Q: Like many women today, I feel overworked and stressed. My mother keeps telling me that I need to take a vacation, but that is just not possible right now (financially or otherwise)! Can you suggest some small ways that I can relieve stress at home?
A: Everyone needs a break every now and then – to relax their bodies and their minds. Research has shown that too much stress can cause:
- Changes in eating patterns. Stress causes you to ignore the natural signals of your body, encouraging you to eat more or less than needed. Consuming more food can lead to weight gain while less food can contribute to headaches and malnutrition.
- Short temper. Feeling tense can cause you to snap unexpectedly – often at people who don’t deserve to be yelled at. Instead of working out your stress, you might yell at your child or husband.
- Loss of memory. Your brain does not function at its maximum capacity when you are under pressure. Therefore, you might find yourself forgetting things you would normally remember.
- Frequent colds. Under continued mental and physical pressure, your body will frequently break down, leaving you susceptible to viruses like the common cold.
But, what happens if you can’t get away? There are some ways to help your body relax even in the confines of your own home. I’ll call these tips “mental vacations” – where you let your mind rest. Experiment with these techniques for ten to thirty minutes a day and you just might see the results!
- Take a walk. If you can find the time, take a walk just for the sake of taking a walk. However, with a busy schedule, it is often hard to make time just for walking. Therefore, choose an errand that is close by and instead of driving and looking for parking, walk there. Take that time to allow your mind to rest.
- Read a book in bed. Your bed is a safe, comfortable, and cozy place – this signals to your brain that it is time to slow down. To that end, get into bed fifteen minutes earlier than you want to go to sleep and curl up with that book that you have been meaning to read. This will help you to get lost in the world of the book – away from your own stressful life.
- Drink a warm cup of coffee or tea. Sitting down to take time for yourself and enjoying the calm that a warm drink brings can help relax your mind. Try to find ten minutes in your day when you don’t have to drink your coffee on the run – instead sit at the table and enjoy!
- Connect. Call a friend who you haven’t spoken to in a while (or one who you spoke to just yesterday) and talk about the good things in your life. Fill each other in on the mundane and sublime. Connecting with friends gets good neurotransmitters firing in the brain – helping you combat the stress in your life.
Your mother might be right – you might need a vacation. But, life doesn’t always work that way. So, use the techniques above to give yourself a mental vacation. You and your family will reap the benefits.