Stress is really really bad for us. So when we start to feel under pressure, the best thing we can do for ourselves and for those around us is to tackle the stress – fast. It may not always be possible to address the cause of your stress, so when you need to take action and feel better quickly, I recommend trying one of the following:
Exercise is my number one stress-buster. Going for a run, or just doing a quick 15-minute burst on the exercise bike, never fails to energise me, restore a positive outlook, and give me the motivation to tackle whatever is on my mind.
When I’m under so much stress that I can physically feel it in my body, that’s my signal to stop and do a quick 3-minute breathing space. It helps me to understand and process my stress and get back in touch with my more centred calmer self. My regular daily mindfulness practice is also crucial to the way I manage any long-term stress in my life.
3. Get out into nature
Going for a long walk in the woods or the local park calms me. The gentle exercise gives me energy, and the peace and quiet gives my mind the space it needs to work on my problems in the background in a way that is productive without being agitating.
4. Spend time in the garden
If I don’t have time to go for a walk, a few minutes in the garden or the greenhouse can be almost as good. Taking time to nurture my plants forces me to slow down. As Lao Tzu said: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished”.
5. Cook a special meal
The very act of getting into the kitchen and focusing on food gives my mind a more attractive alternative to ruminating on my problems. Putting together a colourful and vibrant salad, or cooking a fragrant Thai curry from scratch, not only gives me the promise of a delicious meal to look forward to, but is a relaxing and calming activity in itself.
Playing with my children grounds me and reminds me of what is most important in my life. It gives me a chance to connect with the people I love the most, and it helps me to tap into their innate sense of fun. Like mindfulness, playing is a way to live more in the present moment without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
This might sound like an odd one, but most housework is fairly mundane and doesn’t require a lot of thought, so it’s a great way to let my mind mull over a problem in the background while I get a few things done. And a tidy house makes me feel in control, which is empowering and uplifting.
8. Relax in a warm bath
A warm bath is the ultimate in easy pampering. Taking half-an-hour (or an hour) for myself is my way of showing myself that my time and my wellbeing are valuable and that sometimes the best thing I can do for everyone around me is to look after me.
9. Go to bed early
When I’ve got really angry or frustrated over something, I’ve learned to accept that I’m unlikely to achieve anything productive until I’ve calmed down. Sometimes the best thing to do is to draw a line under today and start afresh tomorrow. It’s amazing how much better things can look after a good night’s sleep.
When all else fails there is always chocolate! When I’m feeling really stressed, treating myself to a little bit of something I would normally avoid placates my inner rebel and makes me feel better.
We all have our own ways of relieving stress. While I’m willing to bet that at least one of the above suggestions would be helpful to you, it’s much better to figure out what really works for you. If you have a go-to stress buster that I haven’t mentioned here, let me know via the comments below. Lets build up a list of all the things we do to nurture ourselves when life gets tough.