10 Ways to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit For Yourself Or Someone Else
Stress gets a bad rap today, but did you know that it is our body’s natural reaction to events where we feel threatened or perceive danger? When we lived in caves, stress was the bodily function that saved lives. It was the way that we honed reactions to situations that felt out-of-control. Here are 10 ways to create a stress reducing toolkit for a better peace of mind!
10 Ways to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit
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Before You Make Plans For Your Stress Reducing Toolkit
Before you make any plans for a stress free toolkit -know your triggers…
The definition of a trigger is something that elicits an intense or unexpected emotional response. There are many symptoms a person may experience when they experience this -none are fun.
A trigger can basically be anything. A person, a smell, a movie… You can avoid some, but others appear out of the blue. Knowing what to do when you encounter a trigger is the key to either staying stress free or getting back to that state.
Try different strategies to deal with the trigger(s). Deep breaths, walking away, repeating a favorite mantra, acknowledge your feelings, and even working with a professional are all healthy ways to deal with a trigger.
Start By Intentionally Checking In With Yourself
This can be done in any setting, and should be done several times a day. Start with 3x a day. Set an alarm on your phone for midday and evening. The other time should be included in your morning routine.
Checking in with yourself is easy, and your mental state will benefit from this practice.
Ask yourself how you are doing. How are you feeling? Do you need anything? Do you need to make an adjustment in your schedule? Do you need to take a break? Do you need help?
One more thing to include in your self-check is gratitude. Think quickly of three things that you are grateful for -it can be that the sun is shining or that you are wearing your favorite shirt.
#1 Must Have to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit: Choose a place
Where do you feel safe? Where do you feel the most comfortable? What tools will help you to feel better. Think about times in the past where you were under stress, and then try to remember where did you go during or after to feel better? Or, if you were unable to go to that place, where did you wish you could be?
If no place comes to mind, then it’s time to choose a place where you feel safe and comfortable. It can be anywhere! Be intentional. Where is a place that is easy to get to, is convenient, and at least semi-private?
When I taught preschool, one of the things that I taught my students was where to go when things felt scary or out-of-control. We had a bean bag set up in a corner with a basket of stress -reducing tools -a “stress free toolkit”. They were welcome to go there anytime they needed to! I remember all of my kids using this spot at different times to calm themselves. I always encouraged them to create a spot in their rooms at home to do the same thing.
It’s always nice to be prepared for times that are difficult or sad or stressful.
Some things that you might include in your kit might be:
An alternate for a stress kit is this tool -I have always thought that this would be a fun way to reduce stress!
#2 Must Have to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit: Make a list (of people to help)
Sometimes just thinking about friends or family can reduce stress. However, if the opposite is true, then who should be on your list? Make sure that anyone on that list is trustworthy, available, and is someone you feel 100% comfortable with.
When I taught school in different settings over the years, I had various co-workers and/or admin that I could go to. In other settings, I have not been able to rely on either/or of those types of people. You know who your people are!
If you work from home, a neighbor or a friend will work.
Think through the people that you would put on your list, someone that you can turn to in moments of stress or anxiety. If it’s not a work friend, you might let your neighbor or friend know that you might need them to rely on during a time of stress. You might also offer to be their “person” too, if they need that.
**If it’s needed, please have a physician (either in person or online) to get in touch with if you get to a moment of crisis.
#3 Must Have to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit: Create a ritual
What helps you through stress? Think about it in a peaceful moment. Think about what helps you to feel better. There are tools to use that are helpful, and knowing the order that you do things can help so much.
For instance, for one person, her ritual might look like: darken a room, grab a weighted blanket, turn on a calming app for noise, and silence the phone otherwise. It would be a good idea to let your trusted friend know you are feeling stressed or blue so that they check in with you later.
Another person might do the following: put on a favorite sweatshirt, take a long walk, come home and take a long, warm shower.
