We’ve brought you a list of fun and mood lifting activities to save your soul when you’re under stress!
According to Debra Kissen, Ph.D., the co-chair of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s education committee and co-author of Rewire Your Anxious Brain For Teens, the thought of being stressed can flame the fight-or-flight mode on. However, this mode is not always harmful for it helps you get into the right state to fight back a danger or save someone from a potential damage. “This is the feeling our brain creates in response to physical or emotional problems,” says Kissen. “Even anxiety and high level stress or worrying can trigger you.”
“Stress-relieving methods depend on what kind of pressure you’re under,” says Kissen. If you’re experiencing extreme discomfort, anxiety and fear with or without physical pain and feeling overwhelmed, you can make yourself feel better with the right practices. “Learn a couple relaxing methods and use them as a handy toolbox next time you’re feeling pressured.”
That’s why we asked the experts for their best stress-relieving activities that you can have at the ready, even if you can’t get outside.
1. Do a quick exercise
“A sudden activity can increase your heart rate and activate neurotransmitters,” says Dr. Guillem Gonzalez-Lomas, an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Sports Health. “Be it 20 jumps, 10 push-ups or just running in place for 30 seconds; it will induce hormone secretion and helps with the release of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine to uplift your mood and alleviate anxiety and stress to certain degrees.” Next time you feel jittery or out of place, just get up and move around to get your mental balance back.
2. Do something tactile
Concentration on your senses is a great way of getting back into your body and distracting yourself from whatever’s bugging you on the inside. Do something to get your senses involved; grab a bubblewrap and pop it, squeeze a stress ball, sort out your socks or go gardening. “Force yourself to name one thing you hear, one thing you taste, one thing you touch, etc,” says Kissen. “Activate all the senses one by one to do the trick.”
3. Give yourself a massage
When stressed, your muscles go all stiff and unwilling to move. This is where you have to intervene and get your muscles active again. “There are numerous sensory receptors in our skin that receive touch signals and send them to the brain,” says Kiera Nagle, MA, LMT, CPMT, the Director of Massage Programs at Pacific College of Health and Science. Giving yourself a massage will relieve the tension in muscles and you’ll gradually notice where exactly gets tensed up when you’re stressed. Main muscle cores to start with are the big muscles on front of neck, shoulders, hinge of jaw and pressure points on hands. If you’re having trouble spotting the exact point, watch some of Nagel’s instruction videos.
4. Get your brain involved
If your mind feels coiled with stress and you can’t seem to get out of it, it’s probably the best option to distract yourself with a light activity. Organize your drawer or do some crossword puzzle. “When you’re stressed, your brain is looking for a problem to solve,” says Kissen. “If you give yourself an easy task to accomplish, your brain will calm down after solving it and you’ll consequently feel better with a free mind to concentrate on what’s actually stressing you out.”
5. Take a bath
Take a shower, fill the bathtub with warm water and slide in. “changing the body temperature is sort of similar to rebooting a computer that’s been running on heavy duty for a long time,” says Kissen. “After having a shower, your body temperature slowly drops and makes you feel refreshed.” Feel free to add calming factors such as essential oils, or play your favorite music in the background.
6. Try knitting
If you have an artistic spirit or simply interested in crafting, grab some yarn and get into knitting! The repetitive sounds of clicking needles can be meditative and calming. Researches on women with anxiety and eating disorders shows that getting involved with a craft such as knitting can actually reduce disorder symptoms and help the person relax.
7. Bake something
Even if you’re not a foodie, baking something can help you relax. All the sensory experience (from the smell of goods to kneading dough) will unwind your thoughts, and in the end you’ll be receive a tasty reward! Baking helps you concentrate and practice mindfulness which in turn activates your brain.
8. Stretch yourself
Stretching is a simple practice you can do everywhere, needless of a yoga mat. Don’t worry if you’re not physically flexible. Several researches indicate that yoga helps alleviate anxiety. According to NYU’s Dr. Gonzalez-Loman, taking 10 minutes to stretch and have a deep breath can be incredibly soothing.
9. Meditate or just breathe consciously
You’ve probably heard this numerous times already: meditation is a widely accepted option for stress relief. One won’t need complicated settings to get to Nirvana for some relax time; All you need to do is to sit still and focus on your breathing for a solid 5-minute period or longer if you prefer so. Slow breathing has calming effects on central nerves and cardiovascular system, especially if you practice belly breathing. This will regulate your hormones, including stress-inducers such as cortisol, resulting in mood improvement and lowering stress level. You can meditate with the help of specific apps, or simply sit alone and breathe deeply from your diaphragm for some minutes.
10. Clean your home
This may sound boring and you might not even have the will to clean up, but once you get started it’ll turn into a mood-lifting practice. Try cleaning and sorting your book shelves, or deep-clean the couches with a vacuum cleaner. According to Kissen, cleaning requires minimal planning and this makes it a mood-reviving activity. Achieving mini-goals such as cleaning up will help your brain feel more satisfied and calm. An early study has shown that focusing on housework activities (such as dishwashing) can improve the mood and help reduce stress level, meanwhile increasing mindfulness.
11. Do progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
Ages of studying PMR has proven that this activity basically alleviates stress and helps you calm down gradually. Just lie down, relax for a while, then tighten your muscles and stay that way for seconds. Next, release your muscles one by one. Begin the relaxing at the toes and slowly work your way up to the head and face. Try to work rhythmically and slowly. If you’re fine with it, ask someone to guide you through the practice.
Drawing is not only for the professionals. Don’t worry if you’re not artistic, just pick a pencil and draw whatever comes to mind. If you can’t bring yourself to draw, go for some coloring pages! “Anything that involves your brain and distracts you from the stressor will help,” explains Kissen. The key to relief-drawing, is not getting concerned if the drawing is good enough. Set your creativity free and stop judging your skills!
13. Get lost in a story
This activity might not interest you at first glance if you’re not a reader. But nothing is better than a page-turner book when you’re stressing out of your mind. You can also go for e-books or podcasts if there’s no traditional print book available. “Anything involving your mind, from a silly movie to some interesting podcast, can be a great anchor,” says Kissen. “It will not only distract you, but will take your attention somewhere else.” If your mind is busy with something pleasant, double will be the stress-alleviating impact. “If you keep on thinking, even on something else than the actual problem, you’ll find more ease to solve the issue.” Basically, we’re recommending you to keep your mind busy with something else instead of dwelling on the same problem.
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