April is Stress Awareness Month. According to the official website Stress Awareness Month is "sponsored by The Health Resource Network (HRN), a non-profit health education organization, Stress Awareness Month is a national, cooperative effort to inform people about the dangers of stress, successful coping strategies, and harmful misconceptions about stress that are prevalent in our society."
Stress is ridiculously common. Here's some statistics I found while doing some research for this blog:
• 70% of all people are constantly under stress
• Women are more likely to experience stress than men.
• Young people are more prone to stress.
• The most common triggers for stress: financial problems, relatives death, divorce, and health problems.
• The most common stress symptoms are: fatigue, irritability, insomnia, and headache.
I'll be the first to admit it. I am stressed out, a lot. I know while it is not the direct cause of my health problems that it does contribute to them and cause them to flare up more frequently.
The good thing is there is a LOT of things we can do in our own lives to work towards less stress and many of them are incredibly simple. There's literally something for everyone so I thought it would be easiest for me to talk about what I do to relieve stress.
Planning and Paper Crafts
I talk a lot about planning, enough so that I have an instagram account set aside just for my planning (@annieprocrastiplans). For me, planning is a way to not only organize my day/life/tasks, it is also a way to dump everything out of my brain onto paper so that I don't forget it and have an easy to check off box that helps me make sure I got everything done. It's also a creative outlet for me as I do a lot of color coding and decorative planning in addition to just the basic to do list kind of planning. I bought a Cricut over the winter and have started to make my own planner stickers and other paper crafts which has been a great way to have a creative outlet when my brain and body are tired and don't want to write or bake. My anxiety and some of my other health issues cause me to have memory issues and freak out that I will forget something major so I have a few fail safes in place outside of just my daily paper planner, which for those curious is still the Amplify Planner. I also use Todoist as a digital way to keep track of my tasks for every day. Everything from making my bed, taking my meds, and all of my client tasks. It's something I can reference at different points of the day to make sure I'm doing what I need to. I also keep spreadsheets for all of my clients with the appropriate information and links I need for each of their posts every day. It helps me make sure that what I planned ahead happens when it needs to.
It's as simple as creating a playlist or playlists that help you relax. For me that can depend on mood so here's some of my favorite artists and genres and the mood they fit.
• Pop Punk - in college and my 20s most weekends I could be found at a bar listening to a punk band or four play. It was a great way to burn energy and have a good time. My anxiety has made that less accessible for me and the pandemic has all but stopped live music in it's tracks for now. So I find playlists with my favorites and go. Faves: Anything from Drive-Thru Records, OLD Fall Out Boy (I don't think I could tell you anything they've released in the last 8 years), New Found Glory, Jimmy Eat World, Green Day, Blink 182 (both old and new - while I've been a Blink fan since I was a kid I think that Matt Skiba is a great vocal addition to the band in Tom's absence), and Good Charlotte. There are so many more honestly. The playlist I've been listening to most recently on Apple Music can be found here.
• 90s Alternative Rock - I may have been young when the 'Seattle sound' took over the radio and MTV but this genre was and always will be a favorite. Even in my late 30s the music of Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and so many others help me relieve stress by singing along at my desk during a long work day. This playlist is amazing and regularly updated.
• Hardcore - Okay this one is harder to explain to people that don't know punk music well. The hardcore I love is mostly out of Orange County, California and a lot of them are straight-edge (which means they don't drink, do drugs, or generally participate in activities that intentionally put their body in harms way.) It's great to scream along, have a desk mosh pit to, and just let your stress melt away with every melodic singing part and breakdown. I don't have any playlist suggestions on this but if you need to scream it out may I suggest Avenged Sevenfold, Eighteen Visions, Throwdown, Atreyu, AFI or Bleeding Through.
