Mellow Without the Margarita — Four Simple Ways to Melt the Stress Away

By Annette Benedetti

Your boss just scheduled a must-attend meeting, your five-year-old threw up on your work shoes, and your sitter called in sick. It’s not quite 9 a.m. and your nerves are shot. You need a day off, or better yet a week long vacation filled with cocktails and back massages—but that kind of stress relief just isn’t in the budget.

The good news is you don’t have to travel or sing “Om” in a 100-degree yoga studio to find peace of mind. There are plenty of affordable and simple anxiety-relieving activities that can help you achieve meditative bliss from the comfort of your home or work cubicle.

Grab your markers and teapot and try one of these activities that is sure to melt the stress away.

Color Your Worries Away

Katie Brandow, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and founder of the School of Enrichment, says meditative activities decrease cortisol, a stress-causing hormone. “Cortisol not only stresses us out, it also causes health problems related to a high-stress life,” says Brandow. That’s why anxious adults will find solace in the widely popular adult coloring book, Stress Relieving Patterns by Blue Star.

Stress Relieving Patterns has over 30 designs for the artist as well as the artistically challenged. The book features pattern coloring pages and mandalas that take hours of concentrated time to complete, which is good, because studies show that coloring can lower cortisol levels in just 45 minutes.

You can achieve the stress-relieving effects of coloring with any pattern. In fact, Blue Star offers an array of coloring books with pattern themes like animals, flowers, fashion, and nature to name a few. Whatever your interest, there is a book to fit. So the next time you feel like you are on the brink of breaking down, grab your favorite coloring tool and take a time out.

Peruse Blue Star’s books at bluestarcoloring.com.

App Out!

If you have a smart phone, you have instant access to a meditative state. People all over the world are plugging in and letting go with apps like Head Space, Calm, and Relax Lite. This form of stress relief is affordable, portable, and can be done almost anywhere.

Head Space is arguably the most popular meditation app today. It offers users a 10-day beginner course that teaches meditation and mindfulness basics. Similarly, Calm provides users with a seven-day program with 10-minute guided meditations. You can also choose guided options designed to help you achieve a specific goal like overcoming insomnia. Relax Lite offers meditations and the option to practice breathing exercises that reduce stress in just five minutes.

Though all of the apps are slightly different, they help users reduce stress the same way: by staying in the moment. “The mind tends to go into the past and into the future where things are stressful,” explains Brandow. “Anything that tells our body that we are here and this is now, reduces anxiety.”

All of the apps can be found in the Google play store. Free versions are available, and you can upgrade for additional meditations and special features.

Create a Gratitude Journal
Much like coloring, writing can relieve stress. Brandow says making a gratitude list or keeping a gratitude journal can make a difference. “Try writing down something you are grateful for every day,” suggests Brandow. “It doesn’t have to be something big, it can be as simple as, ‘My sheets are soft.’”

This writing exercise keeps your focus on the positive and reminds you of the good things in your life during the most difficult moments. A gratitude list can be carried with you throughout the day or done at specific times. “Some people start by listing five things they are grateful for every night before they lay down and begin their day with five things every morning,” says Brandow.

Schedule Tea Time

That morning cup of coffee may have your shoulders working their way up to your ears, so maybe it’s time to cut back on the coffee time and schedule an afternoon tea. Studies show that drinking black tea reduces cortisol, that pesky hormone that has your nerves slowly fraying.

Parents are notorious for putting their needs last, so make sure to add honey, sugar, cream—whatever makes the tea perfect for you. Find a quiet place at home or work, wrap up in your favorite cozy blanket or light a calming scented candle and sip away.

Parenting can be challenging, sometimes it even pushes you to your limits. Remember, peace of mind doesn’t require going broke or committing all of your free time to contorting yourself into impossible shapes. That much-needed mental break is only a crayon or way.

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