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How to Destress When Everything Feels Stressful

I think it’s safe to assume most, if not all, of us are currently experiencing higher levels of stress than we may previously have been used to. We are living through “unprecedented” times, as I’ve heard people repeat time and time again. But what are we doing to account for these times? From my perspective, we’ve been expected to adapt to working from home, potentially home school our children, isolate from friends and family, and continue working at the exact same efficiency rate as before. This, I believe, is a very unrealistic expectation to have set. To maintain our basic level of functioning takes more energy right now than it did in the past. 2020 has been exhausting and instead of slowing down to account for the added stressors, it seems everyone has done their best to speed up. I urge you to find ways throughout your day to implement a pause. Slow down. Take a breather. Check in with yourself and acknowledge the reality of the world we’re currently living in. Below I’m going to highlight some ways we, as adults, can set aside time for ourselves to engage in soothing activities. These activities are meant to slow our heart rate, calm our minds, and deepen our breath. They can be used throughout the day to refocus our minds or our mindsets, or at night to help us fall into a peaceful and restorative sleep. Be kind to yourselves. Life is tough right now.

Go on a walk. Not a walk that we’d consider a form of exercise such as a speed walk. Go for a short or long, slow paced walk outside. Be mindful to your surroundings taking in the sights, smells, and sounds around you. 

Color. There was a brief moment when adult coloring books became a trend. While fads quickly pass this is one that should stay. Coloring is not just for children. Making the space to sit down, focus on being creative and making something brings a special time of zen and potentially a meditative state.

Garden. Now many of you may have laughed at this as Chicago is full of high-rise buildings with limited outdoor space. However, it’s still possible to “garden” inside your home. Experiment with different types of plants of seeds. Spend time looking up options that will flourish within whatever environment you’re working with. Taking care of another living thing, specifically plants, is a great way to reconnect with the earth and nature around us. Connecting with nature is a very grounding experience that helps to bring us out of our minds and into the present.

Move. While long, high intensity workouts may actually be counterproductive to reducing stress levels, short quick bursts of movement can be incredibly beneficial. Longer more intense workouts, such as running or spin, can cause our cortisol levels to spike increasing our anxiety. However, everyone is different so it’s important to check in with yourself before and after a workout to see how you feel. If missing your spin class, or peloton in your apartment, causes you more stress then please continue to do what’s best for you. Regardless, quick bursts of movement when anxious such as, jumping jacks, crunches, jumping rope, or dancing can be very effective in decreasing anxiety.

Scalp Massage. Now this one may sound weird, but, studies have shown that massaging our scalps have a significant impact on our heart rate and cortisol levels in a positive way. So, the next time you’re feeling anxious, sit back, relax, and give yourself a scalp massage. Even if it doesn’t help your stress levels it certainly feels really good.

If you’ve found yourself struggling with chronic stress or the ability to relax, it may be useful to try counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!

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