make sure to stay away from people who are bad for your health. What I mean by that is if you have someone in your life (because sometimes it’s unavoidable) who doesn’t always make you feel like the best you- whether they put you down, are in a bad mood, are judgmental, or just don’t make you feel good, make sure you take a break from hanging out with these people so that you can recenter yourself and create some good energy for yourself!
9. Get some exercise. Work out, go on a walk, take a dance class, do 20 jumping jacks. Do anything to move your body! Exercise has been shown to be almost as effective as anti-depressants in managing depression and anxiety.
10. Yoga. Although I already mentioned exercise, yoga specifically is one of the best possible exercises for stress relief, as it combines techniques to improve both mental and physical health in a calming environment. It enhances both physical and emotional health.
11. Eat right. Providing your body with the proper nutrients can enhance your mood. As we are finding out, your gut plays a big part in mood regulation, so make sure you treat your body with kindness and love, and nourish it like the temple it is. Here are a few foods that are great for reducing anxiety: salmon, chamomile, turmeric, yogurt, and dark chocolate. If you’re feeling particularly anxious, also try cutting out caffeine.
Of course, an Oreo here and some chips there never hurt either! It’s important to have balance. Besides, as the saying goes “You can be sad before eating a cookie, and you can be sad after eating a cookie, but you can never be sad while you’re eating a cookie”.
12. Sign off social media. Take a break from comparing your life to others and enjoy being you. As has always been the case (even before social media) constantly comparing yourself to others has very negative effects on your self-confidence, which can alter your mood.
13. Listen to music. Music can remind us of happy times, lift our spirits, and *warning* may even cause you to have a spontaneous dance party or solo concert if you get into it enough. Sing in the shower. It makes the experience 10x more fun and enjoyable. Apparently this song is a magical unicorn song that reduces anxiety by 65%. Let me know if you guys agree!
14. Take action. Anxiety is often brought on by a feeling of helplessness in a situation. If you want to feel better, do something. Anything. It’s better than sitting on your bum and worrying about it. If someone did something to bother you, tell them. If you’re stressing about a big presentation, practice it. This can be applied to any situation at all. Once you’re done doing your best, you should feel a little better that A. you’ve done what you could and B. you didn’t sit there and just let life happen to you.
15. Breathe. Take three really big, deep breaths right now... inhale and exhale (x3).. don’t you feel better already?
Wishing you all a very peaceful day.
Thanks for reading :)