Today’s post is not art/craft related. Well it is, in a way, but not in it’s entirety. Having just begun my second week of what is very likely to be one of the most stressful semesters of my life – I began reflecting on how I am going to manage not driving a pikestaff through my forehead, (this is, of course, assuming I can acquire a pikestaff, but still). You see, I am the type of person who gets very stressed very quickly – not in the sense where I lose my patience with others, but moreso with myself. I tend to be incredibly critical of myself, and become overwhelmed really easily when I feel I am doing everything incorrectly. For those of you who don’t know – I have recently done REALLY well in school – in fact, better than I ever have in the four years I’ve been attending college. My goal is to continue this trend, but my schedule this semester is definitely going to be a major roadblock for that success. I am currently enrolled in 17.5 units, which, now that I think about it, probably wasn’t the greatest idea. Mostly because it means my days are going to be from about 6am to 10 o’clock at night. Further more, one of my classes is a preschool practicum, which means 5 hours of my morning is devoted to working in a classroom and attending forums on curriculum, classroom practices, child dialogues, etc. Did I mention I also work three days a week on top of these full school days, and one of those days coincides with a class I am taking? Oh, and once a month I will have additional classes Thursdays and Saturdays. AHHH!!!
I’m already overwhelmed. But this is where the fun part begins. Now that you’ve got yourself in my shoes – I’m going to tell you five things I implement into my schedule to reduce my stress levels (aside from a good diet, exercise, etc which of course ALWAYS help) and hope that in some way it may help you in your own day-to-day routine, or perhaps you will have something to suggest to add to my de-stress regimen.
#1 – Mandatory, 2o minute bubble baths, twice a week.
While this may seem girly, even for me, I have found this to be an incredibly successful way for me to reduce the amount of stress I am experiencing. It forces me to not only sit down and do absolutely nothing for twenty minutes, but it allows me to do so in a space that no one can enter, no one can interupt, and that is entirely my own. And it also helps that aroma therapy and bubbles are involved – in addition to some good tunes playing out of a set of mini speakers I hang on the back of the bathroom door. For twenty minutes the world is mine…and I come out feeling pretty darn good about myself. Also, let it be known – the one thing in my life that I DO indulge in, is expensive soap. Lately, in particular, products from a local store in Capitola called Panache which carries some of the most delicious smelling soaps and lotions I have ever experienced the pleasure of, well, sniffing. While they are a little pricey, the bottles go a long way – and the smell stays on you for 24 hours. It’s delightful. They also sell great lotions, which I need to add, is part of my bath-time process. After I’ve bathed, I rub myself all over with a great smelling lotion. Giving your legs and feet a good massage after a hot bath is wonderful, and it helps you have a little extra spring in your step the next morning.
#2 – I keep these in the freezer.
Mind you, I am out of them right now. But typically I do keep something on that scale around. These in particular are great because you can eat about three and your sugar/stress eating craving is killed. They are dairy free as well, so if you do overindulge, you aren’t going to feel like dying afterward. Plus, in comparison to products such as Dibs, you can’t really go wrong with less fat, sugar, and calories. It’s important to remember it’s really okay to treat myself to something yummy once in a while, but also not to feel awful about it later. That’s why these babies rock.
#3 – Keeping in mind, I have to create one new thing, every week.
In the same tone as the baths, I have to allow myself at least half an hour (or more, depending on my free time) to allow myself to create something new. It’s important not to get totally sucked in to all the academics and stresses of the everyday. Being able to close my bedroom door, sit down, and make something new (or sometimes, go into the kitchen and make a baking mess) is key to my own personal pursuit of happiness. That is why I have started the afghan project – it is a purposeful goal but it still requires creative thought and process. Which design will I use next? How big will it be? Will all the patches fit together? Which yarn is best, which pair of needles? And while time may not always allow for a large baking project or the math and thought it requires to work on the patches, I can quickly create things such as these:
I made them on a whim Saturday night after realizing I hadn’t done anything crafty in over a week and a half – I literally had a craving to make something, but my energy levels were feeling incredibly low and I needed something that required little to no thinking. These? Perfect.
#4 – Norah Jones, James Blunt, John Mayer
Now, while this not be your particular taste in music, this is what I tend to put on after a very stressful day. Why? Because most of the music of these particular artists is relatively smooth, harmless, and well, relaxing. In particular, after a bath I really like to put on Norah Jones’ latest album, The Fall, because her voice sort of puts me at ease. Plus, her songs are honest, at times comical, and overall low key. I don’t feel the need to shag my boyfriend or cry in a corner after listening to this album, nor do I feel it’s necessary to hop on my bike and burn 1,000 calories or kick the stuffing out of a punching bag – I just want to lay in bed, look over my textbooks, and drink a cup of tea. Finding music that calms you down is important – I can definitely tell when music is making me feel neurotic or tense. Take for example, the copious amounts of techno my partner, T, enjoys. While I appreciate his unique choice in music, there are times when I reach over and turn down the dial in his car because the loud, high paced music makes me feel more antsy and stressed than I already am.
#5 – Soap Operas.
Yes, this is my guilty pleasure. Like it or not, I am hopelessly attached to the lives of the fictional people living in Port Charles on General Hospital. But before you laugh at me, let me explain – I enjoy this type of entertainment because when I come home for 45 minutes I can turn my brain completely off. Watching soap operas is like pouring applesauce into your brain. It requires little intelligence, small attention span, and is so incredibly “out there” that it sort of puts my life in perspective for me, in two ways. The first is that it reminds me, my life is not nearly dramatic as I sometimes tend to think it is. Because, c’mon, these people tend to react to their problems in the way I initially react to my own…only they take it a step further, and it just gets ridiculous. Which in turn, points out how ridiculous I’m being about my own issues (sometimes). Secondly, they tend to remind me there are REAL problems out there. Soaps tend to focus on rich, fabulous people with complex and unrealistic lives. It’s alluring to watch these shows for a lot of people because the romances are always “perfect” and the problems are always explosive – but it’s FICTIONAL. Which helps remind me what things are real, and how much better they are that way. A prime example is that, while the romances are “perfect” they never, EVER last on soap operas. I can’t name one couple, currently, on General Hospital that was together two years ago. Non-perfect relationships tend to work out better. There are many other examples of the things that make me wrinkle my forehead and think hard on these shows, but I most definitely don’t want to bore you with the details of soap-opera land.
So that’s it. Those are my five weekly ways to reduce stress in my life. And thus far, it’s worked quite nicely. (These are things, by the way, I’ve been using for a while, it’s just recently that I’ve thought about how useful they really are)
So, what about you? Do you have anything that helps you reduce stress in your day-to-day life? Do you think you’d implement any of these five ideas into your routine?