Often the biggest obstacles to our health are of our own making and feeling better means getting out of own way. This is especially true with stress. Stress will exacerbate almost any health issue, and we all need to know how to relax. Relaxation isn’t just about what we like to do when winding down, it is about knowing how to take care of ourselves, knowing our boundaries, and taking time away when we need it. Put your own mask on first, right?
What about when the budget doesn’t allow for two week vacations in lands nicer and warmer than where you live? When spas are out of the question because the bills get priority, there are still a ton of options to relax, lower the heart rate, nourish the adrenal and endocrine systems, and prioritize your health.
Here is a quick list to look over for cheap to free ways to de-stress. Pick a few and try them out. See which one actually makes you feel better, and do it! You deserve it. You’ll feel more grounded and have more energy to tackle the same issues. I swear they won’t get any bigger while you take that bath.
1. TAKE A BATH. Of course this is first. Assuming you have a bathtub, it is mere pennies to fill it up with piping hot water and ease yourself in and let the worries seep out of you and wash them down the drain.
Want to step it up? Here are some things to add that won't break the bank (or even make a dent): Epsom salt, flower petals from the garden (roses, lavender, sage will have a nice scent, but grab any flower with color to bring some joy into the bathtub), bubbles, bath bombs, a few drops of essential oils, oatmeal.
Does the thought of cleaning the tub afterwards stress you out? Put the flowers, oatmeal and other things that won't dissolve into a cloth bag and either run the bath water over them or let it steep in the tub with you.
2. TAKE A WALK SOMEPLACE QUIET. Woods, deserts, and parks are some of my favorites. Someplace you can hear the wind move the tress and the birds sing. Go to the beach and watch the ocean waves come in and out from the shore. Do you live in a concrete jungle without access to any of those things? Try cemeteries. No really, if bugs and nature scare you more than bodies resting under nicely maintained lawns and flowers, then cemeteries can be a really nice, quiet place to walk or sit and gather your thoughts. Imagine the lives of the people commemorated on the headstone. Be grateful for everyday you have.
3. CHECK OUT FREE MUSEUMS. Quietly take in some art and perspective. See if there is an event to check out. It's a perfect place to be around people, but also be in your own space. A lot of the larger, more costly museums have at least a day a month with free admission. Find out when it is and go park it in front of a Basquiat. Or find Monet and try to guess how many colors are used, or how much time or how many layers of paint were needed for his famous sunrises.
4. MEDITATE. Don't know where to start? Try taking 10 deep breaths. Feel the lungs expand, pushing into your throat. Hold it, exhale until you feel them close in towards your stomach. Bonus points for doing this in nature. Double bonus points for taking 5 minutes over your lunch break to close your eyes and count your breath. It is about being able to silence or at least distract the chatter in your head. Focus on the way air moves over your lips, through your body.
5. YOGA. In a similar vein to meditation, but with yoga synchronizes the breath with the whole body. A lot of studios offer the first month membership at a discount. Check out your local spots. Still too much of an investment? Get on Youtube and search Yin Yoga. Melt the day away.
6. EXERCISE. Move your body, increase your circulation, push it so the only thing your mind can do is concentrate on its movements. Go for a run, speed walk, dance. Again, Youtube can get you sweating at no cost, and then there is no need to stress about wearing your workout clothes in public before you are good and ready.
7. WATCH SOME COMFORT TV. Go easy on yourself. Sometimes after a long day we need to just let entertainment take us away. That is what it is made to do, and it does it very well. Get on something comfy, curl up on the couch and fall into another world, your favorite sitcom or the movie that makes you laugh every time. The online site, Kanopy, is available for free through a lot of libraries. It has a unique selection of documentaries and international films.
8. CALL A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER. Have vent session. If you are concerned about getting an earful of less than stellar advise, announce before had that no solutions are needed, and you just have to say it out loud. It might not be professional life coaching you get, but that is what friends are for and it's way cheaper than therapy.
9. GRAB A NOVEL. Forget your worries and slip into some good story telling. Reread the classics or sign up to some book lists to get the latest and greatest. This isn't the time for heady, non-fictional reading, this is to let the mind wander into other cities, other lives, other worlds. Audio books are great too. Often libraries will have a huge selection that you can access online
10. LISTEN TO YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC. Sing along if it suits you. Tired of the old stuff? Pandora and Spotify have free options and their algorithms make for some spot on suggestions. Ask friends for what they are listening to.
Stress, often bordering anxiety is part of most health issues. Finding ways to relax that won't make one stress about the money it costs them to do it is important, and often the only way it will be sustainable.
Unfortunately the world creates more stress in one week than what can be dealt with in one day. We need to be working in daily practices to de-stress, not just massages on the weekends.