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Stress is not always a bad thing. Feeling a little stressed when working on a deadline or making a particularly complicated recipe can actually be motivational. The stress associated with danger and a fight-or-flight response can be very helpful. But unhealthy stress, the type that affects your physical and emotional health and well-being, can be dangerous especially when it continues for a long time.
Knowing that intense or long-term stress can cause physical and emotional illness, it is crucial to take action to relieve your stress as soon as possible. But what if you cannot leave the house to go to the gym, take a long walk or a relaxing lunch with your best friend? These stress-relieving activities are all done at home and most can be done alone.
Get off the couch and do a quick exercise or two; push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks and running in place are all good physical movements that do not take much time, get your heart rate going and enhance your body’s natural mood lifters. Sedentary activities, such as playing video games, might actually increase your stress level. Check out information from Fombag for further details on the relationship between video games and stress.
- Tactile Activities
Tactile is our sensory system associated with touch. A good way to transfer your mind’s focus from inside to the outside of your body is to touch and manipulate something you have laying around the house such as popping bubble wrap, gathering and counting your loose change or mold some clay with the kids.
But touch is not our only sense that can help with stress relief. Try activating all 5 senses at once – what can I see? smell? taste? touch? hear? This exercise will quickly calm your stressful mind.
If you are not able to go out for a massage and there is no one around to massage your stress-filled muscles, use some self-massage techniques to get the same reduction in anxiety and depression right in your own home. Many body parts lend themselves to self-massage literally ranging from head to foot. Neck, shoulders, jaw and hands are particularly good spots for stress reduction.
Examples of effective self-massage include rolling a tennis ball up and down a wall with your lower back or applying gentle pressure to your temple in circular motions.
- Solve a Problem
If your stress is more mental or emotional, find a problem and solve it. Word and math puzzles are perfect tools as your mind’s focus is redirected to solving the puzzle and, when you come out the other end, your stress level has lowered. Sudoku, Kakuro and crossword puzzles are good examples and all are accessible on the internet if you do not have a book handy.
Some routine household tasks are also good problems to solve such as organizing your kitchen cabinets or your craft projects. Rearranging your living room would certainly help with physical stress.
If dancing is a comfortable activity for you, put on your favorite music and just let go. It’s not just the physical exercise that makes dancing beneficial but also the mind-engaging creativity that it evokes. This combination will make you feel good both physically and mentally.
A great approach to dancing alone is to choose music associated with a happy time in your life that will trigger positive memories such as a dance recital or a fun night out at the club with your friends.
Step into a hot bath and feel your stress melt away. Your whole body instantly relaxes including your mind. Add some bubbles, a candle with your favorite scent or calming music for an enhanced experience.
If knitting is in your comfort zone, this repetitive activity can be calming and focusing, taking your mind off your stress and anxiety. And the end result is a beautiful, handmade scarf or sweater. Your friends and family will appreciate your efforts.
Crocheting is a similar craft that could have the same stress-reduction effects. Crocheting uses one crochet hook whereas knitting typically uses two knitting needles. Which is easier? That depends on your craft goals and your personal preference.
Another stress-reducer that your friends and family will appreciate is baking. Focusing on the recipe redirects your mind from the stressful situation to make a delicious and beautiful creation. And the sensory stimulation a baked good produces – smell, taste, sight – ensures that stress keeps at a distance.
Baking does not always have to be sweet though. Consider making a healthy pizza with homemade dough and lots of veggies as toppings. Or a loaf of bread that will smell so good cooking that your neighbors will be knocking on your door!
- Stretch and Yoga
Stretching is one of nature’s best stress relievers. You don’t need to be strong or flexible nor do you need any special equipment. If you are able to incorporate some Yoga moves into your routine, even better.
A few effective stretches for stress include:
- Stretch your upper back by clasping your hands in front of you and pushing forward
- Stretch your neck by dropping your chin to your chest and gently push your head down
- Stretch your legs by laying on the floor, living your leg then gently pull it in toward you
Meditation is a proven and effective stress-relieving technique. There are many levels of meditation but the easiest and most often practiced involves conscious breathing. Just two minutes of deep breathing, both in and out, can produce a calming effect for your entire body.
Focused breathing has the ability to halt anxiety as it is happening. Using constructive self-talk as you breathe in “breathe in calm” and as you breathe out “breathe out stress” ensures that your mind is focused away from the anxiety-causing event.
Other ways to practice meditation on your own and in your own home include focusing and becoming aware of your body parts, repeating a mantra meaningful to you or walk around your property focusing on your feet and legs while repeating action words in your mind.
Sex, either by yourself or with a non-stressful partner, is a proven stress reducer for both the physical and emotional experience it provides. Sex resulting in orgasm produces some of the chemicals that are responsible for happiness and lowers or eliminates stress and anxiety. Sharing physical closeness with another person provides a strong emotional boost that will overshadow stress and anxiety.
Giving your house a good cleaning brings stress relief from many sources:
- Develop a plan and, in doing so, redirect your mind from the stress or anxiety
- Put all your physical energy into it – you will get the same calming effect that exercise provides
- Own your sense of accomplishment when it is all done
Some household chores are better for physical stress relief, such as vacuuming and washing windows, while others provide better focus and mental relief such as reorganizing your linen closet or labeling your spices. Choose what is best for you on any given day.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a stress and anxiety reduction technique that involves alternately tensing then relaxing all the muscles in your body. It is progressive in that you start with the muscles in either your feet or your head and slowly work your way to the other end of your body. Typical tensing time for each muscle group is 15 seconds while the relaxation time is 30 seconds.
Doodling is something we all did as children. Now it has become very popular adults who want to be artistic and creative without the stress and years of training required to be an artist. Adult coloring books are a great stress reliever as you can get lost in one picture for hours and leave the stressful world behind for that time.
A form of organized doodling that was introduced to the world in 2003 is called the Zentangle Method. It is simple and fun and a great stress reliever. By drawing one or more predetermined “tangles” you create a beautiful piece of abstract art. You not only get the benefit of being focused on something fun but the satisfaction of producing your own art.
Life is full of stories – books to read or listen to, podcasts, movies, television series. Getting lost in someone else’s story is a great way to leave behind the stress and anxiety you are experiencing.
Reading a book might be challenging when you are highly stressed but listening to an audiobook allows you to just relax and let the story come to you. There are several apps online through which you can purchase and listen to audiobooks, all from the comfort of your own home.
These are just a few ideas for stress and anxiety relief while not leaving your home. In this time when you may have a high level of unease and uncertainty in your life, having these options in place is crucial for your physical and mental fitness. Research a few that might interest you and be ready the next time stress puts a damper on your day.