Being a medical student, and also living abroad, it’s very common for me to experience times of stress and anxiety. With lectures to study, exams to prepare for as well as keeping up with the daily chores and living in a place that isn’t originally my home (but don’t get me wrong, I love living here) there can be times when I feel overwhelmed and just in need of a break from it all. If you’re like me, it’s common to get stuck in the YouTube surfing rut so I’ve created a list of things that I enjoy doing that keep me away from electronics to reach a sense of peace that much faster.
This list isn’t catered towards any specific type of individual. If you’re experiencing stress or plain no-fun feelings refer to this list like I do when I’m so stressed out I can’t even begin to think of what will help me calm down.
1. Clean and cleanse your space
Something that leads to high anxiety for me is cluttered space, whether it’s my room, my desk, my car, anything. So when I’m feeling anxious I drop everything and start by cleaning up the physical clutter to give my mind a chance to organize things into small doable piles. I go through each area one by one and start by removing any trash, picking up and putting items back into their place and then sanitizing and cleansing the space so that it smells fresh and feels good when I approach it.
The herb sage has been said to contain properties that cleanse a space of the energy when it is burned and allowed to smoke in an area. Once I’ve cleaned the entire house or even just a specific room, I’ll burn a smudge stick like this one and allow it to pass through the room. Obviously I’m not sure of what exactly happens to make the air in the room feel lighter and brighter, but I can definitely tell a difference once the smoke has settled I can actually feel the energy in the room has lifted which as a result helps to dull my level of anxiety.
If you don’t like smoke there are products like this one that have used the essential oil of sage and bottled it into a cleansing spray. Just like febreeze you spritz this in the air and get the same energy cleansing feeling as before. My friend uses this product regularly and we both enjoy both the smell and the feeling in the room after using it.
2. Do a yoga sequence that’s designed to decrease anxiety
Exercise in general is known to help decrease anxiety by producing endorphins that are released into the body that trigger the release of other neurotransmitters like dopamine, the feel good neurotransmitter. Yoga sequences involve slow movements that stretch the muscles in the body and have you focus on calming your breathe, actions that as a result lower heart rate and decrease feelings of anxiety. Studies like this show that yoga can help reduce psychosomatic ailments to the body such as cancer, asthma, colitis, blood pressure, ulcers and more. I personally love to follow along to YouTube videos like Yoga with Adrienne because it feels nice to be around a familiar voice and still be alone.
3. Go for a walk without distractions
Like it was described above, your body responds positively to physical exercise. By combining exercise with being outdoors as well as (and most importantly!) removing distractions like cell phones or even background music, your mind has the opportunity to focus on what’s in front of you.
Commit to taking a short walk maybe around the block of your neighborhood or on a favorite trail in a park. While doing so, focus on all of your senses. What exactly are you seeing, the colors, textures and magnitude of whats around you. What sounds are you hearing, are they people, animals, cars, the sound of your footsteps? What smells are arising? What does the air feel like, is it cool and crisp or warm, is there a nice breeze?
Focusing just on your senses will again give your mind something easy and tangible to pay attention to, giving your body the time it needs to come down from the anxious high and ground yourself.
4. Spend time working on a puzzle
Puzzles are one of my absolute favorite ways to distract my mind from what’s worrying me. It gives me something tangible to spend my brain power on that doesn’t cause any worry. There are a few physical puzzles that I enjoy playing with for the feeling of moving the pieces around, but if I’m on the go I also like to have some puzzle apps on my phone that I can open whenever I’m in need of a mini break from the work.Puzzles like this are great if you are home and have the time to spend putting together a physical puzzle. What I also love about these is that when you are finished you can frame them to hang a beautiful piece of artwork as well as a trophy to pat yourself on the back with upon completion.
Apps like Unblock Me are perfect to keep on your phone for on the go stress relief. This app is free with some in-app purchases that is just a simple puzzle game of freeing a red block piece.