• Film Scores - This shouldn't come as a surprise. I am after all the person who has an 8+ hour playlist of the scores to every Harry Potter movie and used to listen to it every day at work. Apple Music has a playlist called Complete Marvel Cinematic Universe which is another frequent listen. Today I'm listening to a playlist of all of the JJ Abrams' Star Trek Films that I made. It's soothing yet upbeat enough to help me write faster and stay focused. If scores aren't your thing may I suggest the soundtracks (popular music not orchestral) for Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy 1 + 2, or maybe even something more old school like The Big Chill, Forrest Gump, or Romeo and Juliet (yes, the Leonardo DiCaprio version.)
• Current Pop Music - Yup, I'm the 37 year old you know singing along, passionately I might add, to "Drivers License" by Olivia Rodrigo. My normal go-tos are Demi Lovato, Harry Styles and/or One Direction, Lizzo, The Jonas Brothers and/or Nick Jonas, Hailee Steinfeld, or any number of Apple's Pop Playlists. I am not ashamed to admit I know the words to more than 5 Justin Bieber songs and that I have seen One Direction in concert. Pop music is meant to make you happy and easy enough to sing along to so for me it's always been hard to say no. I am the girl who grew up loving New Kids, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, and just about every other cheesy boyband possible.
• Music my parents raised me on. This is a broader category. According to my Dad, all good music started with Buffalo Springfield, he even has a playlist and a flow chart to prove this theory. He's built an amazing playlist of the music that he listened to when serving in Vietnam that is one of my favorite playlists for a spring day. My Mom loved The Beatles, Crosby Stills Nash & Young (which proves my Dad's Buffalo Springfield theory), and 80s pop like Janet or Michael Jackson. My step-mom brought country music into my life so occasionally I'll find my way to old or new country. I'm not sure there's a single member of my family that does't love Eric Clapton, we just all have different favorite albums and genres of his. On a warm spring day like today it is sort of a requirement to listen to Behind the Sun.
Can you tell I used to be a radio DJ?
I use the Calm app for this and it is so helpful. I can sit down and find something that will take about 10 minutes of my time and help me center myself, do a little deep breathing and get back on my way quickly. There are so many options out there if a subscription service like the Calm app isn't accessible to you. YouTube and Podcasts are a great place to look and what I used for so many years until I finally decided that investing in myself and my meditation practice was worth the subscription cost, and I got a Cyber Monday deal.
Green Light Therapy
This is a new thing, not only for me but for most people. Scientists at Harvard discovered a specific narrow band of Green Light that has so many calming side effects. I use it for migraine treatment and anxiety. It also helps when I'm extra stressed out or suffering through some insomnia. It's been a total game changer for me. Enough so that I did a couple of TV interviews about it and we all know I'd rather not be on camera because I get anxious but I felt compelled to tell my story hoping it would help someone else find relief. I use my Allay Lamp daily. You can learn more about Allay and save on your first order with my code here and you can also watch my interviews with Siouxland News and Iowa News Now.
Whether it's something active like running walking, or biking, or more relaxing like gardening, reading a book or laying in a hammock getting fresh air and vitamin D is so important. My house is still a construction zone from the derecho and our front porch isn't here (hopefully it will be before too long) and I'll be able to sit outside and write on a day like this. Instead on sitting on the floor in front of our coffee table so the fresh air and sunshine helps me. My allergies may be pissed but it's worth it.
I didn't ever think I'd feel right including this one, but I do. I used to have a gym membership and only used it to burn off stress and anxiety, it was never about losing weight or getting 'fit.' It was 100% about my mental health. In February I purchased a Stryde bike and a Peloton Digital Subscription. This means I can do everything from a spin class to yoga or stretches. They offer SO MANY workouts of different styles and intensities that there's something for almost everyone. Just moving is important so sometimes for me it's just turning on some music and dancing it out Grey's Anatomy style.
Whatever The Hell You Want
Stress relief isn't one size fits all. We all have our own ways of relieving stress and finding our way through hard periods of life. Whatever that is for you, do it. I promise it will help.
I hope you have a peaceful and stress free start to your week.
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