As a full-time workingwoman and mom to four kids, I can appreciate the need to de-stress. One of the most important lessons I learned early on in motherhood is that I need to take care of myself to effectively care for my family (just ask my husband). We all have stress, and when not dealt with, stress can cause a wide range of illnesses from headaches to depression. Taking time to unwind improves your mental and physical well-being. In honor of April being National Stress Awareness Month, I’m sharing some simple, cost-effective ways to de-stress yourself and your family.
Take a walk or a hike, go for a run, ride your bike, or play a sport.Even if you only spend 10 minutes each day getting some fresh air and sunlight, it is still good for you! We need Vitamin D to regulate our immune system, for brain function later in life, for calcium and phosphorous absorption for healthy bones, and to improve our mood. We spend so many hours inside each day in poorly ventilated commercial office buildings breathing in pollution and recycled germs, fresh air is a welcome break, especially in the middle of the work day.
Kids need fresh air, sunlight, and exercise. Studies have shown that spending time outdoors can make kids happier, healthier, and smarter.
Read a book
Reading a book for pleasure can be a great stress relief by lowering your heart rate and relaxing your mind. You don’t have to pick a New York Times best seller or a scholarly title; any title that you pick up can help reduce stress by providing an escape of your normal daily routine. You are essentially taking a vacation of the mind.
Read to your children, too. We’ve all heard the benefits of reading to children early on in life. Even though my 8-year-old son has read the Harry Potter series on his own, he still enjoys being read to. Children who are read to at a young age will grow to see reading as an indulgence, not as a chore. Reading is fun and imaginative and enhances the relationship you have with your child. This calm and relaxing activity can also act as a de-stressor.
Add plants to your office and/or home
As I mentioned above, indoor air pollution can be problematic. Plants can help to naturally remove the toxins from the environment and clean your air. NASA research has shown that common plants help reduce indoor air pollution. Chinese Evergreen and Arrowhead Vine were both shown to help reduce systolic blood pressure in stressed-out patients in a study from Washington State University.
Enjoying a cup of tea can significantly reduce stress levels according to a study at City University London. While tea may have its own unique soothing properties, the promise of comfort and warmth were found to be the primary reason we reach for a cup of warm tea. Just don’t drink the caffeinated kind right before bed.
Do yoga (or meditate)
Yoga has long been known for its relaxing qualities. Controlled breathing and clearing of the mind can be relaxing and stress reducing. Other benefits include increased circulation, lower blood pressure, and better overall physical fitness. Exercise of any kind can release endorphins to help you feel good naturally. There are many yoga class options here in Vermont, but you don’t have to take a yoga class to get these benefits. Visit your local library to borrow a DVD.
When my children were babies, we attended post-natal yoga classes together. The babies were engaged but relaxed. The after-school program my children attend offers yoga once a week as a choice activity, and my daughter chooses it regularly.
How do you de-stress yourself or your family? We’d love to hear from you.
For more information on the mind/stress/health connection and National Stress Awareness Month, visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website.