5. Coloring books for adults
Something that I don’t do as often as I’d like to, but is very popular among my friends, is to spend time with coloring books for adults. They’re perfect for people who maybe love to draw or color but don’t have the ability to draw free hand. There are some really funny ones out there as well for people who have a good sense of humor. I’ve listed the ones my friends use often below:Coffee Lovers I'm Sick of This Shit Punch Anxiety in the Face Pigment for iPad
6. Spend time with animals
I have been blessed to be able to take in two dogs since moving to the Caribbean for school. While I provide them food and shelter, they provide me with furry cuddles and personality you can’t find with other people. My dogs, Dexter and Jackson, are great for cuddling on stressful days or even to play a simple game of fetch or tug-o-war when you need a break from the chaos of human life. Spend time with your favorite animals playing games and let them remind you of the simple parts of life that are so joyful.
This activity works best for me when I find myself getting stressed out with silly drama or even if my school workload is very high. I’ll free write about anything and everything that’s worrying me, and I’ll keep writing until I’ve gotten to a point where I feel better.
You can challenge yourself by setting a timer for 2 or 5 minutes and writing that entire time until the time is up. Write about your day like a diary setting, write a short story, even write a letter to someone you love. There are a number of different ways you can spend time writing in a journal that helps with your anxiety.
Once I’ve gotten myself calmed down I will also spend time writing out for myself all of the tasks I need to get done in a rough to do list. Then, I’ll spend time roughly scheduling out the next block of time in which I need to get tasks done, organizing my tasks in this way is another great way to help decrease anxiety as well as keep yourself on track if you are in a time crunch.
8. Drink your favorite tea
Certain herbs that can be consumed in tea form have properties that are known to help decrease anxiety. My friends and I enjoy investing in cute tea cups and tools that we can enjoy together while watching a movie or playing with a puzzle. The most common tea people use to help decrease anxiety is chamomile, but a personal favorite that I drink once a day is the Tulsi tea. It’s caffeine free and helps decrease anxiety. I enjoy drinking it alone but you can always pour a little splash of almond milk and sugar to give the taste a boost.
9. Develop your favorite hobby or passion
Is there a side project you enjoy working on that you haven’t been able to spend time with lately? Maybe you enjoy collecting items or crafting things. Allow yourself a few hours to play around with your hobby. It’s another healthy way to get your mind off of what’s stressing you out as well as developing something that brings you joy.
10. Talk with a good friend
Schedule some time with a dear friend to go out for a meal or hang out together at home. You can do some of the activities listed here in this post or just vent to each other about what’s bothering you. Having someone to listen to helps tremendously to decrease stress because it gives you the chance to vocalize what’s concerning you, realize that possibly some of the things that brought you worry were made to be a bigger problem in your head than in reality, as well as have the opportunity to gain advice from your trusted friend.
So pop over to your favorite restaraunt, coffee shop, or hangout spot and gab the rest of the day away. You could be surprised at how much taking the time away from the things that bring you stress will help improve your productivity than if you were to try to power through it.
11. Book a massage
Massages are said to be a luxurious way to spend time when in reality human touch is a basic necessity. When your body is massaged toxins are released, muscles loosen their tension and the mind is gifted the opportunity to drift.
Tackling your to-do list after a healthy hour long massage is that much easier.
Aromatherapy is a fantastic way to boost the scent of your room or home and also physiologically help your body relax. I discuss the science behind some of the more commonly known essential oils in this blog post: What’s the Deal with Essential Oils? Explained by a Medical Student.
Aromatherapy is the act of smelling essential oils or fragrances that help to induce a relaxed state or mood. Three of the most common essential oils used to decrease anxiety are lavender, bergamot and citrus scents. You can purchase the essential oils for each of these alone, or combine them with a diffuser which converts the liquid oils into a spray that fills the entire room. The benefits to diffusing oils is that you can combine different oils to create unique scents. I’ve created a free list of diffuser blends using the ArtNaturals essential oil starter kit. Click on the image to pin it for later.
13. Read a book or listen to an audiobook
Like doing puzzles, reading books give the mind a task that is easy to focus on and is also a healthy distraction from what is currently stressing you out. When I wasn’t in school I would enjoy reading fictional novels like The Time Traveler's Wife.
Now, it’s much easier for me to multitask and listen to an audiobook while cleaning or going for a walk or run. Normally when I’m feeling stressed I enjoy listening to books about growth and self-improvement. A great one that I’m a huge fan of is Break The Habit of Being Yourself
What are ways you de-stress?
So there you have it, 13 of my most favorite ways to calm down after a stressing day or period. What are your most favorite ways to relax or wind down? Share them with me in the comments section below!
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