April is Stress Awareness Month, but whether you happen to come across this article in April or any other month, one thing is for sure: it’s important to de-stress. De-stressing can help lessen anxiety, make you more happy, and increase your self-worth. After all, we rarely feel good about ourselves and our lives when we are stressed.
There are obvious things to do to de-stress, like take a bath, go to a spa, or exercise, but when you get tired of the bathing and the exercising, we have some other ideas for you. Read on to find out!
What’s Stress Awareness Month?
Before we get into the de-stressing tips, let us start with explaining Stress Awareness Month.
Stress Awareness Month was launched back in 1992 and takes place in April every year. It was launched to make people aware of how bad stress can be for your body (it’s been labeled a silent killer, as it’s been linked to anything from depression and anxiety to obesity and disease), what causes it, and how you can overcome it. If nothing else, knowing how bad stress is for you finally gives you an excuse to kiss your worries goodbye and start taking proper care of yourself. (1)
1. Knitting and Mechanics
It’s no secret that yoga is a fad—a very healthy fad, but a fad nonetheless. That’s why it’s important to realize that as great as it may be, there are other things that are good for you as well. For example, one survey found that 97% of people said knitting or crocheting made them happier than doing yoga. In the same survey, 86% said that knitting and crocheting helped them overcome stress.(2)
It’s important to bear in mind this study involved people who did knitting and crocheting regularly, which assumes it’s something they truly enjoy. In all likelihood, this means that they relax and de-stress because they focus their minds on something they’re happy doing that keeps their hands busy. Doing it if you detest knitting is unlikely to have relaxing effects on you.
If you aren’t into knitting or sewing, why not do something else that keeps your hands busy, such as cooking or carpentry? If you prefer electrics and mechanics to art and food, why not fix car engines, build model airplanes, or do some DIY on the house? All of these things will ensure that your hands stay busy, therefore focusing your mind on what your hands are doing.
2. Yoga, Ballet, and Tai Chi
Despite the fact that yoga isn’t something everyone enjoys, it has been strongly linked with relaxation. Yoga practices often encourage you to slow down and focus on your body and your breathing, thereby helping you let go of any nagging or negative thoughts. The same can be said for tai chi and ballet, which are other practices that involve slow movements and mental focus on the body. It’s very hard to think of a big problem while also keeping your balance as you do a pirouette on your toes in time with the music.
Remember that yoga and tai chi done outdoors in nature can help you relax even more, and these days you can find classes in most city parks.
Meditation often forms part of yoga practices, but there are many forms of meditation—some involve listening to a guided meditation, some involve breathing techniques, others chanting, yet others simply focusing on emptying your mind. All appear to have a relaxing effect on the mind and body, but different forms of meditation work for different people.
It’s important to note that there are many other activities that are meditative in nature, so if you have problems with meditation you can try breath work, the aforementioned yoga, ballet and tai chi, or quiet walks in nature. The importance is that you slow down and focus on something other than the thoughts running wild in your head.
Going fishing might be one of the oldest meditative exercises in the world. You’re sitting quietly in nature, waiting for fish to catch your bait—there’s nothing much more for you to do than sit back and relax while enjoying the scenery.
Nature seems to have a calming effect on the mind, and if you enjoy fishing, it’s the perfect meditative exercise.
5. Going for Walks in Nature
Fishing isn’t something that amuses everyone—some think it unethical to kill animals, others don’t enjoy sitting still for hours. Nature does seem to have a very calming effect, so skip the fishing and go for country walks or even walks in city parks. Strolling around and enjoying the beauty of the natural world seldom fails to calm the mind.
RELATED: Jogging vs. Walking
Whether you like to paint, work with clay, or make collages, art has proven itself to be both therapeutic and relaxing in nature. Not only are you busy with your hands—focusing your attention on what you are doing, as opposed to your problems—you’re also looking at colors, which has shown to be beneficial for our well-being.
There’s nothing like perspective to calm the mind. Going for a trip—even if only for a day—can give you a change of scenery. You also step outside the life you are currently living so that you can see it from afar. This can help you process anything and everything you are currently going through. It can also give you a much-needed break from current circumstances.
8. Focusing Your Mind
By the end of the day, what all the above suggestions for relaxation and de-stressing boil down to is an ability to focus your mind on things that do not cause stress. Stress is generally caused by thinking about things that in one way or another aren’t working, cause you to worry, make you put yourself down, or otherwise distract you from thoughts that make you happy.
Therefore, discipline yourself—keep track of when your thoughts go down the wrong path and actively shift your focus to positive things. Praise yourself and those around you for what is going right. Relationships have known to become completely transformed when one party stops all nagging and instead focuses on the good stuff. So think about how your relationship with yourself can change when you focus on complimenting yourself rather than constantly thinking about all the things that worry you—or what you could have done better or differently.
If you can’t muster up a positive thought about yourself because you stumbled and spilled coffee all over yourself and a co-worker, try to focus on something else that is positive. Think of the fact that while the coffee stain will be bad, you still have a good salary, a roof over your head, and a few friends whom you truly appreciate.
If the coffee is just too much to handle that day and you just can’t seem to be able to think of anything good at all, force yourself to shift your focus by doing something else. If you have to, turn on a comedy or go for a ballet class.
In short, focus on conducive thinking—things that actually help you solve problems and create a better life, or thoughts that help you enjoy the life you are currently living. And on days when that doesn’t work, distract yourself with something that will eventually help you shift your thoughts.
Once you stop thinking about the bad stuff, chances are you’ll be a lot more relaxed. If you need a hand, there is an excellent book on the topic called Stop Thinking, Start Living: Discover Lifelong Happiness by Richard Carlson.
While shifting your focus won’t solve every problem, it will make you more relaxed and free up a lot of thinking space for you to be able to solve problems you encounter.
9. Take Time Off
Stress can, of course, also be caused by spending too much time working—whether physically or mentally. By taking time off to do something else, your body and brain get to relax. If needed, schedule time during the week for anything from Netflix nights to knitting. Be sure to turn off your cell phone at a certain hour at night and when out doing things to ensure that you don’t get stressed by work emails at 10 p.m. or distracted by social media rants when out in nature. Also, make sure you get enough sleep, as no one can relax if they’re constantly running their body to the ground.
If you take breaks from work and focus your mind on the good things, you’ll soon be a lot more relaxed. And if you need further help, doing activities that keep your hands busy in a relaxed environment—or activities that involve slow movement—are perfect. Nature and beautiful colors also appear to have a relaxing effect on the mind, so when you take time off, make sure to spend some of it in nature and with art. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get serious about relaxation and Stress Awareness Month is the perfect time to start!