Stress Breaks – Quick and Fun
By Leigh Anne Jasheway
Have you ever eaten a frozen dinner without thawing it out first? The last time you had your blood pressure measured, did the cuff explode? Are there teethmarks in your steering wheel? Is Tums® your favorite pizza topping? Then you just might be over-stressed!
Chances are if you’re a woman and you’re still alive, you’ve got more stress in your life than you need. But you probably don’t have a lot of time to manage it either. If you’ve ever fast-forwarded through a relaxation CD, you know what I mean. What you need are quick, easy, and FUN stress breaks you can squeeze in between your family, your job, your social commitments, and that nice long coma you’ve scheduled instead of a vacation.
Try some of these:
1. Stop on the way home from work and read funny greeting cards. There are so many different types of humor in greeting cards, you’re bound to get a quick laugh – and laughter is one of the best ways to release your stress and move on.
2. Give the family pet a rubdown from ears to tail. Studies show that not only will your blood pressure and heart rate slow down, so will your pet’s!
3. Keep a gel-pack in the freezer and when the tension of the day shows up in your neck, tell it to chill out!
4. Prune an unruly plant. If you can’t control your boss or your kids, at least you can get a plant to behave!
5. Burn a candle in a scent that soothes, like vanilla or chocolate chip. If burning a candle isn’t advisable (if you’re in the car, for example, and might start a fire on your dashboard), spritz a room freshener in the same scent.
6. Get a coloring book and color outside the lines. And always ask for your own crayons at restaurants that offer them to the kids.
7. Take a walk around the block and see how many things make you laugh.
8. Clean out one drawer in your house. You’ll get a sense of accomplishment and no matter what else went wrong today, you can at least feel slightly more organized!
9. Write a love letter to one of your kids to stick in his or her lunch. Turning your mind to the delightful things about your family instead of the crazy-making things can help you feel less overwhelmed.
10. Grab a jar of Play-Doh or some modeling clay and squish it through your fingers. Imagine you’re squeezing the stress right out of your day. It works for young children!
11. Start a “Best Things” journal. Every day, write down the best thing that happened to you all day. It doesn’t matter how big or small; the idea is to focus on the positive and let go of some of your negative energy.
12. Use a lip balm or stick scented with relaxing essential oils such as lavender, chamomile, and green tea. Or one that just makes you smile – try chocolate or bubble gum (you can find some at Chocolate-sensations.com or Adorebeauty.com)
13. Close your eyes and visualize yourself in a moment when you laughed so hard you couldn’t stop, like that time you walked down the hall with the toilet seat cover tucked in your pantyhose. You’ll probably get a good laugh again just thinking about the moment.
14. Teach your kids your favorite childhood game. It’s hard to stay focused on the problems of the day when you’re playing Red Rover or Twister™.
15. Sing in the shower. Singing is a great way to release tension and letting the water wash away your cares at the same time doubles the stress-managing impact. Besides with the water running your kids won’t be able to complain about your version of Girls Just Want to Have Fun!
16. On your next break at work, swap neck and shoulder massages with a co-worker. If you work at home, do it with a neighbor or one of the kids.
17. Talk in a softer voice. Don’t whisper because that will actually strain your vocal chords. But if you talk softly (no big stick needed), studies have found that you’ll actually feel calmer and less anxious. That’s one of the reasons we feel more peaceful when talking to a baby or a puppy – our tone of voice affects our heart rate and sense of well-being.
18. Keep a book of funny stories or jokes nearby so when the stress hits the fan, you can laugh it off. You might want to check out a book by Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck, Bill Cosby, or moi, or a book of cartoons such as The Far Side, Calvin & Hobbs, Stone Soup, etc. from the library to get started.
19. Repot a plant. There’s something grounding about putting your fingers in dirt. Ask your dog.
20. Write your five, ten, or fifty biggest worries on giant marshmallows and invite your friends to have a “snowball” fight.
21. Make it a family tradition to have each member of the family tell you a funny joke at dinner every night. Not only will everyone get a chance to lighten up, but by encouraging your kids’ senses of humor, you’ll be helping them develop good stress management skills for the future.
22. Hula hoop or jump rope. You’ll get a quick burst of exercise – which will help produce endorphins and make you feel better all over – and you’ll get in touch with your inner child too. You remember her, right?
23. Put today’s biggest stressor on a sheet of paper in big red letters. Then run the page through your shredder. As it gets ripped apart, imagine the stressor itself disappearing.
24. Update the photos you keep on your desk or on the fireplace mantel. Searching for just the right photos will bring back happy memories and the break will help slow down the hectic pace of your day.
25. Have some milk and cookies. If you can squeeze in another ten minute, have a nap too.
26. Get the whole family to play the board game, Don’t Make Me Laugh (available at Areyougame.com). I dare you not to forget your troubles while you play.
27. Go barefoot. Feeling the grass between your toes or even the fuzzy carpet tickling your arches will help take your mind off your troubles for a few minutes.
28. Have your teenager teach you the latest dance craze. Try to be a good student and not break up laughing halfway through the lesson.
29. Start a list of good excuses for saying “No” the next time you really want to. “I’m sorry, I’m having the ficus tree neutered.” “The voices in the head have been grounded.” “I’m trying to be LESS popular.”
30. Soak your feet in Mr. Bubble.
Trying to fit stress management into your day doesn’t have to stress you out. If you try some of these tips, you’ll be calmer and better able to cope with your life.
© 2007 Leigh Anne Jasheway. Used by permission. Go to her site here.
For more from author Leigh Anne Jasheway, click here.