When someone says "How are you?", how often do you reply "I am SO tired", or "I'm SO busy" or "I'm totally stressed out"?
Here are my favorite ways for diffusing stress. They're simple ideas. You don't have to buy anything. You don't have to exert much effort. You don't even have to leave your house (okay, for one of them you do).
Turn off. Choose a time in the evening when you're going to turn off all electronic devices. Yes, everything with an illuminated screen. This means your cell phone, iPad, laptop and television. If you have a partner you live with, maybe you can inspire them to do the same. It doesn't matter what time you decide to power down - 4:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. - as long as you pick a time and stick to it.
List it. Clear out all the thoughts and concerns that are jamming up your mind as you are trying to unwind at the end of the day. Write out a list of all the phone calls, emails, appointments and various errands you need to do the next day. Write it all down, reassure yourself that tomorrow you will try to get as many of these things done as possible, leave it on the kitchen table, recognize that there's nothing you can do about any of these things until tomorrow. Then forget about them. Now relax. Unwind.
Notice your thoughts. "Energy flows where attention goes", says Michael Beckwith. When you let your attention get tangled up with negative thoughts and ideas, your energy becomes negative. If you can divert your mind to positive thoughts, your energy becomes positive. Yes, that can be difficult sometimes. But it can also be surprisingly simple. Try it.
Play. Remember the goofy kind of fun you used to have as a kid? How often do you feel that way now, as an adult? Do something silly, like memorize song lyrics of a song you have always loved or had fun singing. You can do this by looking the lyrics up on the internet or listening to the song a few times and writing the lyrics down. Her name was Lola / She was a showgirl / with yellow feathers in her hair ...
Sing. Listen to music - your favorite music, or try something new - and do an activity that doesn't require any thinking; organize your junk drawer, clip your toenails and fingernails, wash dishes, match your socks - and sing along with the music. Go on, no one is listening. And even if they are, who cares?
Podcasts. One of my favorite ways to de-stress is to open my laptop, get out my beading kit and make earrings and necklaces and listen to podcasts (all excellent recommendations by my daughter): This American Life, Quirks & Quarks, Writers and Company, Democracy Now.
Write a letter. A real letter. A card. A postcard. The kind of message you write with a pen, on paper. The kind you have to remember someone's address for. The kind you have to buy a stamp for! Imagine how happy and surprised your friend will be to get good, old-fashioned snailmail.
Open the window. Pull up a chair and maybe a cup of tea, breathe in the air and do some cloud-gazing and daydreaming. Feel your heart rate drop?
Let the sun shine in. Sit in the sun. On your deck, in your back yard, at your window. There's a reason why cats find sunny spots to lie in.
Nap. Speaking of cat naps, why don't you try one?
Think about someone else's problems. It's hard to get stressed out about your own problems when you put them in a global context; when you can help someone else and make a difference in their lives, it helps you forget about your own problems. Consider volunteering your time or donating your money. Sometimes an amount of money you consider to be small can be a huge help to someone else. I love kiva.org. It's an organization that offers microloans to people in developing countries around the world. Kiva works with microfinance institutions on five continents to provide loans to people without access to traditional banking systems. One hundred percent of the loan you give is sent to the microfinance institutions, who administer the loans in the field. You can lend as little as $25. For someone who is applying for a $200 loan to get a new sewing machine for her business, or a $150 loan to repair her delivery motorcycle, that's a big help. The Kiva web site has descriptions & pictures of the people who are applying for the loans. Kiva
Yoga at home. You knew I was going to say "yoga", didn't you? Because everyone knows it's good for you. You keep telling yourself you're going to look into it and you never seem to get around to signing up for a class, or maybe you used to go but now then you got too busy. Well what about buying a yoga DVD or getting one from the library and doing yoga at home? Youtube.com also has great yoga videos you can follow along with. That way no one will watch you as you grunt and groan as you try to touch your toes. Maybe once you get comfortable with it, you could try a class. Or not.
Indoor running. Run in place for 5 minutes (You're going to need to watch the clock because guaranteed, you'll think you're done at 30 seconds). Then do 5 jumping jacks. Now, what were you stressed about?
Walk or Bike. Do you need a reason? Okay, give yourself a mission. A small errand to run to get you to the other side of town. Buy a cup of tea or a fancy coffee. Mail that letter you just wrote to your friend. Check out the fleet of sailboats that just came in to the harbour. But remember: the walk or the bike ride is really the reason you are heading out - to get you breathing deeper, moving your arms and legs, clearing your mind. Do NOT bring a cell phone. Do NOT carry a purse or heavy bag. Let your arms swing in time with the movement of your legs walking. Let your body move naturally as you pedal your bike. Let your mind sail along.