Stress is part of everyday living. If you have no stress at all, you better pinch yourself and check that you’re still alive!
Excessive stress leads to the brain chemical used in the thinking process to become depleted. When this is depleted, depression can result. Depression then gives another set of problems. So it really is worthwhile learning how to handle stress. It does need to be managed.
A Stress Relief Activity is one that takes your mind off your stress and onto a more pleasurable activity. This ‘time-out’ from stress allows the brain chemical (Serotonin) to replenish itself to cope with the next onslaught of stress. It’s no good saying that you haven’t the time to de-stress because ultimately it is essential for your mental well-being to avoid developing depression.
9 STRESS RELIEF ACTIVITIES
1. Your thoughts. Watch what you are thinking. Faulty thinking patterns can just aggravate the stress and make it much worse. When thoughts frequently contain words like ‘never, always, should, and must’ you need to learn to change the way you think. This is one of the best long-term stress relief activities. It takes time to learn but can also change your life forever for the better. Your particular thinking habits could be aggravating your stress. Click here for an article on cognitive therapy, the ‘how-to’ of changing your thoughts. Writing down your thoughts can also be of tremendous benefit as you can then go back and look at what you’ve written, put the worry into perspective and make an action plan.
2. Limit your stressful thinking. If you’re stressing relentlessly, bear in mind that your mind can only ‘contain’ one thought at a time. Our minds jump very quickly from one thought to the next but at any given moment the mind only contains one thought. Give yourself a time limit, say 10 minutes when you allow yourself to stress over a particular worry. After that tell yourself that time’s up and get involved in something else, have a distraction.
3. Find a distraction. The distraction can be any number of activities that you find enjoyable.
- Caring for a pet
- Do activities with supportive friends
- Get involved in a charity work
- Find a fulfilling hobby, like gardening, crafts or art. Think of what you really enjoy as you cannot remain stressed while involved in a stress relieving activity.
- Laughter is a wonderful ‘medicine’ for relieving stress and even produces happy chemicals in the body! Plan to get take out a comedy DVD, and even better watch it with a group of friends!
4. Breathing De-stress by focusing on correct breathing. Breath in through your nose, filling your lungs and then a long out-breath through the mouth. This type of breathing is a good first aid to stop a panic attacks developing. Click here for more hints on dealing with panic attacks (this takes you to another site of mine)
5. Exercise. Find a walking partner or join a walking group. The distraction of a walking partner also takes your mind off whatever is stressing you. Exercise also increases the release of Dopamine, the ‘happy’ brain chemical.
6. Nutrition is important with a healthy amount of fruit and vegetables.
7. Avoid stimulants like caffeine, alcohol or drugs as these will increase your stress.
8. Relaxation techniques. Sit or lie in a comfortable position and listen to soothing, relaxing music. At the same time you could also imagine yourself in a ‘happy place’, say lying on the beach. Imagine the sounds of the seagulls and the fresh smell of the salty air. Make a ‘happy place’ where you can retreat to in times of stress.
9. Daytime nap. If you battle to sleep at night, instead of getting anxious, just relax knowing that you can have a lunch time nap which can refresh you for the rest of the day. A sleepless night is often made worse by the fear of being exhausted the following day.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of learning to deal with stress and include some stress relief activities in your daily schedule.
Click here for an article on Is Depression a Physical Illness.
Photograph taken by Nicola Stewart at beblessedphotography.co.za