8 Fast-Acting Strategies for Stress Relief

Feel happy and relaxed with these 8 simple evidence-based strategies for reducing stress and improving mood

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by Davidqr from Pixabay

Stress is the body’s reaction to an event or situation. Primarily a physiological response, stress is also experienced psychologically (i.e. worry). Too much stress is associated with mental health issues and chronic health problems.

Because we often have no control over stressors in our lives, it’s important to effectively manage stress.

Here are eight fast-acting stress relievers for short-term relief. (Click here for additional mood boosters.)


8 Fast-Acting Strategies for Stress Relief

1. Swap out sitting with sleep or light activity.

Less time sitting = Better mood. A recent study found that replacing sedentary behavior with sleep or light exercise (i.e. walking, gardening, etc.) improved mood. Substituting sleep was associated with decreased stress levels in addition to enhanced mood.

2. Take a 10-minute nature break.

“Nature therapy” is 100% free and highly effective. Research indicates that spending as little as 10 minutes outdoors can improve mood.

3. Become a plant parent.

Keep a plant in your office and place it where it’s easy to see. Tending for and gazing at a small indoor plant may reduce stress during the workday.

4. Get a 10-minute massage.

You’ll feel more relaxed and less stressed after receiving a head-and-neck or neck-and-shoulder massage. One study found that participants experienced reduced rates of both physiological and psychological stress after 10 minutes of massage.

5. Flirt!

Casual flirting and light-hearted banter at work may alleviate stress. Research indicates that engaging in flirtatious behaviors can lead to positive feelings about self while enhancing mood.

6. Have a Matcha latte.

Drinking Matcha green tea may lead to feeling less stressed. Researchers found that mice who consumed Matcha powder or extract experienced reductions in anxiety.

7. Stress less with your romantic partner.

When faced with a stressful situation, have your significant other present to ease your anxiety. If your partner is unavailable, visualize him/her; simply thinking of a significant other has comparable positive effects on blood pressure and stress reactivity.

8. LOLOLOL!

Frequent laughter seems to be a buffer for stress; people who laugh a lot experience fewer stress-related symptoms. Researchers found that the more someone laughed, the less likely they were to feel stressed.


Self-Care Strategies When Your Loved One Has an Addiction

Self-care is not a luxury; it’s necessary for survival when your loved one has a substance use disorder. By taking care of yourself, you gain the energy and patience to cope with your problems. Self-care promotes wellness and emotional intelligence; it puts you in a better space to interact with your loved one. Strategies include developing/building resilience, practicing distress tolerance, keeping perspective, and recognizing/managing your triggers.

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by DanaTentis from Pixabay

When your loved one has a substance use disorder (SUD), it can be overwhelming, distressing, and all-consuming. When we’re stressed, we forget to practice basic self-care, which in turn makes us even less equipped to cope with the emotional chaos addiction generates.  

In the book Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change (A Guide for Families), the authors discuss the importance of self-care. This post reviews suggested strategies.

(Side note: I strongly recommend reading Beyond Addiction if your loved one has an SUD or if you work in the field. This book will increase your understanding of addiction and teach you how to cope with and positively impact your loved one’s SUD by using a motivational approach. This is one of the best resources I’ve come across, especially for family members/significant others.)

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Based on the premise that your actions affect your loved one’s motivation, taking care of yourself is not only modeling healthy behaviors, it’s putting you in a better space to interact with your loved one. Chronic stress and worry make it difficult to practice self-care. Self-care may even seem selfish. However, by taking care of yourself and thus reducing suffering, you gain the energy and patience to cope with your problems (and feel better too). Furthermore, you reduce the level of pain and tension in your relationships with others, including your loved one with a SUD.

Self-care strategies include developing/building resilience, practicing distress tolerance, keeping perspective, and recognizing/managing your triggers. Therapy and/or support groups are additional options.

“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.”

