I just can’t make the connection between self-care and stress relief. The last thing I want to do when I’m stressed is put on a sheet mask and take a bath, or put on my pajamas and drink tea. Self-care is supposed to be relaxing but trying to relax when I’m anxious or stressed just puts me in a worse mood. I’m the kind of person that has to do something. Maybe it’s a part of my personality but I need to keep busy or I’ll have a meltdown. Here are my never-fail ways to relieve stress.
My De-Stress Toolkit
- Read a book. Bet you’ve seen this on every list for coping with anxiety/stress. But it works. As a child I had an overactive imagination and I was always up in the ethers. I would daydream whenever I felt unstimulated. Before I even knew the term for it, escapism has been my way of dealing with situational anxiety. I always carried a book with me. I have trouble calming down; I can’t just downshift from being in an anxious state, but reading gives me something to do that just transfers my worrying energy to something that keeps my mind busy.
- Watch a film. Like reading a book, watching a film is another way to take your mind off whatever is stressing you tf out.
- Kundalini. Kundalini has quickly become my favorite way to break any negative thought patterns I feel stuck in. Mentally chanting mantras redirects your subconscious thoughts. Kundalini is a daily practice for me now, so it’s not really a ‘for emergencies only’ thing, but if you need to calm down immediately, try chanting mantras.
- Journal. Sometimes my stress stems from feeling like I’m wasting my time. To combat this, I want to do something productive. If I don’t have to clean, do dishes or laundry, I’ll sit down and make a to-do list for tomorrow so I can start a new day on a high note with purpose.
- Take a walk. Ideally, we all should be walking 5 miles a day according to Yogi Bhajan. I noticed the days I feel crappy yet restless are days I’ve been physically inactive. If I don’t get my blood flowing and I don’t go outside and get sun on my skin, I feel the difference. Get some fresh air, go on a walk. Even better, run.
- Exercise/yoga. Something about stretching feels so good. You think you don’t want to do it a few seconds in but after you exhale all the pent-up tension, you’re relieved. Breaking a sweat is the same. Sometimes all it takes is me unrolling my yoga mat, stretching a little, then laying on it to feel better.
- Cook. In the past, I used to use having a bad day as an excuse to order Postmates and call it a day. Treat yourself, am I right ladies? But I noticed I feel so much better when I get off the couch and make something for myself. The act of cooking just makes me feel different. I feel purposeful and back in touch with reality. Depending on the severity of my mood, I’ll find a recipe and go get the ingredients at the grocery store. And I’ll usually pick up some chocolate for my boyfriend.
- Housework. My mom always said, when it rains, it pours. I took it as, when one area of your life goes to shit, it all goes to shit. When I’m at my lowest, everything around me is in chaos, too. The dishes pile up in the sink, the laundry is a small mountain at the corner of my room, my desk is part dinner table, part vanity, part bookshelf. I believe your space is reflective of you. Another platitude I’ve grown to accept as truth: cleanliness is next to godliness. It may seem like a daunting task and counterintuitive to the advice to give yourself a break when you feel shitty, but I deeply enjoy cleaning when I feel a type of way. It’s my most productive anti-stress activity.
- Organize. I get the urge to rip up everything and throw things away when I’m upset. It’s a destructive-constructive tendency. Cleaning my closet or organizing my medicine cabinet is tremendously uplifting for me. But then again I’ve been diagnosed as OCD.
- Listen to music. And dance in your underwear. Usually this is what I end up doing when I try to clean.
- Sage your space. Then burn incense. I live for the feeling of newness. Burning sage followed by incense transforms my environment and makes it feel more like home. If you don’t like sage, you can burn candles. My favorite is Le Labo Santal 26.
What I carry with me/in my bag when I travel:
- Essential oils. I carry rollerballs with me in case I get anxious while I’m out and about. I can’t live without lavender and peppermint essential oils.
- Crystals. Lepidolite and lithium quartz for anxiety. Black tourmaline for grounding.
- Mint gum. I read somewhere that chewing gum reduces anxiety because your brain reasons that you can’t be in danger if you’re eating.
- Airpods. When I feel unsettled I like to listen to Guru Jagat’s lectures.
- Origami paper. Folding little frogs calms me down.
- Hard candies. Sometimes I confuse a blood sugar drop for a panic attack. I need sugar to get my head straight. Usually after having something sweet I feel much better.
- Cielo pill holder. I have a tiny pill holder attached to my keys with a single xanax in it. I never leave the house without it, even though I’ve never had to take it (except on the plane). I know it’s a crutch but I feel safe knowing I have it, just in case. One day I’ll be strong enough to forgo it.
- Fidget Cube. My boyfriend gave me a fidget cube for Christmas one year since I had an awful habit of pinching my skin whenever I felt anxious. Having something to occupy my hands really helps. I used to mess with it on the subway if I were trapped in a crowded car or delayed.
None of the above is going to be completely transformative. It’s important to remember that we can only push the needle a little at a time. The direction it goes is up to us. You can either choose to feel a little better or a little worse. I like to remind myself that I have a list of things I can do to make myself feel slightly better right now.