As spring finally begins to peek through the dreary winter months, so begins the stress of midterms, finishing the semester, and simply planning and working in all areas of life.
April marks Stress Awareness Month, a concept most of us probably haven’t thought too much about. Sure, we all experience different stressors in life and handle things differently, but the necessity to find stress relief is universal. We cannot bottle in our tension and worries without accepting those feelings and treating them accordingly.
That’s where a stress relief toolbox comes in. The second you feel yourself spiraling into a hectic mind, frazzled by big tasks and little details alike, you can refer back to your stress relief tools and techniques for guaranteed ways to calm down and ground you in the present moment.
Dangers of stress.
The times we want to push aside the stress and keep trudging forward every day adds up quickly, and the repercussions can really prove detrimental to all physical and mental health.
Being chronically stressed takes a major toll on our bodies. Our immune response becomes weakened, and our risks in developing ailments like autoimmune disorders, allergies and intolerance, heart disease and more go up thanks to increased inflammation in the body.
When we get stressed, it’s much harder to become less stressed. Managing our emotions, remembering things, avoiding headaches, sleeping well, and handling mental illnesses like anxiety and depression all become difficult. It’s simple enough to see the natural response to stress as an adrenaline rush and rising level of cortisol, but beyond that, there’s so much more at stake.
Having anxiety and related mental illnesses also doesn’t help because you’re likely building up molehills into mountains within moments. We all naturally have anxiety to survive as a species, but some of us become anxious over what we don’t need to, building up scenarios and twisting thoughts in our heads regardless of how illogical they truly are. If that’s you, having an anxiety disorder requires extra attention to stressors and how you respond to them. You are in ultimate control of your mind, even if that simply means slowing your heart rate with deep breaths.
Make stress bearable.
If only we could all just escape the forest and become nomadic goat farmers whenever we felt things in our lives piling up. As Maria Von Trapp wisely said, You cannot shut out your problems. You have to face them.
But that doesn’t mean you have to face them empty-handed. While I have some suggestions for you that I personally find helpful when I’m having a stressful time, it’s not a one-size-fits-all equation. Just because you’re sipping tea all the time doesn’t mean you’re carefree, and maybe you’re already zenned out without the tea. You really have to listen to yourself, your own needs and desires, to judge what tools will serve as true stress relief for you.
Without further ado, here are the top things I keep in my stress relief toolbox I must always have available.
1. Herbal tea.
While I’m a huge supporter of any hot beverage I can get my hands on, caffeine tends to aggravate, not relieve, your stress. That’s why I recommend herbal teas for stress relief. Not only do they taste great and offer additional health benefits, but I like to practice mindfulness and grounding when I drink my tea.
Try it out: pay attention to the sensation of holding a warm mug between your hands, how the heat radiates through every finger. Watch as the flavors steep into the hot water. Feel the steam from that tea when it touches your face. Really taste the flavors of your tea. See how you can easily turn a mindless activity into one that takes you away from your stresses and reminds you of the simple act of living and existing.
You can find herbal teas at any grocery store and supermarket, but it’s even better when you can support a mindful smaller business. As amateur tea connoisseur, I’m a huge advocate for Mighty Leaf tea. The company is focused on sustainability, even uniquely stitching compostable tea bags for the best flavor and experience possible. Check out the link below on my favorite selection and a current great deal they’re offering.
Organic Herbal Tea Teaser 10-Ct.
2. Meditation and prayer.
You don’t have to be religious to utilize the powers of meditation and prayer. You also don’t have to feel obligated to put on monk garb and “Om” if that’s not your style. When first trying out meditation, find a guided meditation like the app Headspace to help you go through the process of “scanning” your body and current emotions, along with learning how thoughts are simply passing clouds that come and go. Realizing that we are more than our thoughts, that we can find stillness within ourselves even when life feels chaotic, is powerful.
Believers in any sort of faith also find this sense of peace when they pray. In reality, praying is very similar to meditation in that you’re taking your racing emotions and thoughts and, rather than dwelling on them and allowing them to run our lives, we let them go, giving them to God or the universe. We don’t have to deal with the burdens of life alone. There is something greater than us that is beyond capable of guiding away from everyday stressors and toward our greater, higher purpose in this world.
1 John 5:14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.” Spirituality is meant to provide you peace and comfort, and admitting you need that support beyond this earthly realm doesn’t make you weak; it should be empowering. Turn to God and see where He leads you.
3. Essential oils.
You can reap many benefits from using essential oils, but stress relief is a huge one to take advantage of. Aromatherapy works by stimulating smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system — the part of the brain that controls emotions.
As with teas, you can typically find essential oils anywhere, but not all oils are created equal. You can find cheaper prices on ones from a general store because the oils aren’t therapeutic grade…that is, companies add filler ingredients to dilute the actual plant essence down. That’s why I recommend doing your research first and figuring out what essential oils might work best for you and how to safely use them before spending any money.
My top recommendations for oils is Plant Therapy. Rather than focusing on becoming a huge brand with the cheapest prices, the company is really amazing in that they want to make a positive impact on others’ lives by selling high-quality products and giving back to those in need. I find such peace in knowing I’m supporting a company with similar values to me, and relieves my stress by knowing exactly where my essential oils are coming from.
Since my favorite oil for stress relief is lavender, check out the link below for an awesome stress-relieving deal.
4. Mindful movement.
When we get caught up in stress, we can completely ignore tension in our bodies, often not taking full breaths from the stomach and allowing our shoulders to rest. Sometimes something as simple as rolling our shoulders and necks, shaking out our limbs, and doing other simple stretches can get our minds back into the present moment and fight a tense body.
If you want to take it beyond simple stretches, try out some yoga or have someone give you a massage. Let me tell you, I recently had my first spa experience and it was divine. You don’t have to pay for a professional masseuse if that’s not feasible, but utilize others and the internet to target wherever you hold tension and get your blood flowing with some movement and light exercise.
Make your movement mindful. If you love to run, do that. Kickboxing? Nature walks? Hula-hooping? Do what you love and leave the stress aside, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Close your eyes, and allow other voices carry you off to somewhere new. Laugh at a funny conversation between comedians. Learn something new. Get lost in a story. There are so many different kinds of podcasts out there to dive into, so try experimenting and looking into all that’s out there.
Perhaps it seems counterproductive, but my tastes lately have been drawn to true-crime podcasts, following multi-episode sagas that include interviews and insights, taking you deeply into every detail of a crime and the workings that went on behind committing and solving it. But I also enjoy other types of creepy stories, too, and why not get some laughs in while I’m at it? If you haven’t listened to Atlanta Monster, Lore, or My Favorite Murder (a personal favorite), now’s your time.
Would you like more tools I keep in my stress relief toolbox? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll make another post about some more ways I relax and treat myself well.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie