Five Ways to Handle Stress Naturally (Without Alcohol, Drugs, or Murder)

You ever have those days where everything seems to go wrong? Of course you have. You're alive. (And if you're not, since when did zombies read blogs??)

No one likes a bad day. But I believe everything is a mindset. I also believe we are powerful beings who have control over more than we realize. So instead of spending the day miserable, here are some suggestions to help improve your mood.

1.  Listen to relaxing Jazz. This may sound very Aunt Marie of me (Breaking Bad, anyone?) but I find turning on some jazz really helps me chill out when I’m fa-reaking out. Sometimes I make myself a cup of tea and crash on the couch, close my eyes, and let Billie Holiday carry me away on her sweet, sweet voice. Other times I use it to help with a dreaded task (like dishes or laundry). After a song or two I’m usually much more relaxed. (And oddly drawn to anything purple…. Anyone??)

2. Take a walk.   I know, totally trite. But it really works! The key is to not think about whatever is eating at you. Pay attention to the way the fresh air feels on your face, your nose, in your lungs. Watch the birds in the trees. Notice how the soft earth feels beneath your feet. Or if you live in the city, let the industrious cacophony drown out your mind. And when you inevitably start thinking about your stressors again, don’t get frustrated with yourself! Just recognize that your mind has wandered and re-direct your thoughts. I do this when I’m struggling with writing and want to demolish my computer screen. Just the act of redirecting my attention almost always allows the answer to come to me. And if nothing else, my pulse has most definitely calmed down after twenty minutes in the fresh air.

3. Listen to loud music. No, this is not #1 repeated. Whether it’s in your earbuds or cranked up on your living room TV, blasting some music seems to release frustrations in a way no amount of chamomile can. Sometimes you need to embrace the angst, and that’s when I blast some Breaking Benjamin in my ears. Other times, when I don’t want to be angry or frustrated but can’t seem to shake it, I play some Hanson (Don’t knock ‘emtill you’ve tried ‘em) and sing at the top of my lungs. I find the poetic lyrics and upbeat melodies never fail to shake me from my cranky mood. Whatever resonates with you- Miranda Lambert, Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran— just play it loud and play it proud. (Unless it’s The Macarena. I think we can all agree that never should have happened.)

4. Take a Shower (you filthy animal). First off, if you didn’t catch my Home Alone reference, I’m not sure how you manage to get through the Christmas season without seeing that at least twice. But back to my point, I find I always feel better after a shower. Maybe it’s because I never shower without my radio (see #3). Or maybe it’s because something about sandalwood bar soap makes my soul happy. But whatever it is, I always come out feeling much better. It’s 15 (or sometimes 25, other times 4) minutes of me time— time when no one is asking me questions, time when I have no other obligations other than scrubbing the pits, time when I can block everything else out. Just make sure to keep your mind in the shower. Don’t take this moment to review your to-do list. Don’t start chastising yourself about your thighs. Wash your hair, sing some tunes, and forget everything else that isn’t standing in that four-foot space. (And if there’s someone else in there with you…that’s never bad either. Unless you don’t know them. Then you definitely have more important things to worry about other than your thighs.)

5. F@#% It All! It’s crass, I know. But when all else fails—Screw it! Sometimes, when my mind won’t stop reeling and my list of chores keeps growing, I say damn it all and sit down with a book (or if you prefer, an episode of your favorite TV show, a round of Candy Crush, whatever tickles your petunias). When I set everything aside for 20 or 30 minutes and solely focus on something that makes me happy, I come back much more refreshed and far more motivated to complete whatever needs to be done. I know what you’re thinking, “Michaela, I’m already stressed. Where am I supposed to find 30 more minutes, you crazy broad!” Listen, life is short. If the laundry doesn’t get done today, I guarantee the world will not stop spinning. So what if you have to re-wear a pair of jeans one more time? In five years will that matter? It will matter when you’re so completely and utterly stressed you barely have the strength to make it out of bed…or worse. Disease is born of stress, trust me on this. When your body, as well as your soul, is at peace and in an optimistic state, you’re less likely to catch that cold, to throw out your back, to twist your ankle as you’re barrel-assing your kids into the minivan. You never know when this is all going to end. Be nice to yourself. Cut yourself some slack. And for goodness sake, cut out a mere 30 minutes a week to do something for yourself!!!

What do you do to shake a bad mood?

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