“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the year!” I really do love the holiday season. Really, I do. But, let’s face it, the traditions, familial obligations, and social interactions can get quite stressful and draining if we’re not careful with our space and commitments. Besides setting clear boundaries and protecting yourself by saying no when your plate is full, here are a few of my favorite ways to destress when life is out of control.
I know you’ve heard it before and I’ll say it again, but physical activity is the balm for many of life’s ailments. Besides the obvious benefits such as improved cardiovascular health, minimizing risk for CHD, hypertension, type II diabetes, etc., regular activity improves sleep quality, reduces anxiety and depression, and provides a wonderful boost in mental clarity and attitude due to the release of lovely endorphins. I get it; sometimes when I’m knee-deep in chaos the last thing I want to do is workout. But, go for it. Employ the 30 minute rule. Just move for 30 minutes. If you’re still hating it after that, stop, if you’re feeling alive and free, go for another 15 minutes to half hour. Enjoy that lovely rush and do something amazing for yourself that your mind, body and soul will thank you for later.
Life is demanding and this is a tough one. If you have a family, it’s even harder to orchestrate, but try, try, try to have a few moments to yourself on a regular basis. I’ve been steeped in SAHM life for several years now and this is the one area I’ve struggled with the most. Pair it with an active-duty spouse whose done his fair share of in and out on deployment, TDY, trainings, etc. and it takes an exponential amount of effort to make this happen. But it’s necessary. Working, relationships, parenting, etc, puts us in a position of constantly pouring out and our wells run dry. Make filling your cup a priority by scheduling your me-time as you would any other appointment. It doesn’t have to be anything grand. Take a walk after dinner, read a book in a café, have a lunch date with yourself, or, as I frequently do, set your alarm clock hours before anyone else stirs and enjoy the peace and quiet of a still home.
Stepping away from our own troubles and looking after the needs of someone completely unrelated to us can uplift, exhilarate, and inspire. Volunteer your time to benefit someone in need. Feed the hungry, organize a cleanup for a local park, be a role model for an at-risk youth, etc. Getting out of our own lives and stepping in to fill gaps in the lives of others has a way of providing perspective, paradigm shifts, and urges us to realign our thoughts, goals, and dreams. We are our brother’s keeper.
Spend Time in Nature
When I was doing my undergrad,I fell in love with Abraham Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation. Short version, we excel in life after meeting basic needs of survival, safety, belonging, and self esteem. Having these needs fulfilled, opens the door to the possibility of becoming self-actualized, or to operate at one’s maximal potential. Maslow outlined what he called “peak experiences”. Peak experiences are euphoric moments of heighten awareness, mental clarity, and fulfillment.
Any experiences I’ve had with what may be described as “peak experiences” has happened in the great outdoors. And, try as I might, I am not in the least bit outdoorsy. But, there’s something about the fresh air, the sound of moving water, mother nature’s magnificence, and the realization that I’m a mere fraction of the big picture opens my me up to the bliss that the universe has to offer.
So go ahead, explore local parks in your area, take a hike, visit the beach, or just sit out on the front porch and listen to birdsong while sipping your coffee.
Actively practicing gratitude has been at the forefront of many self-improvement and spiritual conversations for a few years now. This practice includes being more mindful of our mental chatter and choosing to focus on and celebrate what we do have instead of lack. Actively practicing gratitude has been shown to improve our interpersonal relationships, health, feelings of happiness and contentment, as well as our ability to cope with life’s stresses.
If you don’t already, I urge you to actively seek the good in your life. If you’re in a negative headspace, take a few minutes to list all of the good things going on in your world. I promise your mood will turn in a more positive direction. If you want to complain, speak affirmations instead. If you fall short of a goal, focus on what went well and what you learned throughout the process instead. These may seem overly simple, but research indicates that there is power in positivity. Practice, practice, practice seeing the good instead of the bad until it becomes a more reflexive part of your nature.
There are countless ways to manage your health and well-being. These are my go-to choices for clearing my head and getting myself in a better mood. What’s your secret? Do you have a favorite way to destress? I’d love to hear about it.