There are so many ways to feel better. Try different tactics. Determine what works for you. The plan for next time might need to vary according to where you are and what your situation is, but have a plan ready that you know works or at least is an attempt to find a plan that has potential to work.
#4 Must Have to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit: Evaluate friendships
This is a difficult one. We look to our friends for so many things. Support, love, connection, fun, experiences… Sadly, though, friendships can be a cause of stress.
The trouble with friendships in midlife is that they are often coming to an awkward stage. Ending because our kids have aged out of team sports, ending because of relocation or divorce or many other events. Sometimes friendships meet an end unexpectedly or sometimes they begin to limp along because people change or evolve or whatever…
What is the status of your friendships? Are you feeling love and support and peace with your friendships? If not, then maybe some changes need to take place. It is NOT easy, but it will help so much once you have dealt with this.
Evaluate. Make a plan. Have a conversation. Move forward. Good luck.❤️
#5 Must Have to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit: Set up systems (meal plan…)
There are so many ways to set up systems that will work for you! Always remember that a system is only good until it doesn’t work for you anymore. So, be flexible. Be willing to change things up. Be willing to give up some control about how things are getting done.
Ideas for systems to set up:
Meal Planning -this can happen a couple of ways.
•Make a list of all the meals that your family likes, and rotate them in about a 2-4 week schedule based on how many meals you all come up with. This takes the guess work out of what to cook or plan for.
•Only cook meals 3 nights a week. Have leftovers for 1-2 nights, and freeze any other excess food for a later date.
•Have a “youfixit” night. In my house, this means everyone is on their own: sandwiches, cereal, leftovers…
•Cook breakfast for dinner every couple of weeks. We still love to do this even though our kids are grown and gone!
Cleaning Service -your time is valuable, and if you are anything like me, you don’t exactly love to clean house.
•If you insist on cleaning your own house, then divide to conquer. Do all the bathrooms one day. Do any dusting and extra wiping one day. All vacuuming the next day. Push a load of laundry through every couple of days. Assign chores to anyone still in the house with you.
•Hire someone to come in each week or two. I always end up running around straightening messes beforehand anyway, so that feels good. I love to walk into a house that is clean and I had nothing to do with it! You don’t have to hire a cleaning service, check with any teenagers in your neighborhood looking for ways to make money. There are many places to look for people to clean for you.
What other systems work for you?
#6 Must Have to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit: Journal/meditate/pray
Journaling: This is something that I do not do, but am fascinated by. I wish that I had taken the time to journal through my life -so many fun and wonderful memories, as well as the struggles. I think that it might have been easier to gain insight into what was happening in the moment if I had taken the time to do this…
WebMD(2021) lists these benefits of journaling for mental health:
- Reduces anxiety
- Breaks nonstop cycle of obsessive thinking and brooding
- Improves the awareness and perception of events
- Regulates emotions
- Encourages awareness
- Boosts physical health
There are so many types of journaling, and it can be such a fun creative process when you include doodles and drawings -even just thought bubbles or using highlighters.
If you have never journaled, then here are a few tips to get you started.
Choose a quiet time of the day, and try for 3-4 times a week. Put it on your schedule, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen. You could even do a once-a-week session where you look back over your week or to look ahead to the next week to make goals and visualize your success.
Start small, only maybe 10-15 minutes with just some bullet points. As you get more comfortable with this process, add more time in or more sessions or both!
Use fun pens and pencils for color and emphasis.
Remember, some thoughts or memories that come up during this time might be sad or uncomfortable. Try to think about why, and how to comfort yourself with a verse or quote and add that into your journal. It’s a process, and like anything else, there will be ups and downs.
Meditation: There are so many types of meditation. It can be the old sit on a cushion saying “Om”, but there are many other varieties that can be even more meaningful. You can do walking meditation, tai chi, mindfulness wherever you are! Practice being aware of your surroundings, the way you feel, evaluate all of your senses.
