6 Simple Steps to Less Stress
Just breathe. Meditate. Yoga. Exercise. These are all pretty common ways to alleviate stress in our lives. However, the other day I was driving home from work and this idea hit me.
I just went back to work after 2 months of Summer break. As teachers, we have a week of pre-planning, so this past week I had to get back into the flow. Over the Summer I truly did not miss the constant stress I feel throughout the school year.
One of those school year stressors happens to be the commute to and from work. Now, luckily I don’t have it too bad as I go against traffic for the most part and only have a 20-30 minute drive. Could be worse, right? The drive to work is not so bad. The temperature isn’t unbearable, I’m awake (for the most part), and there aren’t as many cars with angry, tired people.
On the way home, however, is a whole other story. My black car has been sitting in the direct sunlight for 8+ hours and I leave work at rush hour (between 4:30-5PM), so driving is a bit uncomfortable. Everyone, including myself, is ready to get home. If those drivers feel anything like me they are on the verge of turning their steering wheels into a pillow. Due to this fact, I think it just turns everyone into the moodier and angrier version of themselves. Plus, everyone seems more distracted and worse at driving. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been cut off, almost side scrapped because somewhat swerved into my line, or had to slam on my brakes because people didn’t yield properly.
I’ll be honest. My worst emotion can sometimes be my anger. I rarely show my anger, but when I’m angry I’m almost ready to fight and get very defensive. I know, I know…it seems odd coming from little ole’ 5 foot, nothing Loretta. My road rage in the past used to be terrible (for me at least). I wouldn’t do anything too crazy, but I just let people impact my mood and became easily frustrated. So when I was driving home the other day I was listening to music you wouldn’t expect to listen to in the car and I was realizing how much it calmed me even with all the stress, frustration, and exhaustion. That’s when the idea hit me…
There’s so many simple steps we can take to remove little bits of stress in our lives that eventually overwhelm us.
Listen to peaceful music
I typically listen to rap/hip hop, trap music, or rock while driving. It wakes me up, kind of pumps me up, and it’s fun at times. However, a lot of songs in those genres can be very angry or hardcore. Last year I started listening to Christmas music in the car in October (don’t judge!) and I was shocked at how my mood changed. Like, seriously, how can you be angry while singing aloud, “simply having a wonderful Christmas time”?
After the holidays I transitioned to Pandora stations like Classical for Studying, Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack, Frank Sinatra, and even Calm Meditation. At the end of a long, tiring day these calm and peaceful tunes prevent me from overacting to something minor. Even in my classroom, when I don’t have students, I’m listening to one of those stations.
Give this a try. Notice your mindset change. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever listen to the fun and upbeat music. However, I save those for less stressful drives, my workouts, quick drives, or for home.
Nature sounds app
This goes along with listening to peaceful music, but more so for when you are going to bed. I used to be the person who liked to have the TV on (usually Family Guy or American Dad). I would set a timer and fall asleep in between watching TV. If you didn’t already know, it’s not a good idea to do that as it affects your sleeping. So if you are someone who likes to have background noise while you fall asleep, you should try a nature sounds app. I have the free app called Rain, Rain. There are plenty out there, but I really like this one because of the variety. You can mix three sounds like: thunder, rain on a window, and wind. There’s even non-nature sounds like: dryer, sink, clock ticking, and more.
Other than water, I primarily drink hot tea without any added sugar. After a long, stress filled day, it’s great to unwind with a hot cup of Chamomile tea. There are certain herbs and teas that are ideal for relaxing at the end of the day. There’s non-caffeinated green tea, peppermint tea, and blends of herbs for specific night time teas. For example, Celestial Seasonings makes a Sleepytime Herbal Tea that is caffeine free. You could even make a hot cup of tea part of your nightly routine. This would start to turn your mind and body into off mode; just make sure it’s caffeine free!
My favorite times of the day are around 6AM and 7-9PM. The air usually feels the thinnest and the world is calm at those points. When I take my dogs out, sometimes I’ll just spend a few extra minutes standing outside. I’ll admire the sky- the beautiful sunset or the bright stars. It’s very humbling to look up at the sky and realize how you are just one spec of this great, big world. Just realizing that helps me forget about my stress a bit. The things I am stressing about are minuscule when I look at the big picture.
Nature is just amazing, serene, and healing all on it’s own. If you are really stressed, I encourage you take a little weekend or day trip. Try going hiking, walk around at your local park, or go camping. Every Fall my sister and I go to Dahlonega, GA to stay in a cute little cabin in the mountains. Sometimes you just have to get away from the complexities of life and enjoy the simple things we take for granted like the trees, leaves, grass, and the sky.
Pet your pet(s)
When I was at West Georgia, they would sometimes bring dogs from the shelter right before finals. This was to help students de-stress during a stressful finals week. Petting animals has even been considered therapeutic. I love coming home to my pets and loving on them. There have been times that I was really heartbroken or crying and I knew my pets sensed it. They would calmly come over to me to cuddle or keep me company. I know I’m not the only one who has experienced that either. Animals are very intuitive.
If you don’t have any pets, you’re missing out! You could solve that by adopting an animal from your local shelter or rescue group. Don’t want the responsibility of pets? You could also volunteer at a shelter so that you can still interact with them.
Turn off the drama
Half the time I don’t know what’s going on in this world when it comes to the news. The only way I truly know about “hot topics” is because I see trending topics on social media or by word of mouth. I almost never watch the news anymore. The only time I involuntarily see the news is on the gym TVs. I know that might sound ignorant, but come on…we all know what’s happening in this world. We all know how the news stations love to report all the drama. Yes, people are dying, people are crazy, and there’s another mass bombing. Instead of focusing on all that bad stuff, just focus on making YOU a better person. Focus on helping others and this world to become a better place instead of watching it fall to shambles.
It’s also a good idea to stop following anyone who might be indirectly adding stress to your life. For example, if someone online keeps posting negative comments I’ll either delete them or hide their posts. I stopped following a lot of shallow, dramatic, self-absorbed celebrities because I noticed it was frustrating me. I used to watch shows like “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and “Teen Mom” religiously. Even though I’ll watch them once in a blue moon, I can’t watch it on a regular basis. I’d rather watch fitness or motivational YouTubers who promote a positive and healthy lifestyle.
Find ways to disconnect from those little things that stress you out or cause you to react in a certain way. Stress from the news or celebrities is totally unnecessary, so why not cut it out?
These are just 6 ways that help me when I’m stressed out and they may not work for everyone. However, if you are a highly stressed person, I encourage you to try these out. What’s there to lose? (besides stress of course!)
What do you do to alleviate stress? Comment below!
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