Stress can be productive, but it can also wreak havoc on your well-being and sense of self. We all know this. We’ve also all heard of the usual ways to cope with it. The tricky part is figuring out which of those ways—and which unconventional ways—actually help you. After all, what calms one person may spark anxiety in another.
It’s especially hard to come up with stress reduction tactics while we’re stressed, so it behooves us to create a stress emergency kit ahead of time—a mental list of all of the things and activities that help bring you back to peace.
The following are the most commonly used “items” in my stress kit. I hope that it inspires you to create your own—even if it varies wildly from my own! As I was putting this list together, I realized that most of the items in my relaxation pharmacy engage the senses. Perfume, music, colorful nail polish…perhaps recognizing this trend can help point me towards more things that can boost my spirits.
1. A hot shower. While I do love a nice bath, candles and all, when I’m really stressed, I crave a serious shower. There’s something that feels purifying about water raining down on me from above (oh glorious shower head!). I imagine the stress being “washed” away as I thoroughly exfoliate and enjoy my suds.
2. An all natural face mask. My favorite kind of mask is the kind you whip up yourself. I love mixing a little clay with some raw cacao and hydrating it with aloe and witch hazel. I leave it on for about twenty minutes while I do something else relaxing, like flip through a magazine. It’s only twenty minutes, but it makes a big difference.
3. My yoga mat. A home yoga session is a great way to make the transition from work mode to home mode. If I’m working from home and writing at my desk for several hours, I’ll take a quick break do some calming asanas to boost circulation and loosen up any areas that are tight from sitting (and stressing).
4. A blend of calming oils—or one of my favorite perfumes. Although this may sound like heresy, sometimes my perfume is as much of a mood lifter or de-stressor as a blend of essential oils. Either way, smelling something lovely can lift you out of a dark place and help you power through emails and tedious meetings. Lately I’ve been applying Uma Pure Bliss Wellness Oil on my temples, and my perfume of choice lately has been Joyful by My Daughter Fragrances—both blends are all natural and divinely feminine.
5. My journal. Writing about my anxieties helps put them into perspective, but it’s equally productive to focus on the positive and make a list of all the abundance that charms my life.
6. A little jewelry. Sometimes an extra ring or my super chunky charm bracelet help me feel more joyful and more myself. Jewelry with some meaning behind it (which is all of my jewelry) reminds me of the people and places that inspire me.
7. My manicure kit. Most of the time, there’s a color I’m craving. Indulging that my color lust can be so satisfying. Besides, there’s nothing like a fresh manicure to make me feel put together.
8. My favorite songs. My favorite songs aren’t necessarily inherently calming or uplifting but cranking them up in my car and singing along certainly is!
9. Fresh fruit. When I was growing up, we didn’t have processed sweets in the house. Fruit and juice was probably my primary sugar source, and it was always what I craved when I felt sad. I recall sitting on the pantry floor eating raisins on a few occasions during my high school years. Of course, I love rich food as much as the next person, but when I’m down, there’s nothing like a juicy grapefruit for a crisp granny smith apple to make me feel that everything will turn out okay. Yes, part of this comes from the sugar in the fruit, I’m sure, but it’s also the simplicity of fruit, it’s bright colors, it fresh smell!
10. Some pretty candles. Like yoga, lighting candles helps me feel that I am at home, in my own safe space. There’s also something luxurious about candles that make me feel like I’m being pampered.
11. My kitchen. Making a big meal from stratch—for no particular occasion—is the perfect way to give myself a mental break from daily stressors. So much focus goes into creating the perfect dish. One must keep track of time, measure ingredients, and stir, stir, stir. In the meantime, you’re engulfed in the smell of a caramelizing onion and the warmth of your spices. A true escape.
12. The novel sitting on the coffee table or nightstand. Reading a hard copy of a novel (i.e. not the Kindle version) is a beautiful way to unwind. I just love holding a physical book and feeling the pages. Right now, I’m rereading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I’ve enjoyed discovering the marginalia I wrote when I read it in college.
What’s in your stress emergency kit? Does your kit have a common theme?
More stress and wellness tips: 25 Best Stress Busting Foods
5 Best Tips for Immediate Stress Relief
3 Yogic Breaths for Self-Healing
How to Take It One Day At a Time
Photos: Elena Kalis via Flickr, My Daughter Fragrances, Peaceful Dumpling