A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated my birthday. It’s been a transformative time for me, though it’s been a fairly difficult year for me. After feeling the constant pressure – internal and external – and the need to always be doing something greater, I decided to prioritize my health. Stress can mess you up in ways you could never imagine, as it did for me. Having gone through the many ups and downs of this year, I know that managing stress is going to be a lifelong thing for me, as it has to be for anyone. So far, I’ve realized that a few things really serve to keep me calm, and I believe these tips would work for anyone.
1. Go for walks outside.
Winter’s coming, so this one might get harder with time. Having said that, nothing beats a walk outside, in daylight. Something about the fresh air, the sun, and generally being in nature really relaxes me, as it does for most people. It’s the best thing to do when you feel like you need a break, or even when you don’t feel like you need one. Bonus points for doing this in the morning, as it wakes you up naturally and helps you fall asleep at night!
2. Exercise, eat, and drink well.
I’ve unfortunately given up weight training. I really liked it for a while, and it started to give me results really quickly… but it was stressing me out (physically). Weight training raises cortisol levels, and if you’re not equipped for that, or you’re taking on too much weight (which I was), it’s detrimental to your health. I started weight training as a way to get over other stressors, but ultimately, yoga would have served me better. Now, my tools to exercise and to chill out are to do yoga every day, and to either go for a walk, run, or jog, or do something like biking.
I’ve always eaten what ever I want. But recently, I’ve realized that my eating habits have needed to change. In addition to drinking 2-3L of water every day, I’ve mostly given up coffee (minus the occasional cup), and am completely gluten-free and almost completely dairy-free. I also find myself in the middle of a cleanse, so I’m not eating foods that are difficult to digest. Cutting out processed foods and cutting down on sugar has helped me feel a lot better, and I fall asleep more easily. Because my body isn’t constantly fighting against the unnaturally processed foods, nor is it dealing with unnatural stimulants, it can work on making me feel better.
3. Have a sleep routine.
Sleep. Struggle. I’ve always had sleeping issues, at least when I’m troubled or when I haven’t wound down properly. I had full-blown insomnia as a teen and every now and then, I don’t sleep at all. However, when I sleep at the same time every night (usually before 11:30pm), wake up at the same time, and wind down with tea and something relaxing before bed, I sleep well. It also helps to avoid watching stressful movies, shows, or having difficult conversations before bed. I find that it takes me a couple of hours to really get my brain ready for bed, unless I’ve really exhausted myself! I’m also a fan of doing some stretches before I sleep, especially on nights where my brain won’t shut off.
4. Immersion in hobbies.
I’m all for painting, writing, and reading as calming hobbies. What ever your hobby happens to be, it helps to completely immerse yourself in it and to forget about everything (and everyone) else. Sometimes, those hobbies turn into projects, which can also turn into something greater. Personally, I love accomplishing things (there’s that Type A personality creeping through), but when I’m doing something fun, I prioritize the “fun” and I let myself get lost in it.
5. Spend time with people you care about… and cut out people you don’t need.
As harsh as it sounds, some people aren’t worth your energy. People who don’t seem to be genuinely supportive, or seem to revel in your misery, are exactly the people you should completely cut out of your life. I’m a firm believer in energy, and I’ve always gotten “good” or “bad” feelings from people by simply being around them. I’ve previously acted against this intuition, but I’ve decided to start listening to my intuition again. I’m especially in favour of cutting out people who talk poorly about their “friends”, because I know they’d be doing the same to me.
On the flipside, spend more time with loved ones and people you genuinely enjoy being around. I’m social and have always been affected by how good (or not good) my “support” system is. I find that at the root of all happiness and success is great relationships. Without positive people, and positive bonds, life gets a lot harder. When we do get to connect with people, and get to be around people we love and who love us, our “feel good” emotions overpower any negative thoughts we may have. This all leads to gratitude, which is key to staying relaxed and happy.
In the end, we all lead busy lives. But eventually, it all catches up to us. I used to be the kind of person who never wanted to stop. I could barely handle being home for more than an hour at a time. Now, I find it a lot easier to relax, and genuinely look forward to the little things that help me wind down!