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Creative Ways to De-Stress

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Creative Ways to De-Stress

Are you drowning in oceans of to-do lists, frustrating interruptions, and low energy? Look no further. Try these stress reduction techniques and activities.

Are you drowning in oceans of to-do lists, frustrating interruptions, and low energy?

Look no further. Research shows that creative activities—such as spiralling inward, selling your stress, and cutting bait—can relieve stress, increase feelings of happiness, and boost your immune system.

1. Massage your ears

Medical acupuncturist Nancy Winlove-Smith stimulates the tips of her clients’ ears as part of a stress management regime. “On insertion of the needle in the ear, the ‘rest and digest’ part of the nervous system is stimulated, resulting in a gurgling sound from the digestive system,” says Winlove-Smith. “My clients hear the gurgling, which validates the procedure for them.”

To get the same effect, simply massage the tips of your ears. “If your partner does the massage, you’ll relax even more because a caring touch also releases endorphins [feel-good],” says Winlove-Smith.

2. Roll around in the mud

Ever wonder why you feel good when you garden, weed, or toil out in the yard? Researchers from the University of Bristol think the answer is bacteria. Soil contains the friendly bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae, which increases the metabolism of serotonin in the brain.

Since a lack of serotonin is connected to depression, scientists hypothesize that this bacterium may improve mood, ease stress, and maintain a strong immune system. Landscaping, sowing seeds, and nurturing flowers or homegrown veggies are creative ways to unwind and improve your mood.

3. Declutter your bedroom and closet

“Clutter creates stress and, in extreme cases, depression,” says eco-organizer Candita Clayton, author of Clean Your Home Healthy (Morgan James Publishing, 2008). “It’s difficult to relax when you’re surrounded by laundry, work, or reading materials because you subconsciously feel like you have things to do.”

Feng shui expert Pat Heydlauff agrees, saying that eliminating chaos increases energy and productivity. To declutter, evaluate your space and eliminate what doesn’t bring pleasure. Donate clothing, decorations, or household items to charity. Rework your space until you feel happy and relaxed.

4. Spiral inward, spiral outward

A labyrinth is a single circular path that you follow in to a centre point, and then out again. This focused, meditative walk can decrease tension, aid physical healing, and strengthen the mind-body connection.

Education consultant Hali Chambers has a labyrinth in her backyard. “But you don’t need one out back to de-stress,” says Chambers. “You can buy already-painted, fold-up canvas labyrinths in many sizes. Or you can paint your own.” Finger labyrinths on paper or computer screens can have the same effect as full-size labyrinths.

5. Sell your stress

“I used to make beaded jewellery as a way to relax,” says Liz Stewart. “After I was laid off from my stressful information technology job in 2002, I started selling my finished pieces at craft shows to earn extra cash. After extensive soul-searching, I realized that information technology wasn’t the career I wanted.”

In 2004 Stewart opened a beading supply store called Lush Beads. “I now sell beads and supplies, teach classes, sell finished pieces, and do custom jewellery designs.” Getting crafty relieves emotional tension—and selling your creations can ease financial stress!

6. Get a little crafty

You don’t have to paint perfect sunsets, knit flawless hats, or sew meticulous quilts to enjoy the benefits of art therapy. “The actual process of making art can alleviate emotional stress and anxiety by creating a physiological response of relaxation,” writes Cathy Malchiodi in The Art Therapy Sourcebook (McGraw-Hill, 1998).

Creative activity increases serotonin in your brain, which improves mood. When you’re not attached to the end result (such as a perfectly knit sweater), crafts can lower your heart rate and blood pressure and trigger feelings of calm and peace.

7. Find your exercise personality

“The stress of engaging in exercise that is not of our choosing can outweigh its health benefits,” writes Dr. Pierce Howard, PhD, in The Owner’s Manual for the Brain (Bard Press, 2006). If you force yourself to lift weights at the gym, you could be doing your body more harm than good.

Finding your exercise personality is the key to staying fit—and not falling into the 60 percent of people who quit a new program within six months. Try new things—drum aerobics, beach tennis, yoga dance—until you find the activity that energizes and de-stresses you.

8. Turn yourself around

“We’ve found a foolproof stress reducer,” says home-based business owner Christina Seine. “When the older kids are struggling with homework, the younger ones are battling over the dinosaur toy, and I’m freaking because an order must go out NOW … we do the hokey-pokey.”

Seine says it’s impossible to be grumpy when you’re shaking your left elbow: “It always ends with us in a heap on the floor, laughing.” Stress hormones are reduced during laughter, allowing immune cells to function better. Plus, laughing promotes a healthy oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange and clears airways.

9. Get really honest

“The number-one stress reduction exercise I recommend is called ‘Tell Them How You Really Feel!? says life coach Paula Holland De Long. “Pretend that the source of your stress is with you, and express the truth. Be as loud, rude, and mean as you can.”

Our buried, denied emotions build negative energy in our bodies, which can be toxic. “When we acknowledge our emotions by telling the truth, we release tension and feel relieved,” says De Long. “Space for positive energy is opened up.”

10. Fish or cut bait

“Deep down, most of us know what we need to do about stressful situations,” says communications professional Christine Hohlbaum. “But we procrastinate. We ignore our stressors, which can lead to paralysis. This creates even more stress.”

She recommends fishing or cutting bait: dealing with the cause of your stress or eliminating it altogether. And don’t get caught up in finding the perfect solution to your problems. “Simply moving forward puts the ball in motion,” says Hohlbaum. “This leads to more action, which will ultimately solve the problem.”

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