In today’s hectic society, many people live in a whirlwind frenzy trying to juggle the demands of full-time work with their family obligations and commitments. If you’re like most people, at the end of a stressful day, all you want to do is just crash on the couch and relax.
However, the only problem with this strategy is that zoning out in front of the TV rarely delivers the feelings of relaxation that you’re looking for.
According to the latest research, the least effective strategies for stress relief are watching TV or movies for several hours, gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, and surfing the Internet.
The reason that these activities don’t deliver stress relief is because they activate the area of your brain that deals with cravings and desire. Instead of relaxing, you get caught up in the anticipation of what’s going to happen in the next episode of your TV show, or you want to keep playing that computer game to see what the next level is like.
After a couple of hours of ‘relaxing’ in this way your brain is more wired than ever, and you decide that the only way to relax is to go to sleep. However, often that doesn’t work either because after all that mental stimulation – you just can’t switch off.
So what’s the answer? How do you disconnect from the stress of your day, and genuinely relax and restore your energy levels?
Well, the American Psychological Association suggests that the most effective activities for relieving stress are:
1. Exercising and playing sport
2. Praying or attending a religious service
4. Listening to music
5. Spending time with friends or family
6. Having a massage
7. Going for a walk in the outdoors
8. Meditating or doing yoga
9. Pursuing a creative hobby
These activities have been shown to release feel good chemicals in your brain such as serotonin and oxytocin, and actively lower your stress levels.
For example, Fiona is a nurse who works in a neonatal intensive care unit. On a daily basis she deals with emergency situations involving the lives of newborn babies. Often when she finishes her shift she is completely stressed out and running on pure adrenaline.
For a long time, Fiona didn’t know what to do to deal with the stress of her job. She tried crashing in front of the television, but after two hours of reality TV, she didn’t feel relaxed, she just felt numb.
When she read about the activities that promote effective stress relief, Fiona liked the idea of taking up a creative hobby.
She recalled that as a little girl she used to visit her Grandma during school holidays, and while they sat in front of an open fireplace, her Grandma taught her how to knit.
In a flash of inspiration, Fiona came up with the perfect plan.
Whenever she got home from the hospital and needed to relax, instead of switching on the TV, Fiona would put on some soft jazz music, take out her basket of wool and start to knit.
There was something almost therapeutic about the rhythm of her knitting needles, and she found it was a great way to clear her head and relax.
And of course, Fiona knew exactly what she wanted to knit – baby hats.
While she was initially a bit rusty, her childhood skills quickly returned, and soon Fiona was able to complete a baby hat in a single evening.
Not only did Fiona discover an effective way to reduce her stress levels, but every time a baby left the intensive care unit to go home with their family, Fiona gave them a hand knitted little hat. The parents loved the hats, and Fiona discovered the joy of giving without expecting anything in return.
So today I’d like to encourage you to take a look at how YOU deal with stress.
If you’ve been using an ineffective strategy in the past, make the decision to try one of the options listed above, which have been been scientifically proven to promote true relaxation.
When you find a strategy that works for you, you’ll be much better equipped to deal with the stresses of daily life.
Until next time,
Dare To Dream!
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