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Spring clean your mind with these healthy stress relievers

While spring cleaning is an effective way to reduce the clutter in our homes, taking the time to address the stress and anxiety that might be cluttering our minds is just as important. Whether it’s a stroll in the park or baking a batch of your favorites cookies, Esther Sachse, executive director of the Grief Recovery Center, says taking a moment to focus on yourself can be a simple and natural way to cope with the stressors of life.

“Many of us find that the events of the past year have led to mental and emotional strain,” says Sachse. “We feel like we are living on edge. Even as we are returning back to normal, we find that we are stressed because we have to cope with change. After all, stress is really just the body’s response to change.”

While we often think of stress as negative, Sachse tells us that change which excites and energizes us is referred to as eustress or “positive stress,” while distress is the body’s response to change that causes anxiety and concern.

“They’re both forms of stress, and I think it’s important to avoid speaking solely about the negative aspects,” says Sachse. “As people are getting vaccinated and people feel more freedom to get out, they are excited about that, but at the same time it’s a different world and everything is still unusual and uncomfortable, so to me this closing of the pandemic is a perfect example of eustress.”

Common life milestones like graduating and getting married, for example, can come with a lot of joy, but they can also come with plenty of anxiety and chaos. Whatever it may be, if the things you do to handle those emotions and feelings aren’t helping, then Sachse encourages you to reach out for help.

“I think any time these methods—shared below—aren’t working for you, or any time you feel you can’t naturally self-soothe or reduce some of the stress, we always encourage people to call out and seek counseling. We have a lot of clients who just need that regular check-in to debrief and take off the burden of daily life, so it’s always a good time to reach out, especially if the things that usually work for you aren’t working for you right now.”

With the pandemic leading to erratic schedules and amplifying the unknown, Sachse stresses the importance of finding balance in a routine.

“I think it’s really important that everyone establishes as least some sense of order in their life—and certainly there is a lot of variability—but you have to have some consistency in certain types of things and certain types of interactions,” says Sachse. “For example, with people working at home, they don’t often have the coworkers they used to bump into at the coffee pot, so you have to make an effort to incorporate those relationships and activities in your life.”

Read below for Sachse’s recommended healthy stress relievers:

Exercise: Even just a short walk in the nice spring weather. Walk the dog, ride a bike or rediscover your love for a sport.

Reduce caffeine: Although that extra cup of coffee seems wonderful, too much caffeine can cause anxiety, insomnia, fatigue or rapid heart rate.

Journaling: Journaling about your experiences is an effective way to identify and label your feelings. There is research that demonstrates if we can name our sources of distress, we are much better able to deal with it. Name it to tame it.

Music: While some enjoy light classics, others relax to the sounds of rap or heavy metal. Studies show listening to music improves mood, reduces stress, improves memory and reduces anxiety. Listening to music actually increases the release of dopamine, a chemical that has positive effects on mood. One can even try a different music genre and discover some new avenues of stress reduction.

Laughter: Watch funny YouTube or TikTok videos, or for us in the older generation, a good Three Stooges show. Laughter has been proved to boost the immune system, relax muscles and improve cardiac health.

Mindfulness, meditation and breath work: Being in the present without judgment, without worrying about the future and reliving the past is a great way to reduce stress. Meditation and breath work can help one achieve that sense of mindfulness.

Aromatherapy: There is noting like the smell of chocolate chip cookies, peppermint or a lavender bath. Arom therapy, or the use of natural plant extracts, is a wonder way to improve the body, mind and spirit.

Use of stress balls and stress relievers: These balls and devices are everywhere.

Star gazing/nature fest: Looking up at the stars on a beautiful night, walking through trees on a well-worn path, watching birds in nature or through your window—all are easy and cheap ways to reduce stress.

Tapping/acupressure/acupuncture: The Emotional Freedom Technique is a way to hypothetically reduce distress by focusing on the meridian points or “energy spots” to restore energy balance. This is similar to acupuncture but does not involve needles.

Play: Embrace your inner child. Play with silly string, pick clover in the grass, play a card game with a child—the simple pleasures are the best.

Visualize calm in your safe space: Visualize in your mind a safe space, and spend time there. Focus on your senses.