A typical morning at my house begins like this:
• My daughter wakes me up at 5am and starts chattering nonstop like some sort of broken wind up doll.
• My dogs are whining and wanting their morning exercise.
• My husband rolls over and grumbles, reminding me that it’s never a good idea to bother a hibernating bear.
• I’m scrambling to get breakfast served before the impending toddler meltdown.
• Oh, and I haven’t made enough money this month, and my parents are coming over for dinner tonight, and the holidays are coming.
Thank goodness I don’t have a morning commute to deal with or I seriously think I’d lose it!
Modern life is incredibly stressful. All of our wonderful technological gadgetry is supposed to make life easier, but instead I am caught in some strange loop of checking my messages, texts, twitter feed, Facebook, email, and back again in a seemingly endless string of new responsibilities and ways I can now fail to respond to the people who rely on me.
It’s all a little bit much, don’t you think?
So I started to do some research on ways to reduce my stress, and I bet you can guess what I ran into: a whole bunch of advice about exercising more.
Sure, add that to the list of things I “should” be doing. ;-)
OK, to be honest, I have been exercising more regularly, and it does help. But I knew that exercise wasn’t the end of the story. And for some people, getting to the gym just isn’t happening.
So what? They’re supposed to run right out and get a prescription for anti-anxiety medication?
I don’t think so.
Here’s my first recommendation to reduce your stress:
1) Take a hot bath
Did I hear that correctly?
Yes, it’s true, a hot bath or some time in a hot tub can greatly reduce anxiety with virtually no negative side effects.
I have a hot tub and my husband and I do use it regularly, but after hearing about this study, I’ve been more likely to use it when I’m feeling stressed. It makes sense, I mean, when I was giving birth, relaxing in warm water was one of the things that helped me the most.
I will say that the money my husband and I spent on a used hot tub is hands down the most celebrated investment we have ever made. We sometimes regret having a big wedding because it was so expensive, but we have never regretted buying a hot tub. A hot bath every single day is probably not going to work for everyone, especially if you’re trying to keep your utility bill lower than your mortgage. So what else can we do to reduce our stress?
2) Go outside
Vitamin D kept showing up in my research. And since I do notice a seasonal increase in stress, I had to consider the possibility that I’m just not getting enough of it to keep my physiological stress levels in check. So, should I supplement with vitamin D? Well, sure, it won’t hurt; the recommended maximum daily allowance for an adult is 1000 UI. However, the best way to get a big dose of vitamin D is to spend about 10 minutes exposing your skin to natural daylight, if you’re light skinned, and about 20 minutes per day if you’re darker skinned.
Yes, the vitamin D we get from spending 10 minutes a day outside in the sunshine can provide some relief to our system if it’s deficient in the nutrient. However, there’s something else that this daily practice provides.
When I was in college I took a class called “Environmental Psychology” and we looked at bunches of studies that showed that spending time outdoors and in nature greatly reduces stress levels, lowers blood pressure, and does a whole lot of other good stuff for our bodies.
It makes sense to me, since we evolved spending MOST of our time outdoors and now we spend almost all of our time indoors. Since practicing this one, I’ve noticed how calming it is to observe birds foraging or to hear them singing. I’ve listened to the wind rustle through the trees and watched the clouds slowly amble by.
This one works for me even when I just step out onto my porch or go hang out in the back yard. If you’re in a city, you might have to find a community garden or park to serve your needs. But just being outdoors for 15 minutes a day will definitely reduce your stress and improve your life. Oh, and if you walk while outdoors, then you’re exercising too!
There’s one more thing that greatly reduces stress and has nothing to do with going to the gym.
Daily laughter can reduce your stress considerably, and it’s also a lot of fun! Whether you like to watch stand up comedians, late night talk shows, or make up silly songs with your kids, whatever makes you laugh fits the bill. And if you’re not laughing daily, it’s time to take the reins and make it happen.
Easier said than done, right? Wrong! Laughter is easy when you’re feeling good, but it’s also easy to do when you’re down. You simply have to decide to do it. OK, now you’re thinking I’ve lost it, but have you ever heard of laughter yoga? It’s the practice of laughing because you’ve decided to, not because there’s anything particularly funny happening. But here’s the thing, once you start, it’s easy to continue. Laughter really is contagious!
You can start by simply acting it out, “Ha, ha, ha” and pretty soon you’re laughing at how silly you sound. This practice is best done among others because laughter really does spread from person to person. So, if you’re not yet laughing for 15 minutes a day, you no longer have any excuses. Try this one out and you’ll soon be hooked.
So, that’s it! These are my three favorite ways to reduce stress in 15 minutes a day without exercising. I hope you liked them and I would love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below and let’s talk about what works and doesn’t work for you. Have a lovely day, Shelly
Featured photo credit: mid adult italian woman banging her head against a wall via Shutterstock