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Let’s talk about stress for a minute. Even if you’re making an effort to avoid it, stress just happens sometimes, doesn’t it? You’re doing just fine, but something unexpected happens and BAM. Pressure cooker. (And not the Instant Pot kind that ends in a nice meal afterward…)
I think we can all agree that no matter how much you try to minimize stress in your life, it will still occasionally happen – stress and anxiety will creep in. And it’s hard on us, both mentally and physically. It will interrupt your sleep, affect your appetite, hijack your focus. A good friend of mine is actually battling a long-term illness caused by a stressful life!
While there are ways to minimize stress in your daily life, we can’t avoid it completely. So what can you do when you feel those stress levels rising?
One of my favorite ways to combat stress is with calming hobbies. Something I can lose myself in for a little bit, while my mind sorts out the tangles.
Hobbies are important for a lot of reasons – they enrich your life, learning new skills stretches your brain, and you get to spend time on an activity that you truly enjoy. But hobbies can also work as kind of an off switch for stress, a diversion from the swirling thoughts.
Choosing a hobby
So, how do you choose a hobby that will decrease your stress levels? Well, it’s a personal thing. My husband likes to play video games…action-y games. That does not work at all for me, but it’s great for his state of mind. If you don’t already have a go-to stress-reducing hobby in your life, spend a few minutes thinking about what type of activity might work for you. It needs to be something that doesn’t frustrate you (obviously), cause tension, or add obligations to your life. The idea is to find something you can fall into, learn quickly, and lose yourself in.
Calming hobbies to try
If you’re looking for a few ideas to try out, here are my favorite things to do when I’m feeling stressed out from a crazy day (or week or month…):
Crochet or knit
I have to be honest, this is hands down my favorite. There is something about the repetitive nature of crocheting or knitting that puts my thoughts in order. It’s almost like every time I complete a stitch, my mind falls just a little more in line. I find myself so focused on the task at hand that whatever happens to be stressing me out takes a backseat. After a few minutes, a solution to any problem I’m worried about presents itself. It’s almost magical!
Pros: It’s pretty inexpensive to start. It’s also portable!
Cons: There’s a bit of a learning curve. You may pick it up quickly, but you may also need a little help getting the hang of it.
How to get started:
If you’ve never done it before, here are a few beginner kits (I’m pretty sure I used both of these when I was learning.) There are also TONS of tutorials and videos online!
Coloring or painting
I thought the adult coloring book fad that started a few years ago was a little silly. I mean, we’re not in elementary school anymore. Who colors as an adult?!?
Well…I do. I tried it on a whim (I’m pretty sure there was a sale sticker involved too.) And guess what? I rediscovered how much I enjoy coloring. I loved it! It’s SO relaxing to see those empty spaces filling in with beautiful colors.
You can also try painting (I prefer paint-by-number kits, because I don’t have to think about “being creative”. I just follow along.) Or maybe give zentangles a try!
Pros: No learning curve! Pretty inexpensive.
Cons: Might feel a little silly at first (but it’s still worth a try!)
How to get started:
I haven’t actually tried zentangles yet, but they’re on my list! If you’ve done these, let me know what you think in the comments!
Painting is a little more of a time commitment for me, but still along the same lines. I did this kit a few years ago and have it hanging on the wall now. It’s not perfect, but it was fun and seeing it is a great reminder to take time out for myself!
Have you ever lost yourself in a book, just completely losing track of time and forgetting everything but the story you’re reading? How did you feel afterward? I bet it wasn’t stressed and tense…
I love to read for exactly this reason. There’s no shame in escaping from your own life for a little while to experience someone else’s in print. You may even find a different perspective!
(Admission: My guilty pleasure is cheesy romance novels…don’t tell anyone though.)
Pros: Can be completely free! Check out your local library.
Cons: Lack of sleep when you find a good book you can’t put down.
How to get started:
Here are a few books I’ve enjoyed lately.
Sitting in nature (get outside!)
This is an easy one. Almost too easy. If you’re having one of those stressful days, take a few minutes to go outside! Notice the birds, watch the squirrels. If you have time, take a walk in a park or the woods. Sit on the beach or near a creek. If you’re short on time, eat your lunch outdoors or just sit on the porch for a few minutes.
We are built to be outdoors and it has an almost immediate effect on our mood and stress levels.
Pros: FREE! Available anywhere, anytime. (As our Scandi friends say, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.)
Cons: Allergies. (Okay, the sniffles and sneezes during spring are worth it for me, but I’ll let you decide that for yourself.)
How to get started:
Easy! Put down your phone, open the door, walk out…stay there for a few minutes.
I’d love to hear about your favorite stress-relieving hobbies! Leave a comment below. Who knows, it may end up someone else’s new favorite too!