April is Stress Awareness Month: Here Are 6 Healthy Ways to Manage, Relax, and Clear Your Mind

Stress Therapy

I am the most stressed-out person I know. Since high school, it was a constant struggle for me to find a good work-life balance. Homework and extracurriculars drove me crazy and so did my family life, my social life, and later, my part-time job. Nowadays, I worry about managing my full-time job, my finances, my blog, my relationship, and the constants of family and friends. Yup, grown-up stuff! Now imagine if I were a mom too—yikes!

Stress comes normally with everyday living, but it has the potential to eat us up alive. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. This month of April is Stress Awareness Month and health care professionals are coming together to educate others on stress and how to be more relaxed. While I’m no health care professional myself, I definitely know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed by the everyday, so I wanted to share some of my personal favorite tips for de-stressing. Let me know if anything here has been tried-and-true for you or if you have any of your own tips for managing stress.

Here’s to battling stress and embracing relaxation!

1. Meditate. I was introduced to meditation by an old friend from work. While there are many techniques for meditating, the way I do it is to focus on any blockages in my brain and my body and to zap it away. You don’t have to retreat to a Zen garden in order to meditate, although I think that would be very nice if you could! All you have to do is find a quiet spot in your home or wherever you are and be alone for about 10-15 minutes to clear your mind, focus on your breathing, and refresh and rejuvenate yourself.

2. Massage. Lucky for me, I have a partner who’s great at giving back rubs, but when he’s not around, I reach around where I can and rub where it feels tense. My jaw, calves, and thighs also tend to be problem areas, so I focus on massaging those spots too. As long as you have hands, anyone can treat themselves to a quick stress-melting massage. Of course, there are a variety of devices out there you can use, from hand-held electronics to massage chairs. I love those wire scalp massagers that make your head tingle — you can get them at your local drugstore for as low as $2. Also, one of the best indulgences you can give yourself is a trip to the spa and have a massage done by a therapist. Don’t even think about it and just get it done, because you deserve it!

3. Exercise. I’ve become a huge workout freak and have definitely been reaping in the benefits of exercise. Fitness is therapeutic and every individual has their own favorite exercises to make them feel more relaxed after they sweat it out. Many people clear their minds by running, others enjoy stretching themselves with yoga. Personally, I enjoy two extremes: focusing on small controlled isometric movements with barre and Pilates and punching it out with cardio workouts, boxing, and self-defense. Whether you’re a gym nut, group fitness fanatic, or an outdoorsy type, you’ll know that a great workout ultimately relaxes you and gets you ready to tackle on the rest of your day. There are even some health insurers out there who reimburse or reward their members for staying active. Oscar Insurance, a health insurance company in New York and New Jersey, gives their members a free Misfit band that they can use to keep track of their daily activity and get cash rewards for staying active! If you haven’t used exercise as a stress reliever, it’s never too late to start! Even something as small as buying a jump rope and using it for a couple of minutes every day can make all the difference in the world.

4. Write. You had to see this one coming from a blogger/writer! I’ve kept journals since I was ten years old and have since found writing to be an important outlet for my thoughts and feelings, hence my occupation by vocation in my adult life. Carry a small notebook with you and write in it whenever you feel stressed. Write about what’s bugging you, what’s on your mind, any possible solutions to your issue, about your surroundings at the moment. and whatever else you want. If you don’t have a notebook, write on your napkin at the cafe or bar. The approach I like to take when writing in my journal is to treat it as if I’m writing a letter to an old friend. That way, I can be honest and unfiltered. When you put things on paper, you have it right in front of you to read later, and that puts all your worries and feelings into perspective.

5. Get artsy and crafty. Although I’m not a creative type myself, many people find activities like drawing, painting, sculpting, scrapbooking, photography, and knitting to be very relaxing. The fact that you have to be disciplined at concentrating on one task at one time makes a person really focused on that one thing and therefore tuned out with the crazy outside world. I would even say cooking and baking is included here because you can get really creative with recipes. Personally, when I get “artsy,” I just find peace in sketching palm trees on a notebook.

6. Listen to relaxing music. Your favorite genre of music can be a stress reliever in itself, but I personally like to go out of my comfort zone and listen to atmospheric stuff when I need to tune out. It’s a great accompaniment for meditation as well. Check out the Deep Focus playlist on Spotify for a breathtaking selection of chill tracks.

(PHOTO CREDIT: rolvr_comp on Flickr)

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