Meditation, deep breathing, exercise, relaxation- these are all typical, well-established de-stressing techniques.
But sometimes, it helps to throw something new into the mix.
More importantly, it helps to be creative in your approach to stress.
Depression, the mother of all stress, is oftentimes a direct result of feeling helpless and not taking action. When we give up trying to solve our problems and relieve our stress, we are at an immediate loss.
The human mind, body and spirit are meant to adapt and readapt. We are resilient. And when that opportunity is taken away from us (or when we take it away from ourselves), we deny ourselves the possibility of feeling better.
By trying new things, we are doing what we, by nature, are meant to do—survive and thrive.
And what’s the harm? Nothing!
If one appraoch doesn’t work, try something else. You can choose what works for you and what doesn’t. So, here are 6 unconventional de-stressors that have really come through for me in the past. Hope they work for you!
Put things in perspective
Are you really suffering, or are you simply inconvenienced? Try to remember that certain problems in our life are actually a luxury. Waiting in line, a broken faucet, the postponement of a house closing, your car breaking down, a friend standing you up—sure, these are all hassles and inconveniences. But put your suffering in perspective—there are people dying of cancer at age twenty. Families and communities are destroyed in war-ravaged countries like Iraq and Sierra Leone. Children are abducted. Everywhere in the world there is deep suffering. And while pain is all relative, the more you put your own problems in perspective, the less stressed you will be.
Lose the negative thinking
This is one I struggle with. I worry, and often think negatively, which causes a ton of stress. In order to combat this, I do a little thought-stopping. Every time a negative thought pops into my head, I flip it into a positive. I can actually feel the physiological difference when I do this. Perfect example: I was walking with my young kids through Times Square this past week, and my negative thoughts were pervasive: “This city is filthy,” “I hate crowds,” “There’s never any where to just sit down and take a break,” “Everything is so overpriced.” And while all those things may be true, thinking them was robbing me of enjoying myself! When I caught myself doing this, I suddenly changed my thinking from my negative perspective to that of my kids. I started to wonder what they might be thinking, seeing all the lights and the energy of the crowd. As soon as I switched to a more positive perspective, I enjoyed myself.
Get off the computer!
I love my Mac. I work on it all day. But guess what, computers cause major stress: eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck and back fatigue, lack of focus, mental fatigue and on and on. You need to take breaks throughout the day, or better yet, you need to take a week off from all your electronics. Believe it or not, cell phones, smartphones, PDAs, laptops, TVs, eBook readers, computer tablets are all habit-forming devices that entrap us and keep us in a cycle of addiction. Don’t believe me? Leave your mobile at home the next time you go out and see how many times you reach for it. If you’re anything like me, you may even get a little belligerent. Do yourself a favor, allow for a once a month detox from your computer and handheld devices and go retro: write in a journal, listen to the radio, read a book.
Know that you are not entitled to happiness
You are entitled to pursue it, but that does not mean you’ll get it. It’s the “pursuit” of happiness that is our constitutional right as Americans, not happiness in itself. For starters, happiness is earned and it’s not something that comes daily. When you recognize that temporary dips in mood are normal and healthy and “happy” is not something you can be every day, it takes the pressure off. What’s so confusing is our natural inclination to see a happy, beautiful person and think, “They must always be happy.” This is completely untrue. It’s physically, emotionally and mentally impossible to always be happy. What’s not impossible, however, is to be grateful every day.
Stress over something different
Don’t normally take that road? Take it. Never made risotto before because it’s too difficult? Do it. Not the type of person to talk to strangers? Make an exception. While routine is great, the stress associated with the daily grind of life can be deeply ingrained in you, whereas new stressors, in the form of trying new things tends to alleviate the more serious stress simply by distraction. Do you have a pet? Talk to it! How long has it been since you’ve sent a handwritten letter to someone? Get writing! I’m not saying avoid your problems. The more you directly face your fears and those nagging responsibilities, the less stress you incur. Trust me. But if you need a temporary break from carrying around the weight of the world, sometimes stressing over the simpler things in life—a new hairdo, a new restaurant, a new workout routine—lightens your load.
One more great de-stressor?
Go outdoors and don’t let yourself back in the house. Remember when Mom used to kick you out of the house and tell you to play outside? It was probably because you were rammy and bored (and driving your mother nuts). Well, there’s something to be said for the great outdoors—the air circulates better into your lungs, the sun warms your skin and gives you a great big dose of Vitamin D, and there’s energy from all living things around you that can soothe and recharge your spirit.
Tracy Shields is co-owner and Marketing Director of N3 Oceanic, Inc., maker of Res-Q products, and Nature's Shield, a subsidiary of N3. She is a writer, a triathlete, a nutrition junkie and a devoted mother of two boys. She blogs weekly here.
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