We don’t need to tell YOU how stressful planning a wedding can be. If you are feeling, exhausted, overwhelmed, and stretched beyond your budget, you may be wondering how to loosen up without spending even more money. A deep-tissue massage at the spa or dinner and a movie with your girlfriends might do the trick, but it will cost you! Here are some ideas from AllHealthcare, via Four White Mice to help you relax with an easy conscience. It’s good for you and your relationships, too!
feature image from Mind Body Partnerships Blog
Do Something You Loved Doing as a Kid
Do you ever long for those days when recess, pillow forts, and Saturday morning cartoons were your biggest pleasures? Just because you’re all grown up now doesn’t mean you can’t still partake in the simple joys of childhood. Turn off your cell phone, disconnect from the internet, and act like a kid again!
Ride a bike to the park. Start a pick-up kickball game with your family or friends. Go to the beach and bring along your favorite book. Make a snowman in the wintertime. The possibilities (and your imagination) are endless. Take along your own kids, or borrow a friend’s to really get into the spirit of things!
Volunteer Your Time or Expertise
One of the best feelings in the world is giving back to others. Non-profit associations are always looking for more help, so even if you can only donate 5 hours a month, your time will be very much appreciated and well worth the effort. Volunteering can be something small – like reading a story to young cancer patients one day a month – or something bigger – like serving as a disaster relief nurse. No matter what you do, you can be content to know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.
(Extra bonus: Not only is volunteering incredibly fulfilling, it’s also a great resume builder. If you’re a recent grad or career changer, volunteering can give you valuable training and hands-on experience to jump start your career!)
Cost: Mostly free! (You may have to provide your own transportation and pack a lunch). Volunteering abroad may cost the price of airfare and lodging.
More Info: Check out AllHealthcare’s exclusive Guide to Volunteering. You can also Google “volunteer” and your town and state or visit Volunteer.gov, American Red Cross, Serve.gov, Volunteers of America, and Habitat for Humanity.
Stretch, Breathe and Meditate
It’s hard not to feel stressed and overworked by the hectic pace of our hyper-connected society. Before you go into meltdown mode, hit pause, relax and take a breather.
Yoga is a great thing for some , but even some basic meditation, stretching and breathing techniques can work wonders for your stress relief. When you stress out, tension is stored in your body, causing pain and tightness, especially in your back and shoulders. Stretching will get your body loose and your circulation flowing in full force again.
To meditate, find or create a relaxing atmosphere, sit on level ground (use a cushion if you like), close your eyes, relax every muscle and breathe deeply with your abdomen, not your chest. Focus on each inhale and exhale to exclude other thoughts and quiet your mind.
More Info: Google “how to meditate” or visit How-to-Meditate.org
Have a Really Good Laugh
It’s been scientifically proven that laughter is both preventive and therapeutic. It decreases your stress hormone levels and boosts healthy hormones, like endorphins, while strengthening your immune system. You even get a mini workout for your abs, diaphragm and your shoulders!
One good way to achieve this is to spend some quality time with your funniest friend. Not only will you laugh a lot, it will also take your mind off all the stressors in your life. Plus, the emotional bonding will boost your self-esteem and feeling of connectedness to others.
Laughter really is the best medicine, so call up your funniest friend and hang out. You can also rent your favorite comedy or watch re-runs of a funny show together. You’ll be glad you did.
Nothing beats a good night’s rest. Many working professionals bring their troubles home with them and that equals more stress for you and your loved ones. Why not sleep it off? Getting even 30 minutes of shut eye can help you relax and put your problems in perspective.
If you’re going to try to sleep off your stress, make sure you’ve got surroundings that promote good quality rest. A dark, cool, quiet room with few electronics is best (turn off the phones, blackberries, and laptops!). If you still feel too antsy to rest, try a cup of Valerian Root or chamomile tea. A warm bath can also help put you in a restful state of mind.
More Info: National Sleep Foundation
Get in Touch with your Creative Side
Looking at art definitely has its calming effects, but it’s not always all about the finished product. You don’t have to be Picasso to get the health benefits of producing beautiful works of art either. People who make art as a hobby find that the process of self-expression through unwinding and creating art can be extremely soothing as well. Art therapy is thus frequently used in hospitals, clinics and rehab facilities to promote physical, emotional and mental wellbeing via creative expression.
Artistic self-expression helps lessen anxiety, stress and depression, and promote self-awareness, self-esteem and insight into your life. You can pick up reasonably priced art supplies or art kits at any hobby store. Just set aside an art space, turn on some relaxing music and paint to your health!
Cost: $7 and up
More Info: Google “art store” or “hobby store” and your town and state. For more info on art therapy, read Mending the Heart–Calming the Mind With Art Therapy
Cook a Delicious Homemade Dinner
America’s “Fast Food Nation” has us plowing through processed, barely digestible microwave dinners and super-sized extra value meals. Not only is our physique suffering, our stress and anxiety levels are off the charts. Everything around us, even food, is moving way too fast.
Back up, slow down and consider taking the time to cook your next meal with simple items you already have in your fridge and cupboards. The process of chopping, measuring, stirring and sautéing (and even washing the dishes afterward) can be incredibly therapeutic.
Check what ingredients you have in your kitchen, and look up a recipe (see below). Pick something simple that won’t stress you out! Let the culinary sensations overtake you, and then invite a friend (or fiance) over to enjoy your delicious meal and bask in the compliments!
Get Outdoors, Go to the Park, Take a Hike
Let’s not forget to stop and smell the flowers! Science has proven time and time again how the psychological benefits of nature can calm the brain and better your mood and concentration. Hospital patients recover faster when they have a view of trees and flowers from their window, and children with attention-deficit disorder exhibit less symptoms in a natural environment.
So get back to basics, and enjoy nature. Bring a blanket to the park and lie out, or go for a hike and take in the scenery. Bask in the sun, breathe in the fresh air, and appreciate all the colorful simplicity of the outdoors. Your brain’s health depends on it.
Cost: Mostly free (Some parks/hiking grounds may charge $3-5)
More Info: Check out this great great interactive park directory or just Google “hiking trail” or “park” and your town and state
Take a Bath with Candles and Aromatherapy
The recuperative and healing properties of water have many stress-relieving benefits and allow the body to fall into a deeper sleep. Submerging in a bath tub relieves your body from the constant pull of gravity, and heated water relaxes muscle tension, improving circulation, range of motion and energy flow.
Melt away your stress by creating a mini spa in your bathroom. Turn on soothing music, dim the lights, light candles and prepare fresh towels. The music will drown out household sounds that you may associate with everyday stressors, and relaxed lighting can go a long way when creating a peaceful mood.
Most importantly, make arrangements for your well-deserved uninterrupted solitude. Turn off your cell phone, log out of email and if you have roommates or family around, tell them to leave you alone for an hour or two. Be sure to prepare your bed beforehand so you have a nice, comfy space to crawl into after your bath.
Cost: $4 and up, depending on how many spa items you want to buy.
More Info: You can pick up high-end aromatherapy bubble bath soap, scented candles, skin-moisturizing oils, and exfoliating body scrubs on the cheap at your local T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross stores.