The world is a big, messy, disorderly, scary, demanding place to live — it's no wonder, really, that 26 percent of Americans polled by NPR said they were living with high stress levels. And if we're being honest here, most of us aren't too good at channeling these tensions into healthy, productive habits . . . which is exactly why stress has that snowball effect, in which it just keeps escalating.
I, too, am an anxious, stressed-out kind of person. Even when things in my life are going well — which is more often than not — my mind finds something to freak out about. Lately, I've been engaging in activities that relieve much of the pressure, and let me tell you, they work. Even if you don't emerge feeling totally relaxed and worry-free, I guarantee that a least a LITTLE stress will have been taken off your plate. Thus, here are 8 things you can do to chill the f*ck out, because we could ALL calm down a bit.
1. Listen to relaxing music while reading a book.
I love reading because it's an amazing escape, but listening to zen music while reading makes for an even better experience. Obviously, it might be a little weird to bury your nose in a Stephen King novel while a breathy pan flute sounds in your headphones, but I promise it works if you're reading romance, YA, poetry, or a lighthearted memoir. My favorite Pandora stations to listen to are Nature Sounds With Music, Piano Magic, Franz Schubert, and Symphonic (yep, I find classical music meditative). You can customize your station to fit what you like to listen to — or what flows best with your book!
If you haven't hopped on the adult coloring book trend yet, you simply must. Coloring takes you back to childhood and proves to be completely therapeutic. I prefer the real-life books, but there are apps for it, too. If you find it a little boring or tedious, try listening to an audiobook while coloring the pages away. Productive and soothing. Plus, you'll want to show off all your pretty pictures when you're done . . . just like when you were a kid.
3. Work out.
It may be cliché, but there's no denying the endless benefits of exercise — relief from stress included. There's nothing like taking out your frustrations, concerns, fears, and doubts on the treadmill. If you're not into the gym, try POPSUGAR's home workouts. They'll take you out of your element and force you to focus on your body rather than whatever you're worried about.
4. Use YouTube to meditate.
When life's rough and I'm feeling overwhelmed, I close my eyes and listen to these guys telling me to float on the clouds, belly-down, and watch the earth from above. It sounds silly, but if you take it seriously, the rewards are basically boundless. I don't claim to be a meditation guru, but it's pretty easy to pull up a video on your phone and imagine whatever the narrator is outlining. You can even learn techniques to meditate literally whenever you need to. Give it a shot! You may surprise yourself.
5. Keep a journal.
On my nightstand is a small blue notebook, in which my short descriptions of the days dwell. Take five minutes a night to jot down your thoughts, feelings, anxieties, or simply how your week's going so far. If that's too much of a commitment, try every other night. You can even keep it around specifically for those difficult moments. There's no right or wrong way to maintain a journal — as long as you're using it when needed.
6. Watch a comedy special.
A good laugh is the quickest way to de-stress. It's so easy to forget why you were upset about that thing that happened at work when Amy Schumer's ranting about her latest wine-infused catastrophe on the screen in front of you. Next time you want to pull out your hair, immerse yourself in the world of stand-up comedy. It's kind of impossible to regret it.
7. Take a bubble bath.
Need to unwind after the craziest Tuesday in the history of Tuesdays? Jump in a hot bath. You can even incorporate any of the above activities into your bathtime, so you're getting double the relaxation. Be sure to add aromatic essential oils to the water to get the full effect. And, yes, you may sip red wine as you bathe.
Worst comes to worst, take a damn nap. When I was in college, and a humongous stack of homework taunted me from my desk across the dorm room, I napped for a couple hours, woke up, and got that sh*t done. Who can argue with that?
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