The practice of meditation has been known to be prescribed for pain management, anxiety, and even to reduce food cravings. Do not take our word for it, ask your physician! The nice thing about this as a treatment is that it is FREE!
One thing I have started doing at bedtime is to go through my day to choose my favorite thing that happened during that day. Then I think of all the things that I am thankful for that happened that day as well. I fall asleep so fast now because my heart overflows with gratitude and love!
Prayer: As a Christian, I pray often. But, there are many other religions where prayer is a practice. Incorporate this into regular times of your day. Walking out to your car in the morning -give thanks for the day ahead. Taking breaks at work, school, or even in your own home -be thankful for the people in your life and all the things that they do for you. Driving home in the evening -pray for situations that have occurred during your day and for the future resolution of any problems. At bedtime -give thanks for the day and all it held for you!
Being aware of another higher presence can be calming and lessen the aloneness we sometimes feel even if we are living with someone else.
#7 Must Have to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit: Celebrate wins
Acknowledge the wins in your life! We tend to focus on all the thing that are going wrong, and to reduce stress, we need to make sure that we recognize and celebrate the things that are working!
Often, we wait until a project is complete, but remember to celebrate the fact that you have gotten organized and have a plan for the project -win! Finished the first step, the second, the seventh -win!
By saying thank you to the universe, God, a higher power, you create positive feelings, and are motivated to continue!
Don’t wait to celebrate completion. Celebrate accomplishment, no matter how small.
#8 Must Have to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit: Hobbies
Not everyone loves cooking or crafts, but if you or someone you love does, then go for it! Make an evening of it. (Note: this is a great way to connect with a teen, young adult or even your own aging parent!)
You buy the supplies or ingredients and everyone comes over for an evening of creativity. I am now one of the “older women” at church in a ministry where we host a group of younger women once a month. We have a craft night with them at least once per year. They love it. Those girls are someone’s adult children!! Choose simple crafts or recipes that can be made in a hour or two and leave room for visiting and snacking.
It could be a “let’s figure out grandma’s pie crust from the fading notes she wrote” night or an “I saw the cutest thing on Pinterest. Let’s see if we can make it” night. If you have a son who may not be as interested, offer to help them learn a few recipes to sustain themselves in their first apartment.
Here are some kits to try for fun -you get to pick!
And, here are some tools to get started on a fun new project!
Getting lost in a project can be so relaxing. This might be a good time to start a new hobby if you don’t really have one now.
#9 Must Have to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit: Exercise
This is common sense, but even I have to convince myself that not only will I feel better if I exercise, it will actually reduce stress! Here are some simple ideas for adding equipment into the mix. The post was originally written for dorm room or a small apartment, so you can be assured that none of these items will take up much room!
I like to try to walk 30 minutes everyday. I either just let my thoughts wander or listen to my book on tape or a podcast. It is just nice being outside and breathing the fresh air!
#10 Must Have to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit: Go outside
Studies show that just being in nature can soothe your soul. I recently read this article about walking barefoot on grass. There were 5 benefits from this simple act. When I would go watch my son play lacrosse in high school, I would take my shoes off during warm games and just let them rest on the grass. I always thought that it was in my head, but I felt so good! Now I know there were really electrons moving through my system from my feet.😀
Here’s another article about how just SEEING nature from a window is a benefit!
Whether it’s taking a walk or sipping your coffee outside on your deck, getting fresh air is always a good idea.
Bonus Must Have to Create a Stress Reducing Toolkit: Reflect on growth
Life comes with all sorts of events packed in. Many are exciting and wonderful. But, even among the good times are the low times. The times where you are down or completely stressed out. As your life unfolds, take a moment to think back. Think about where you were last week, last month or even last year. How have you grown? What have you learned? What has worked for you? What could you change or adjust moving forward?
Give yourself a pat on the back for your accomplishments, no matter how small. Every little bit counts!
Be proud of YOU!😊
Related posts to create a stress reducing toolkit
This post was written with stress relief for teens, but it all applies to moms as well!
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