That overwhelming feeling of drowning in stuff to be done and the suffocating pressure of other people’s demands.
Our hearts race in panic and frightened of our own fear, we want to run or lash out or hide.
A few years back, I felt stress was taking over.
Every evening after getting my daughter to bed, I would curl up under the duvet, desperate to shut out the world and its endless noise. I knew it made things worse and feeling guilty for being so weak stressed me more.
So I hunted for DIY stress relief tips and remedies and relaxation techniques and ideas.
But crazily they only made me more stressed!
Until I stumbled on a simple secret that gave me back my hope and my happiness.
And that little secret – that tiny truth – has helped me fundamentally reduce stress in my life but also unlocked some lovely instant stress relief tips that ease my everyday anxiety.
I’ll give you a big list of those tips in a moment but first I would love to share what I discovered about why those crazy stress relief remedies didn’t relieve my anxiety and the tiny secret that did and how it can help you too.
1. Crazy Stress Remedies
There always seems to be some celebrity author or another pushing wonderful new ways to relax, that will supposedly help us manage our anxiety symptoms and reduce our stress.
Yoga. Mindfulness. Meditation.
Or some new therapy or another.
And they genuinely can help people, so I’m not trying to dismiss them out of hand BUT they do have three big problems for most of us:
- They demand lots of time
- They don’t change our world : our work, our debts, our relationships or our homes
- They make us the problem.
And this is where that little – but unbelievably powerful – stress relief secret comes in …
2. The Stress Relief Secret
You see, the truth is : we are not the problem. The life we are expected to live now is.
When I curled up under my duvet, squeezing my eyes shut to make it all go away, I wasn’t being weak or crazy. It was a perfectly sensible response when we’re asked to :
- Live at a hundred miles an hour, dashing here and there non-stop all day long
- Be on alert 24 x 7, always available
- Work harder and harder and harder
- So we can buy more and more stuff even though we’re drowning in clutter
- Take on debt we can’t manage to buy more stuff we have no time or space to enjoy
- Cope with the insecurity of temporary work or zero hour contracts or redundancy
- Chase “success” at all costs however far it takes us from the love of our families
- Make money the purpose of our lives
- Labour in mindless jobs denied the pride of doing something skilful with our hands
- Seek approval for each and every trivial moment of our days in the all absorbing popularity contest that is social media.
And do ALL this whilst filling our bodies with so much stress stoking sugar and caffeine that we must endlessly dull our senses with drugs.
WHOA!!! Heavy stuff, huh? Crazy.
It’s just NOT possible to live this life without paying the price of overwhelming stress.
And meditation and mindfulness and the like are never going to cut it against this monster.
But discovering that little secret – we are not the problem – opened up for me another way to live my life. It’s easier than you’d imagine and it gives real relief from stress because it gives freedom to our better angels.
3. Real Relief From Stress
We’ll come back to those angels in a moment – they are amazing, I promise – but first let’s be practical, what did I change in my life?
Well, I stopped chasing success in a toxic work place and that gave me the freedom to :
- Slow down : I’ve simply given myself the time to walk places and wander and dawdle and potter and enjoy the world around me. Forget the gym, walking is life changing!
- Let go of clutter : I’ve decluttered lots of stuff we never used or enjoyed and stopped wasting money on more clutter.
- Pay off debt : I am not debt free, yet, but I prioritised paying it off. For many of us it’s our biggest cause of stress.
- Gently detox : little by little I broke my addictive dependence on sugar and alcohol and caffeine and social media on my phone.
- Dose up on nature : I enjoy a dollop of nature daily. It’s awesome medicine.
I am now simply less stressed and more joyful.
But obviously these aren’t overnight changes. We don’t suddenly wake up in the morning stress free and some level of anxiety is after all a healthy part of being human.
So even if we say a big fat NO to the crazy stress of non-stop, busy-busy, 24×7, always-on living, we will still need some simple everyday techniques to manage anxiety and prevent it from becoming overwhelming stress.