Unknown

Self-Care Strategies When Your Loved One Has an Addiction

Resilience

The definition of resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties” (Oxford Dictionary). Doctors Foote, Wilkens, and Kosanke wrote that having resilience is a way to “systematically reduce your vulnerability to bad moods, lost tempers, and meltdowns.” While you cannot “mood-proof” yourself entirely, resilience helps when facing life’s challenges, setbacks, and disappointments. To maintain resilience, one must practice at least the most basic self care practices, which are as follows:

  1. Eat well
  2. Sleep well
  3. Exercise enough
  4. Avoid mood-altering drugs (including alcohol)
  5. Treat illness (with prescribed medications, adequate rest, etc.)
Image by Irina L from Pixabay

Self-care is not something you can push in to the future. Don’t wait until you have more time or fewer obligations. Self-care is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. The authors of Beyond Addiction pointed out that self-care is something you have control over when other parts of your life are out of control. If you find it challenging to implement self-care practices, tap into your motivations, problem-solve, get support, and most of all, be patient and kind with yourself.

“Taking care of yourself is the most powerful way to begin to take care of others.”

Bryant McGill

Distress Tolerance

On tolerance, Doctors Foote, Wilkens, and Kosanke suggested that it is “acceptance over time, and it is a cornerstone of self-care.” Tolerance is not an inherent characteristic; it is a skill. And like most skills, it requires practice. However, it’s wholly worth the effort as it reduces suffering. By not tolerating the things you cannot change (such as a loved one’s SUD), you’re fighting reality and adding to the anguish.

Techniques for distress tolerance include distracting yourself, relaxing, self-soothing, taking a break, and creating positive experiences. (The following skills are also taught in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), an evidence-based practice that combines cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and mindfulness. For additional resources, visit The Linehan Institute or Behavioral Tech.)    

Distract Yourself

  1. Switch the focus of your thoughts. The possibilities are endless; for you, this could mean reading a magazine, calling a friend, walking the dog, etc. The authors of Beyond Addiction suggested making a list of ideas for changing your thoughts (and keeping it handy).
  2. Switch the focus of your emotions. Steer your emotions in a happier direction by watching corgi puppies on YouTube, reading an inspirational poem, or viewing funny Facebook memes. The writers of Beyond Addiction suggested bookmarking sites in your Internet browser that you know will cheer you up.
  3. Switch the focus of your senses. This could mean taking a hot shower, jumping into a cold pool, holding an ice cube in your hand, walking from a dark room to one that’s brightly lit, looking at bright colors, listening to loud rock music, etc. Also, simply walking away from a distressing situation may help.
  4. Do something generous. Donate to your favorite charity, pass out sandwiches to the homeless, visit a nursing home and spend time with the residents, express genuine thanks to cashier or server, etc. By redirecting attention away from yourself (and directing energy toward positive goals), you’ll feel better. In Beyond Addiction, it’s noted that this skill is especially helpful for individuals who tend to ruminate. Also, it’s important to brainstorm activities that are accessible in the moment (i.e. texting a friend to let them know you’re thinking about them) that don’t take multiple steps (such as volunteering).
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Relax

“Body tells mind tells body…” Relaxing your body helps to relax your mind. It also focuses your thoughts on relaxing (instead of your loved one’s addiction). What helps you to relax? Yoga? A hot bath? Mindful meditation? (I recommend doing a mindful body scan; it’s simple and effective, even for the tensest of the tense, i.e. me.)

Soothe Yourself

In Beyond Addiction, self-soothing is described as “making a gentle, comforting appeal to any of your five senses.” A hot beverage. Nature sounds. A cozy blanket. A scenic painting. Essential oils. A cool breeze. A warm compress. A massage. Your favorite song. Find what works for you, make a list, and utilize as needed. Seemingly small techniques can make a big difference in your life by creating comfort and reducing out-of-control emotions.

Take A Break

“Taking a break” doesn’t mean giving up; it’s a timeout for when you’re emotionally exhausted. Learn to recognize when you need to step away from a situation or from your own thoughts. Find a way to shift your focus to something pleasant (i.e. a romantic movie, a nature walk, a day trip to the beach, playing golf for a few hours, traveling to a different country, etc.)

