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5.12.2017

Natural and Effective Stress Relief

I always talk about being productive, my routines, and how much I enjoy getting things done and checking off various goals things, but I rarely talk about my strategies for dealing with stress when I inevitably just have too much going on at once.  Because it's bound to happen at some point - I'll get twice the workload at the office or the dishwasher will break, throwing off my kitchen routine.  Life just happens.  Now, I love a good Xanax as much as the next girl, but I do try to start with some natural options first because that's usually enough to get you through those 'life just happens' situations.


Here are just some of the ways I try to naturally relieve stress and anxiety:

Cut out caffeine.  Trust me, no one wants to hear that more than me.  And I could never cut out caffeine totally, withdrawal gives me headaches.  But you could at least cut back.  I always remember telling my friend in law school when her eyelid would twitch that it was too much caffeine and not enough sleep.  Cutting back on the coffee always helped her.  Caffeine gives you that morning jolt that increases your heart rate but too much of it can make you jittery, which will increase your stress levels even more.  If you want to calm both your body and your mind, try decaf.

Drink some tea.  There are so many varieties of tea that are very calming and caffeine free, so you could potentially swap out your coffee or pop with a daily cup of tea instead.  There are teas specifically marketed as calming, and of course there's always perennial favorite, Sleepytime.  The tea itself is very effective and it becomes even more so if you use the whole experience of brewing and drinking the tea as a time to slow down and focus on nothing else but the tea in front of you.  It's a nice escape from the chaos.

Turn off all technology.  Technology is very, very pervasive and loud in our society.  There are so many different outlets demanding your attention and each one is stressful on it's own.  Add together all the various forms of technology in your life and it's no wonder most people are stressed most of the time.

Move around.  'Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.  Happy people just don't shoot their husbands.'  It's not just funny, it's also the truth.  So just take some time to move around, whatever level of exercise that is for you.  You could try yoga, some workout videos on YouTube, or run on the treadmill.  For me, I like walking Hawkeye to clear my head and get some exercise in for both of us.

Journal or blog.  Writing is so effective for calming and organizing the thoughts swirling around in your head.  It's why I enjoy blogging.  You don't have to share what you're writing like I do, but just writing or typing about your stressors will help you focus and guide you through where you need to go from here.  It's also why I like to make to do lists before bed; getting everything out of my brain and onto a list helps me relax and fall asleep.

Get cocktails with a girlfriend and talk.  Talking about things can definitely help you work through your feelings so if you don't think you need to talk to a therapist, a good girlfriend can often do the trick.  Do something relaxing like grabbing a happy hour martini and maybe getting a manicure, and talk about way you're feeling stressed out.  Even if she doesn't have words of advice, just talking through things will feel like a weight lifted.

Wear lavender essential oil.  Funny story about my lavender oil - I got it with my mom in rollerball form at the Pike Place Market when we were in Seattle, before our cruise left for Alaska. The saleswoman told us it was calming and my dad is HARD to travel with (he's fussy and demanding AF but he tips really well so...) so we decided we clearly needed the lavender if we were going to be on a boat with him for a week.  And you know what?  It worked.  Every time I felt my dad starting to bug me, I would rub the oil on my wrists and breathe in.  Instant calming effect.  I'm a lavender convert.

Go outside.  To be honest, this one does not always work for me.  I dislike the outdoors more than most people.  But for many, it's very calming to get outside and enjoy sunshine and fresh air.  For me, it really only works in the winter, but there are times when I can appreciate a good windows down country music blasting road trip to nowhere and back.  If you're a nature lover, get outside and enjoy it and leave the task list at home.

Cut things from the schedule.  Be ruthless.  So much of what stresses us out is too many balls in the air and not enough time to do all the things we want to or think we should.  Sit down with your calendar and to do list and be honest with yourself about what can go.  You can reschedule things or decline invitations altogether, you can do less related to the event (agree to bake an item for the bake sale rather than volunteer to organize the entire thing), and you can delegate other things to the people in your family or in your workplace.  You can't be expected to do all of the things all of the time.  Give yourself permission to let some of it go.

Of course, sometimes stress and anxiety is too overwhelming, in which case you should absolutely see a doctor and talk to someone about more options.  But for the days when you're just experiencing your standard stress levels, I hope these natural relief ideas help you as much as they help me.  What else would you add to the list?  What do you do when you're feeling stressed and anxious?


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