And this is where our truly wonderful better angels come in. They have forgotten powers.
4. Stress Relief Techniques
We will always know worry, anger, fear, grief, regret, frustration, pain, failure and guilt.
We cannot live without them.
And we cannot love without them.
But we can ease them and can bear them if we make a little space and time in our daily life to:
- Find forgiveness
- Let things go
- Get closure
- Do good
- And be part of something beyond ourselves.
It is these better angels of our nature that let us live with hope in a chaotic and cruel world.
They shine a light for us through our darkest times far more powerful than a whole shop full of the fanciest stress relief candles!
So truly effective every day stress relief techniques need not only to help us:
- Burn off angry energy
- Physically sooth ourselves
- And find calm in our clever hands.
But ALSO to express very simply our faith in a path onward through the darkness.
5. 50 Quick Stress Relief Tips
And this big list of stress busters does just that. And it’s not like any list you saw before.
There’s NOT a fancy candle, an essential oil recipe or a meditation pose in sight.
Just lots of little daily ways to live slowly and say sorry and do good and let go of anger and regret and laugh out loud and put aside our worries and enjoy the cleverness of our hands.
So here you go.
Next time you feel stress rising give yourself permission to slow down and try one, but even better, make a little space for them every day:
- Sweep up leaves.
- Polish one pair of shoes really well.
- Sit down and read one short story.
- Pick up litter in your street for 15 minutes.
- Write a thank you letter …
- … and walk to the post box to post it.
- Put 10 things in a bag to give away.
- … and walk them to the charity shop.
- Empty all the bins in the house.
- Write a kind review of somewhere you loved however long ago it was.
- Polish cutlery to clear the smeary bits.
- Clean a window.
- Clean the microwave – do NOT even think about tackling the oven. It is NEVER a quick job and will stress you more.
- Speed clean the living room for 15 minutes max with music on.
- Chuck old food out of the fridge.
- Read out loud to someone.
- Walk home from work.
- Think about the pain we have caused another and say sorry.
- Have a cat nap.
- Learn a poem.
- Sew on a button.
- Mow the lawn for an old neighbour.
- Read one chapter of your favourite book.
- Plant some bulbs in a pot.
- Sing a childhood song out loud.
- Dust one shelf and donate a few things you’ll be happier without.
- Speed clean the back yard.
- Wipe down one small sink.
- Weed a flower bed …
- … for yourself and a neighbour.
- Deal with one piece of paper work.
- Read a short detective story e.g. Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes.
- Clear your local pond of litter.
- Share a corny joke.
- Return something you borrowed.
- Sew up a dropped hem.
- Clear out cans you will never eat …
- … walk them to the food bank.
- Pay one bill.
- Stick together one small broken thing.
- Pass on a few books you loved.
- Plant a few seeds to grow vegetables.
- Walk and talk with a friend.
- Put our a neighbour’s bins.
- Empty your purse or wallet or pockets of old receipts and bits and bobs.
- Delete 5 apps from your phone.
- Write a love letter.
- Feed the birds.
- Donate unopened toiletries to a refuge.
- Ask forgiveness and forgive someone.
Now some of these sound suspiciously like cleaning or mending or tidying don’t they?
But in replacing simple soothing habits with technology or paying someone else to do them, we have lost the quiet spaces in our days and the calm and closure they can bring.
These habits are not about a perfect house.
They are about allowing ourselves five minutes or half an hour to slow down and be at peace with ourselves and our world and know joy.
I do hope these thoughts help.
I’m sorry if I rambled but that little truth – we are not the problem – and these simple habits have made my life so much happier.
If you need more practical help do read my :
- Simple Declutter Guide – the little day-by-day steps I used to clear my life of clutter.
- Debt Pay Off Checklist – 100 easy ways to cut spending to help pay off debt.
You may also enjoy these posts – they are all about enjoying life slowed down: