Whenever someone suggests we relax or take a break, traditional methods of relaxation may spring to mind. While massages and vacations are lovely, they are not always practical this time of year. When holiday stress hits its peak as the year begins to wind down, here are nine unusual way to relax.
1. Go for a swing
Who says playgrounds are just for kids? If you are feeling beyond stressed with holiday activities and demands, take some time out and head to the nearest playground. Sit on the swing and just let go. Remember what that feeling of flying felt like when you were little, when a friend or a parent pushed you higher and higher. Let the wind flow through your hair and turn your face to the sunshine.
This is a break that can be had anytime you pass a swing set.
2. Get out your crayons
No longer restricted to the under-seven set, adult coloring books are seeing a rise in popularity as a way to calm the brain. Coloring also increases creativity and helps relieve stress. There are specific adult coloring books that focus on mandala-like patterns or nature scenes. Some of the patterns take many days to complete. Return to your coloring book whenever you start to feel overwhelmed or frantic. This can also act as an adult “time out” if you find yourself snapping at your kids or getting cranky with your partner.
3. Sing a song
The American Music Therapy Association has dedicated itself to promoting music therapy as a treatment for a number of different conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, and plain old stress and tension. You don’t really need to be able to sing or play any type of instrument to reap the stress-reducing benefits of music therapy. Spending a few minutes immersed in your favorite music can help relax and refresh your mind.
There are many different ways to allow music to relax you. Put on your favorite dance music and let loose, all through the house. Do it when no one’s home so you can truly dance like no one is watching.
The other option is to find your favorite soothing music, dim the lights, sit comfortably, and turn it up. Really listen, and let the music flow into your bones. Try to focus on the vibrations of each note. Tune in to the music to tune out stress.
4. Work on a puzzle
Puzzles can be amazingly relaxing even as they stimulate the problem-solving and logical parts of your brain. The best way to remind yourself to slow down and work on your puzzle is to keep it out, somewhere that is out of the way but in eyesight. When you pass by in a rush, the puzzle can be a reminder to slow down, sit down, and take some time for yourself.
5. Create a spa at home
With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it may be impractical (in time and money) to visit a spa. If a bath and spa experience are what help you to relax, recreate the spa at home. Use Epsom salts and essential oils in the bath (instead of chemically-scented bubbles or fizzes), light candles, play soft music, and make some tea. Set out fuzzy slippers and a fluffy robe, and give yourself a manicure or pedicure when you get out of the bath.
This is another adult “time out” that can help you to relax and refresh.
Called abhyanga by those who practice ayurvedic medicine, self-massage is one way to relax deeply right before bed. Make sure your oil is warm and that you practice this massage in a well-heated room. Light some candles, add lavender essential oil to your base oil, and take your time with long, sweeping strokes. Take a hot shower after (no soap; let the oil absorb into your skin), slip in cozy pajamas, and fall asleep relaxed and refreshed.
7. Practice yoga nidra
Also referred to as “yogic sleep,” yoga nidra is a deeply relaxing guided mediation practice. Practitioners often use yoga nidra to slide peacefully into sleep, but short sessions can be incorporated throughout the day. Some say that just 15 minutes of yoga nidra is the equivalent of a several-hour nap.
You can download many free audio recordings of yoga nidra and play them on your phone when you have moments you would normally spend mindlessly surfing the ‘net.
8. Mindlessly surf the ‘net
Sometimes what you actually do need is a little mindless entertainment. If your busy schedule has kept you away from Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or other forms of social media, taking a time out to play online can be just the thing you need to relax. Keep it light and fun; don’t get into Facebook arguments or Twitter wars. Look at funny videos, pin-teresting crafts – do something that you truly enjoy and don’t get enough downtime for.
9. Go for a walk in the woods
Again and again research has shown that nature is a great antidote to stress. You don’t have to hike the Pacific Crest Trail or even break a sweat to reap the benefits of being outside. Just a few daily minutes outside, in a greenspace or on a forest trail if you are lucky enough to live close to one, is enough to calm the mind the and rest the spirit. Incorporate a walk outside into your day, rain or shine.
What are your most unusual stress relievers, during the holidays or anytime?