Whenever I tell someone I’m stressed, one of the first suggestions is “You should take up meditation.” This is usually followed by “Oh, you should take a class on stress management.” I don’t know about you, but the idea of meditating stresses me out. I’ve tried meditating, and I’m not good at it. All those thoughts swirling around in my head give me an anxiety attack. Taking a class in stress management is probably the last thing I would enjoy, after meditation of course. (Who wants to sit in a room with a bunch of other stressed out people? LOL) So, here’s a practical list of simple and affordable activities that I do on a regular basis to help me feel less stressed. You will find that what these activities have in common is that they involve using your hands while distracting your brain. If you have any other ideas, please let me know in the comments.
1. Play solitaire.
Although there are some great computer and smartphone solitaire games, I’ve found that playing solitaire is most relaxing for me with real cards. You can get a deck of cards at a dollar store or on sites like Amazon. I find that just shuffling the cards relaxes me. Solitaire is also one of the easiest, less stressful games I know. The rules are easy to learn, you aren’t competing against anyone, and it doesn’t matter if you lose.
2. Play with sand.
I love sand. I love the way it feels in my hands, and it’s fun to make a little castle. I especially love kinetic sand, because it’s less messy. I was able to get a small sandbox kit on Amazon for about $20, but there are probably cheaper ones available. If you don’t like sand, try clay or dough. There are some interesting recipes online for making your own dough.
I’ve discovered that drawing and painting stress me out, because I worry about getting it right and become frustrated. Coloring is easy though. I ordered a stash of cheap coloring books and a pack of crayons for about $10, and they have lasted since last winter.
4. Play a wood peg game.
Wood peg games involve jumping one peg over the others until you run out of pegs. Here is an example of one that I own. This is a game you can play by yourself, or you can take turns with friends. I prefer to play alone.
5. Make a collage.
I love making collages when I’m stressed. This takes a bit of advanced planning, because you will need old magazines or something to cut pictures from as well as tape or a glue stick. I hate the way glue smells so I prefer the odorless glue sticks. If I’m on the verge of a meltdown and don’t trust myself with scissors, I will just tear up the paper with my hands. I’ve made a few creative stripped-paper collages this way.
6. Do a puzzle.
I own two big books of wordsearches and jumbles, because I find these puzzles to be relaxing. Crosswords and other word puzzles stress me out. I also own several jigsaw puzzles, which I find relaxing as long as I don’t buy the very difficult ones.
7. Treat yourself to a favorite.
I keep a “favorite box,” which is basically a large shoe box, next to my desk for when I need to de-stress. In my favorite box are two of my favorite dvds, a favorite cd, one of my favorite books, my favorite beaded bracelet (touching the beads relaxes me), my favorite tiny slinky, a little bottle of body spray that smells like lavender, and my favorite candy bar. I keep this stuff in there and sometimes put other things in there or change it up as needed, but I always know that when I am feeling stressed I can grab something out of there and it feels like I’m getting a treat.
What activities or things do you do to manage your stress? I know that what works for one person will be different for others (for example, my friend knits to relax but knitting stresses me out). It would be great if we could come up with a big list of ideas.