12 Monthly Tasks to Help You Lower Stress
Everyday life can be stressful, but it is a new year, so it’s time for new tricks. There are ways to lower your stress and find ways to cope. There are ways to enjoy a healthier life.
Is it possible to live completely stress free? I would take the leap to say that no, it is not a state we humans can find ourselves in 24 hours per day. Even those who have dedicated their lives to nature or religion have moments of stress and bother.
Stress is a human state of being, and sometimes it is for the best. We need some stress in order to keep ourselves on the right track or accomplish those things that need to be done. But it doesn’t have to rule your life and it doesn’t have to be at the volume that you may be experiencing now.
Living a stress free life – or even lowering your stress – is a state you want to attain for periods of time. Don’t assume that it will be gone forever because that can’t happen. But if you can spend 5 or 10 minutes completely stress free, you will find beneftis for both your body and soul.
These activities are ideas that may work for some and not for others. Give each a try during the assigned month and if it’s not for you, put it to the side and try something new next month. But give each idea two weeks. If you find something uncomfortable, it may be just the key you’ve been searching for in order to make a change. Who knows!
January: Practice Mindful Breathing
Are you holding your breath and not realizing it? It’s very common – you might not even know.
Practice mindful breathing, and feel yourself taking full breaths in and out. Take the time to fully breathe each day, if only for a few seconds each time.
When we face stressful situations and tense up, our breathing becomes halted. Practicing mindful breathing will get your body in a better habit.
February: Try Total Body Relaxation
Take five to ten minutes for this practice of mindfully relaxing your entire body. Lay in a quiet room (or play some relaxing music) and do a bit of deep breathing.
Starting at the top of your head, try to relax each part of your body, moving down a few inches at a time. Make sure that you have fully relaxed each part before moving on to the next.
This can be a bit of a challenge, but the best strategy may be to tense each part before attempting to relax it. For your head, clench your jaw and then feel your jaw relax. Keep it that way and then tense your neck. Relax both your jaw and your neck and continue to move down, through your body.
Your goal is to be able to relax your entire body and release any stress you are holding. Once you are done, take a few relaxing breaths and continue on with your day.
March: Get a Therapeutic Massage
You may think of massage as something luxurious, but it has some very real therapueutic benefits. Massage can help you feel more relaxed, take away aches and pains, and release tension. It also gives you a short pocket of time where you are forced to stay in one place and relax, whether you like it or not.
If going to a wellness center for massage isn’t something within your budget, there are ways that you can help to massage yourself at home. Purchase a low-cost scalp massager and relax your head while watching tv. If you have issues with specific areas or points where you carry your stress, try a trigger point self massager to help ease your muscles.
April: Consider Acupressure or Acupuncture
Many people use acupuncture to aid in physical and mental relaxation. It is the process where thin needles are inserted into the skin in specific places in order to relieve pain and tension in certain areas of the body.
If the thought of acupuncture scares you, acupressure may be a better idea. This is a method where pressure is applied to certain areas of the body to help encourage better health and relaxation.
Either of these techniques should aid in relaxation and stress relief and you should be able to find a practitioner near you with a quick online search.
May: Try Journaling
The idea of journaling may bring you back to memories or grade school, but it is a great tool for promoting relaxation. Journaling can help you free up the clutter in your mind and help you let go of the stress you hold inside.
Buy an inexpensive journal – but one that you like the look of – and try writing down your thoughts, goals, and dreams each day. This is an easy way to help release your stress and put your plans in motion.
June: Get into the Habit of Making Lists
Lists – and checking off items on the lists – can really help some people feel more organized and at ease. If life is causing you to feel stressed, try making lists of the tasks you need to accomplish and take the time to cross off those tasks as you complete them. You’ll be shocked at how satisfying it is!
Lists don’t have to be made with pen and paper. If you find yourself losing those frequently, make lists in your digital calendar or phone notepad. The idea is that you are getting the things that you have to accomplish out of your head (so you aren’t constantly trying to remember them) and ultimately completed.
July: Be More Accepting of “Plot Twists”
Starting this month, do your best to be more accepting of rolling with the punches. Things don’t always go as planned and they can be frustrating, but hopefully, with some of the relaxation techniques you’ve been doing, you will be able to more easily let daily inconveniences roll off your back.
When a plot twist happens, you have a decision to make. Starting this month, do your best to decide that you will react with a plan and not negativity.
August: Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
When we procrastinate, we add stress to our plates. Instead, do yourself a favor and get into the habit of planning ahead.
Doing what you can to plan for what is coming is actually a technique for lowering your stress. We all have to get specific things done, so procrastinating doesn’t actually help you avoid the issue. All it does is increase your stress and last minute rushing.
For people who are used to waiting until the last minute, this is going to be easier said than done, but that may be where lists come in. Look ahead a few weeks and add those gifts to purchase or packing items as you can. Making yourself constantly aware of what’s coming could help.
September: Give Yoga a Try
If you’ve only ever seen it in the movies, yoga is one of those things that you might think lives in crunchy-granola-live-off-the-earth-and-watch-the moon-cycle land. (Or maybe only on Real Housewives?) In actuality, yoga can do a lot for the everyday person.
Yoga has been shown to improve health and reduce stress. Because the practice involves holding poses with controlled breathing and meditation, it can do a great deal to relax both your mind and body. Try taking a yoga class at a local gym or spa and see if it helps you live (or sleep?) a little bit better.
October: Practice Meditating
Meditating allows you to be with your own thoughts in peaceful silence. It can be very difficult to do before finding other ways to relax, so it is a good idea to try this a bit later into the year. Not that you shouldn’t jump right in if you want to (do it!), but you may find it easier to calm your mind if you’ve had a little practice already.
Practicing meditation can help you feel more relaxed and help to increase creativity. It doesn’t have to be what you see in the movies with one leg on top of the other. Just find some quiet time to try to sit (or lay down) with yourself and clear your thoughts. Do it for a few minutes a day and see if it helps your overall well being.
November: Find Alone Time
How often do you really get to be alone? If at all possible, try it for just 15 minutes a day. It can be very difficult to find this time, but do your best – even if you have to hide in the bathroom.
Use this small amount of time to relax, read a book, enjoy a beverage, or just sit still and let your body rest. Many of us feel like we need permission to relax or take care of ourselves, so let me give you that permission. You have earned a few minutes to yourself for yourself.
Make sure that during this time, your phone is put away. You may not realize it, but your phone, computer and other screens provide stimulation that may increase your stress level. Take these moments to really be alone with yourself in whatever healing way you can.
December: Pet an Animal or Cuddle with a Loved One Daily
Touch helps us reduce stress and can even lower your blood pressure. Take the time each day to pet an animal or cuddle with a loved one. Believe it or not, your body will feel more relaxed and release healing endorphins in the process.
If you live alone with no pets, there are ways to accomplish this! Visit a loved one for a hug or a hand holding, offer to walk a neighbor’s dog, ask a friend at work if they will be a (consenting) hugging buddy (they may need a hug as well!), volunteer with a pet shelter or go to the park and ask a stranger if you can pet their dog. Whatever works for your circumstances!
Every little thing that you can do to help yourself lower stress is a win. These may not all work for you, but give them a try! If you can build even three of these ideas into your daily/weekly routine, you will have places to focus your stress relief.
Relaxation is as much a practice as it is a state of being, so put yourself in the best position for success. You never know, you might find yourself a journaling yogi with a guinea pig by the end of the year!