Hey friends. How are we? Twitter is a dumpster fire these days, the pandemic is still raging on, and I slightly burnt my sourdough loaf this week. I’m distracted and worn out by the constant doomsday news that we are facing day in and day out. I’m concerned about the mental health of those in the United States who feel that doom to an overwhelming degree. If you’re with me and you feel any of those things, I encourage you to unplug tonight. Resist the temptation to let fear overwhelm you.
Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies. According to Healthline, when you’re stressed, it can trigger all kind of bodily responses including headaches, heartburn, rapid breathing, weakened immune system, high blood pressure, insomnia, stomaches, tensed muscles, reproductive issues (missed periods, fertility problems, erectile dysfunction), weight gain, and increased depression.
The common link is cortisol, which is a hormone the body produces when it’s stressed. WebMD calls it the body’s built-in “alarm system,” which is the instinct for us to go into “fight-or-flight” mode. While cortisol is a helpful hormone for survival (boosts energy, manages how your body uses macronutrients), if you’re in a constant state of stress, your body can experience a number of health issues.
Be honest, did anyone else gain 5 pounds since March? I’m not talking about the extra pounds we may have packed on due to comfort eating (a common response to stress…) but a stubborn few pounds that can’t seem to go away because our bodies are in a constant state of alarm. A deadly pandemic, an infuriating election season, a heartbroken world.
Your body has probably gone through a lot. I know mine has. I’ve been having odd problems with digestion (a symptom), a small amount of weight gain that I can’t pinpoint why (another symptom), headaches, chest pains…especially anytime I take a peak at Twitter. It’s like a never-ending nightmare.
Doomsday…right? Oh, how I wish I could fix it for you.
But…I can encourage you to resist the temptation to let fear overwhelm you. Instead of tuning in to the consistent sh** show we call 2020, give your mind and body a break. Instead of endlessly scrolling through social media trying to find some kind of comfort to fix your sorrow, turn your phone off and cuddle up on the couch.
I’m not saying ignore it for good—I do believe we have work to do and a world that needs hope. But your mental health is incredibly important, and you are allowed to care for it and guard it. You don’t have to let the doomsday of the world control your mental state every single day.
I write all of this because it’s become important for my own well being. I’ve picked up a practice of de-stressing, and I wanted to share a few of my tactics with all of you. I hope it helps you today, and the days to follow. Because I truly believe when we let our minds rest, we are come back stronger than before. We can tackle the hard work ahead of us. We can be kinder to those around us. We can have listening ears, warm hearts, and open hands.
So…with all of that being said, here are a few ways I encourage you to unplug and destress.
Pick up a hobby that doesn’t involve technology…or money.
Remember hobbies? You know, the chosen activities we do for fun that aren’t a “side hustle” or related to work in any way? I’m not talking scrolling through social media or being on some form of technology (although I think video games are different), but something you do for the sheer fun of it. I mean you spend all that time working, why not spend a little time for play? Chosen fun that you enjoy?
My chosen fun has always been reading (I actually read 52 books in 2017), but I’m also super into crocheting. I’m currently making my second blanket since quarantine started!
Make food from scratch.
There’s something relaxing and serene about taking your time making something from scratch. Sure, the quick 30-minute dinners are convenient when you want to get something on the table. But taking your time to bake a sourdough loaf or a beautiful dessert? Or a roast? Priceless.
Read real books.
Like I said, I love to read. I do enjoy reading the news, but holding an actual print book and curling up on the couch is a true act of coziness for me. There have actually been multiple times over the past few months where I’ve read through an entire book in one weekend. Some on just Sunday alone.
Avoid the Internet first thing in the morning.
Does the Internet ever really make you feel relaxed? No? Thought so. If you’re looking to be less stressed, just stay off of the Internet. Don’t let it distract those first precious moments of the morning. Don’t let it distract your cozy moments at night. Leave it be.
Light some candles, get cozy, make tea, and listen to music.
I’ve been reading The Little Book of Hygge these past few weeks, and I’ve been enjoying the Danish concept of “getting cozy.” The book recommends picking some kid of “hygge” spot in your house where you can sit, get cozy, and just be. Sometimes with a book, maybe with a craft like crocheting or cross-stitching. But no technology. No stressful distractions.
My “hygge” corner is on the left side of my couch. I prop up my two throw pillows around me to make a cozy corner, get under a blanket, light one of my candles, and make a tea or a hot chocolate. Music will sometimes happen, but if it’s raining, I just sit there and listen to the rain.
Go for an “awe walk”.
Yesterday I came across a New York Times article describing a study that had their subjects go on an “awe walk” for 15 minutes every day. The “awe walk” can look any way you want—whether it be in nature, by the sea, in an urban setting, whatever place you desire. During the walk, the group was tasked to look for the “awe” they saw. In the article, awe is described as “focusing on the world outside of your head.”
Wouldn’t we love to just ignore the world outside of our heads right now…to be able to enjoy the beauty that surrounds our world? The study saw an improvement regarding mental health, and while it did focus on people between the ages of 60 and 80, I do think 27-year-olds need to pick up the same kind of activity. Don’t you?