In times of economic downturn it’s good to know that some of the most effective ways to manage your stress cost nothing at all. Here are seven of them:
Take a relaxation break.
If you are overwhelmed with too much to do or when you get upset about people or things you cannot control, give yourself some time to calm down and get a fresh perspective. This might be as simple as taking a few deep breaths or going for a brief walk. You will return better able to handle whatever challenges you face.
Exercise such as jogging or riding a bicycle helps you to relax and produces endorphins, those chemicals in your body that produce a natural high. The repetitive motion of such activities creates a meditative state that enhances creativity.
You can get extra energy during the day from simple stretches such as side bends or reaching high above your head and then bending over to touch your toes. You don’t even have to get up from your seat to turn your head slowly to the left and the right, holding the stretch for a minute or two. You can clench your fist and then expand your fingers as far as they will go to relieve the stress of keyboarding.
Spend time with people you enjoy
Whether on the phone, over the Internet or in person, interact with people you care about and who care about you. You stay connected when you share your joys and triumphs, your disappointments and sorrows. The support you give and receive helps you recognize how much you matter to others.
Release negative and self-critical thinking
There are many things, such as the economy, over which you have no control. You can, however, control your thinking. Negative and self-critical thoughts create stress (and distress). Reducing or eliminating these thoughts will help you to manage your stress.
First become aware of negative thoughts when they arise. Gently challenge your negative or self-critical thoughts. Point out truths that contradict the undermining things you say to yourself. For example, when you hear yourself saying that you never do anything right or you always do everything wrong, point out contradictory examples to debunk these unfair judgments.
Engage in affectionate physical contact
Hug your friends and family. Find someone with whom you can exchange a neck and shoulder massage. Love your spouse. If you’re not married, love your lover. Pet your dog or cat. Everyone needs to be rubbed. Create opportunities to give and receive physical affection.
Spend time in nature
We evolved over millennia in intimate connection with the Earth and the other creatures with whom we share this incredible planet. The more time you spend in front of the TV or a computer screen, or walking on concrete sidewalks along city streets or speeding along highways, the more cut off you become from the nourishing effects of connecting with nature.
Spend time in the woods or by a lake or stream or on a beach to create a sense of calm. Slow down to notice the beauty that is all around – birds singing, the sparkle of the sun reflected in water, the unexpected treasure of a mushroom or wildflower peeking out from dead leaves, the grandeur of a tree. Even if you live in the middle of a big city, you can find grass, trees and open sky in a park not too far away.
Do something kind for someone else
Research shows that acts of kindness provide more lasting satisfaction for the giver than engaging in enjoyable activities (which might cost a great deal more). Be open to opportunities to say or do kind things for the people around you – both those you know and even perfect strangers. Notice how good it feels when someone extends an unexpected courtesy to you. Discover the pleasure of doing the same for those around you.
Please note: none of these activities costs you a penny. No matter how financially challenged you may be, you can do any of these things to manage your stress and make your good life better.