If you know me in person, or even if you’ve followed this blog, you know that I expect a lot from myself.
I have an expectation to set and achieve certain goals, a certain way whether it’s being a Mom, Wife, friend, my blog, producing income for my family, or running, I try my best to say, “How can I improve?” Although there is nothing wrong with wanting to grow and set goals, sometimes I get carried away with the “perfection” piece of all of this. I always want to do my best, but when you try to be all things to all people, your life starts to spiral downward.
That’s what happened to me recently.
Life got to be too busy and my physical health began to deteriorate. This didn’t happen over night, but rather it was an accumulation of many years of high self-expectation that manifested into physical illness. I have always suffered from migraines and TMJ, but as of late they became chronic and severe. I went through about two months of misery, suffering from severe migraine attacks and jaw pain so acute, I was unable to do much of anything.
I had abused my body and my body fought back.
I was having heart palpitations and anxiety attacks, and knew that if I didn’t make a major life change, I was going to destroy my health and family. I hit bottom, and I found the energy to pick myself up and change.
The first thing I did was see my physician who informed me by no surprise that my cortisol (stress hormone) levels were high and also my estrogen. Under his care I am addressing these issues in a safe, natural way.
In addition to my medical care, I needed quick and easy things to calm myself down when I was feeling stress and anxiety rising to the surface. I made a list of the things that I do that have been really helpful and some have become a part of my daily life. Many of these can be done in 15 minutes or less.
1. Color – I have always been someone who lost track of time while doing Art and crafting, so when the adult coloring book craze began, I was all over it. The great thing about coloring is that anyone can do it, even if you’re not crafty. The entire concept behind coloring is that the simple act of putting pencils or markers to paper allows you to disconnect from the mind clutter that most of us experience during the the day. I found some coloring books and supplies when I was at Micheal’s the other day. After experimenting with several brands I found Prismacolor pencils and markers to be the highest quality with the most vibrant and adjustable color. One thing to note is that if you are a perfectionist like me, being this way while you’re coloring defeats the purpose. Put away your judgement– there are no “wrong or right” results when you are doing art. I hand crafted a free printable adult coloring page for you– just click on the button below.
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2. Clean – For some people the simple act of cleaning or organizing can be very relaxing. I know when I get frustrated with my husband or kids, the first thing I do is to start cleaning. It allows me to cool down, disconnect from the situation, and come back a little more rational. Plus, having a clean environment is soothing for many of us.
3. Breathe – Doing a series of deep breathing. My running partner Michelle taught me this very effective 60 second exercise, the 4-7-8 Method. Here’s how. Sit with you shoulders relaxed and your back straight. Gently place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth and keep it there through the entire breathing sequence. Exhale making a shwoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose while slowly counting to four. Then hold your breath for a seven. Exhale through your mouth for eight. Now repeat three times for a total of four breaths.
4. Get Outside – Whether you run or walk, stepping outside into the fresh air and away from our lives can be very rejuvenating. I have written many articles about how running for me is less about exercise and more about the mental clarity of mind I achieve when out there. If you go out with the intention of clearing your mind, focus on your breath and pay attention to the nature around you, it will transport you to a more relaxed version of yourself.
5. Meditate – This one was always difficult for me to achieve. I am very high energy and have a hard time sitting still, but after my health issues I mentioned above, I revisited this form of stress relief and found that there are many 10-15 minute guided meditation apps that are very useful. It helps to have someone telling you what to do.
6. Listen to Calming Music – I find that having the Spa or Zen music channel on Pandora playing in the background while I work does indeed have a calming effect on me. At first it felt really corny, but if I stop the judgement in my mind and allow myself to go with it, then it’s really relaxing.
[bctt tweet=”15 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Stress and Anxiety @MichaelsStores #relaxandcolor #Pmedia #ad”]
7. Get Lost in an Activity – Think back to when you were a child and you did an activity that was so engaging that you lost track of time. For me, that activity is drawing, but figure out what that is for you and take it up again.
8. Random Act of Kindness – One of my favorite things to do when I’m feeling stressed is to do what I call, “Stop, Drop, and Give.” Usually this consists of buying someone a coffee, leaving a five dollar bill on the ground for someone to pick up, or bringing a friend a gift. It doesn’t take much time or effort to not only turn your day around but someone else’s as well.
9. Drink a Cup of Tea – There is a reason that the British drink tea. Ever heard the expression, “Keep Calm and Drink a cuppa.” The simple act of holding a warm cup and drinking tea is very relaxing. There are some studies out there that suggest that the ingredient theanine has a calming effect.
10. Find a Sunny Window and Look Outside – During these dreary winter months I found it very calming to plop myself down in a sunny area of the house when possible. Feeling the warm sun on my skin, gives me a instant boost.
11. For The Birds – I have a bird feeder at my kitchen window and when I find things getting a little chaotic, I take a deep breath and shift my sight to the birds. I take five minutes and disconnect from the chaos, watch my little feathered friends for a quick mood booster.
12. Fuzzy Wuzzy – Wrap yourself in a super soft lux fleece blanket. When I feel like I’ve had it, the velvety texture of the blanket on my skin pulls the thoughts in my head from insanity to serene.
13. Write – This one always helps me. I pull out my journal and my colored pencils and write. I call it a brain dump. I write whatever is in my mind for 10 minutes. I do not judge or re-write, I just dump every thought onto the pages of my journal. Another thing you can do is write a quick note to a friend or loved one. People love to receive old fashion mail.
14. Step Away from the Screen – If I’m in crisis mode, I stop what I’m doing and step away from the screen. Social Media, Blogging, email, etc. can make you crazy after awhile. Even if you are at work or school, if allowed, take a ten minute walk away from technology.
15. Plan Ahead – If I don’t plan my week in meals on Sunday night, we probably wouldn’t eat. I menu plan, grocery shop, and cook for the entire week on Sunday if I can. Whenever I have a spare 15 minutes, I make a bunch of sandwiches and freeze them so I have a quick grab and go lunch for my kids and myself. When the food is prepped not only do we eat healthier, we save money and I am not stressed out come meal time and busy mornings.
How about you? What do you do to help manage your stress?