What will you do to reduce stress on April 16th, when the Health Resource Network sponsors National Stress Awareness Day? (Note that it's always the day after income tax filings are due!)
Here are nine simple but effective and mostly fun techniques that you might try on April 16th or any time you need to release stress and boost your personal peace. Let these suggestions inspire your creative thinking for unique ways to refocus on inner balance and harmony and let go of the stress in your hectic life.
1. Do something different. If your stress is mainly mental, from your job, get out of your head and fully engaged in physical activity, anything from scrubbing to a brisk walk, yoga or kick-boxing. If you seldom cook, vigorously chop veggies for a stir-fry and appreciate the textures and tastes of fresh home made food. If your stress is from the emotional drama of a houseful of teens, take yourself to dinner out, alone. What would be a real change of pace for you? Something this simple can often help to erase daily stress.
2. Follow the stars. Even if it's still chilly in your area, dress appropriately, put a comfortable chair outside, lean back and spend a few minutes looking up at the stars. This works best if there are no bright lights nearby. Let the vastness of the heavens help to put your stress in perspective.
3. Rub-a-dub-dub. Wash a sinkful of delicate clothing by hand. Notice how the cloth feels when wet, how the soap feels on your hands. Lay pieces flat or hang carefully to dry. Treat each piece with tender care and reflect on how your great grandparents did laundry. Being present in the moment as you complete each step will help you to gently disengage from stress.
4. TLC for your soles. Sit in your most comfortable chair, when you can be undisturbed for about 15 minutes. Pull one foot at a time into your lap and give yourself a foot massage, pressing firmly with your thumb or knuckles all over the bottom of each foot. Many people find this process helps them to relax and reduce stress, and an entire school of alternative healing is built around foot reflexology or treating pressure points on the feet.
5. Sing. Sing with the radio, your favorite CD, a karaoke machine, with a group of friends or in your local choir. Make up silly words to the tune that's been bugging you all day. Take a favorite quotation or affirmation and sing it with zest. Even if you think you can't sing, belt out a tune in the privacy of your car or shower. Whether you are wailing old love songs or “Old MacDonald, " the positive emotional connections of singing help to align you with your whole self, letting many stresses fall away.
6. Pick up sticks. Get out a box of wooden toothpicks, pour them into a compact pile, and play a few old-fashioned games of pick up sticks with your kids. The patient focus required should help you shift gears and release stress in short order. Of course, if your eight year old wins, that's another story!
7. Do it now! If your stress is from a looming problem, stop right now and take at least one step toward solving the problem. Writing down a list of actions needed to handle it could actually be a first step. Making a phone call, checking your bank balance, researching where to find what you need, could all be simple steps toward resolution of your issue. Do one thing and feel the relief of taking positive action.
8. Let go. Let today be the day you simplify your life. Has joy evaporated from your volunteer project? Do you dread the third Thursday PTA committee? Are Wednesdays so crammed with activities that there is no room for you? Pick one thing and drop it from your routine or firmly turn down the folks who've been after you to volunteer. “I'd love to help, but given everything else going on in my life, I'd be insane!" is a pretty good line. The truth is, when you simplify down to the things you most enjoy and can reasonably manage, a great deal of daily stress lifts away naturally.
9. Nurture yourself. Spend half an hour pampering yourself, or twenty minutes with your journal listing all the things you appreciate about yourself. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I love you, " for two minutes straight. (Let it be fine if this brings up tears. It's probably the first time you've been so loving with yourself. ) Take yourself to a movie, or go for a drive in the mountains if that would nurture your inner well-being. Caring for yourself with self-compassion is a powerful way to eliminate toxic stress.
And if you would like more self-compassionate stress reduction tips, I invite you to sign up for my free newsletter, 17 Simple Stress Solutions, at http://www.powerofpersonalpeace.com/optin.htm
Check out my articles on success, less stress, and my Ask Dr. Ilenya advice column at my blog, http://lovingyoursuccess.blogspot.com
Dr. Ilenya Marrin is a personal peace consultant, inspirational speaker and author of ebooks The Power of Personal Peace: Reducing Stress by Loving Yourself from the Inside Out and 77 Loving Steps for Success.