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I often come across a meme that calls me out for my hunched-up, stressed-out posture.
You probably know the one:
“If you’re reading this, release your shoulders from your ears, unclench your jaw, and remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”
Somehow, for some reason, this is how I find myself anytime I’m at my laptop, regardless of whether it’s when I’m working or just bumming around on my day off.
But it’s worse—way worse—when I’m having a full, stressful day. Not only am I in the exact posture the meme’s called me out for, but my back and legs are tensed up, my chest feels tight, and my mind is doing cartwheels around all of my work to-dos and all of my home to-dos. As an added bonus, I mix in some rumination over whatever’s recently happened…an awkward conversation, messing something up, health concerns, anything (there’s always something). And the stressy, hunched-up feeling stays with me, even when I walk away from my laptop.
I feel irritable, kinda depressed, tired.
Before I know it, I’m physically and mentally wrecked. Sometimes I hit that point by noon. Sometimes in the evening. After really long weeks, I’m already there shortly after waking up.
For me, the issue isn’t necessarily how to help myself. It’s how to recognize where I am in that moment. I tend to ignore it and just keep going. Lots of us (or dare I say, most of us?) women do.
So before we go on to read all the fantastic ways we can calm our frazzled nerves and reset, the one thing we can do first is learn how to pause. Not just right now (though you should: look away from this screen, gaze, take a deep breath, feel your body, rest your mind) but throughout your day. The goal is to catch yourself before you get to an “I’m totally wrecked” state so that you can then use these ideas to self-soothe. But it’s okay if we let it go too long. Every day is different, and I often forget to practice being present. Just keep practicing. I do it when I change tasks at work. Or when I get up to use the washroom or stretch. Before I leash up the dog for a walk. While I’m letting the sauce on the stove simmer.
Then, once we recognize when we need a little self-care, here are a bunch of ideas on how to go about that, contributed by our Elephant Journal readers.
Try one or two of these—some might need some planning—and notice when your day gets a little bit lighter:
1. Swimming or tubing. “It’s hard to be stressed when you’re just floating in nature!” ~ Nicole
2. A warm bath with ambient noise and a candle.
3. Doing the dishes.
4. Wash your hands under cold water. “This always helps me during a panic attack. The sound and the sensation distract me and calm me.” ~ Heather
5. Window shopping. “I don’t spend dollars. Just walking through the quiet aisle of certain shops is calming to me.” ~ Char
6. Being with our pets. Holding, petting, cuddling them, walking with them. (Science has proven this to be physically good for us.)
7. “It is impossible to worry and dance at the same time.” ~ Tiffani
8. Sketching, drawing, or adult coloring books.
9. Have an orgasm.
10. Put your hand on your heart and reassure yourself you’re okay.
11. Eating peppermint or drinking ginger beer.
12. Taking a shower.
13. “Stop what I’m doing and answer the following questions: Where am I? What do I see? What do I smell? What do I hear? What kind of clothes am I wearing?” ~ Taty
14. Look up at the sky and notice the sound of the wind or birds.
17. Deep breathing why laying under a weighted blanket.
18. Going to an old bookstore or library simply to breathe in the scent of it.
19. Blowing bubbles. (Pro tip from Rae: keep them in your car for when you’re stuck in a traffic jam.)
20. Walking in the rain.
21. “Freediving. It makes all your worries, sadness, and heartaches disappear every time you’re underwater.” ~ Iris
22. Cleaning anything.
23. Slow music and a good cup of coffee.
25. Running stairs. (The calming part happens afterward.)
26. “Any left right movement. Walking, standing up, and shift left to right. If sitting alternate tapping left hand, right hand on your thighs. The left right stimulation gets both sides of the brain to communicate with each other. Allowing the left side of the brain, the logical side, calm down the right side of your brain, the emotional side.” ~ Sharon
27. A deep pressure massage.
28. Take a break for a “Friends” episode.
29. Do a handstand against the wall.
30. “I alphabetically arrange the Periodic table of Elements on paper.” ~ Kristin
31. Listening to Solfeggio frequencies or binaural beats.
32. Building something, like a Lego set.
33. “Getting into child pose and closing my eyes for 5 minutes.” ~ Lisa
34. Putting your head under water.
35. “Smoking the sacred ganja.” ~ Barbara
36. Working on a jigsaw puzzle.
37. Finding something to laugh at.
39. “Bike. My new passion. Cleans my mind better than any drug.” ~ Dovydas
40. Painting. (Or watching any Bob Ross video.)
41. Playing piano or guitar.
42. Taking care of your indoor plants.
43. Balancing stones.
44. ASMR videos.
45. Designating a “grounding partner” and calling them.
46. Taking photos of wildlife.
48. Antique shopping.
49. Beautiful smells: the smell of crayons, petrichor, freshly cut grass, citrus.
50. Writing on a dry erase board.
51. “I love donating plasma. It gives me a chance to do something good, make some cash, and watch my shows/read without being interrupted.” ~ Terra
53. Needlepoint, crochet, knitting, or cross-stitch.
54. Organizing a room in your house.
55. Drumming (real or air).
56. Folding the laundry.
57. A good pillow scream.
58. Counting our blessings.
59. A nature walk—without the phone.
61. “Surfing Pinterest for baking recipes.” ~ Diem
63. Power walking.
64. Playing chess on an app.
65. Funny cat videos.
66. “When all else fails—I sing the Mahna Mahna song—it makes me happy and stops me overthinking.” ~ Annemarie