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Create a Positive Experience

Doctors Foote, Wilkens, and Kosanke refer to this as “making it better,” not in the sense that you’re fixing the problem (or your loved one), but that you’re making the moment better by transforming a negative moment into a positive one. Suggested techniques include the following:

  1. Half-smile. Another mind-body technique, half-smiling tricks your brain into feeling happier.
  2. Meditate or pray. As explained in Beyond Addiction, “meditation or pray is another word for – and effective channel to – awareness and acceptance. Either one can open doors to different states of mind and act as an emotional or spiritual salve in trying moments.”
  3. Move. By moving, you’re shifting your focus and releasing energy. Stretch, run, play volleyball, chop wood, move furniture, etc.
  4. Find meaning. The authors of Beyond Addiction wrote, “Suffering can make people more compassionate toward others. Having lived through pain, sometimes people are better able to appreciate moments of peace and joy.” Suffering can also inspire meaningful action. What can you do to find meaning?
  5. Borrow some perspective. How do your problems look from a different viewpoint? Ask a trusted friend. You may find that your perspective is causing more harm than good.

Perspective

Perspective is “an understanding of a situation and your reactions to it that allows you to step back and keep your options open… [it’s] seeing patterns, options, and a path forward” (Beyond Addiction).

When Trish married Dave nearly 20 years ago, he rarely drank: maybe an occasional beer over the weekend or a glass of wine at dinner. After their fist daughter was born, his drinking increased to a few beers most nights. Dave said it helped him relax and manage the stress of being a new parent. By the time their second daughter was born several years later, his drinking had progressed to a six-pack of beer every evening (and more on weekends). Currently, Dave drinks at least a 12-pack of beer on weeknights; if it’s the weekend, his drinking starts Friday after work and doesn’t stop until late Sunday night.

Dave no longer helps Trish with household chores or yardwork as he did early in their marriage. He rarely dines with the family and won’t assist with the cooking/cleanup; he typically eats in front of the TV. Dave occasionally engages with his daughters, but Trish can’t recall the last time they went on a family outing, and it’s been years since they went on a date. Dave struggles to get out of bed in the mornings and is frequently late to work; Trish is worried he’ll get fired. They frequently argue about this. Dave is irritable much of the time, or angry. Most nights, he doesn’t move from his armchair (except to get another beer) until he passes out with the television blaring.

Trish is frustrated; she believes Dave is lazy and lacks self-control. When she nags about his drinking, he promises he’ll cut back, but never follows through. Trish thinks he’s not trying hard enough. She can’t understand why he’d choose booze over her and the kids; sometimes she wonders if it’s because she’s not good enough… maybe he would stop if she was thinner or funnier or more interesting?  At times she feels helpless and hopeless and others, mad and resentful; she frequently yells at Dave. She wonders if things are ever going to change.  

Image by Luis Wilker Perelo WilkerNet from Pixabay

A different perspective would be to recognize that Dave has an alcohol use disorder. He feels ill most of the time, which affects his mood, energy level, and motivation. He wants to cut back, but fails when he tries, which leads to guilt and shame. To feel better, he drinks. It’s a self-destructive cycle. If Trish understood this, she could learn to not take his drinking personally or question herself. Her current reactions, nagging and yelling, only increase defensiveness and harm Dave’s sense of self-worth. Alternative options for Trish might include learning more about addiction and the reasons Dave drinks, bolstering his confidence, and/or creating a supportive and loving environment to enhance motivation.

Triggers

In recovery language, a “trigger” is anything (person, place, or thing) that prompts a person with SUD to drink or use; it activates certain parts of the brain associated with use. For instance, seeing a commercial for beer could be triggering for a person with an alcohol use disorder.

You have triggers too. For example, if your loved one is in recovery for heroin, and you notice that a bottle of opioid painkillers is missing from the medicine cabinet, it could trigger a flood of emotions: fear, that your loved one relapsed; sadness, when you remember the agony addiction brings; hopelessness, that they’ll never recover. It’s crucial to recognize what triggers you and have a plan to cope when it happens.

Therapy and Support Groups

Lastly, therapy and/or support groups can be a valuable addition to your self-care regime. Seeing a therapist can strengthen your resilience and distress tolerance skills. Therapy may provide an additional avenue for perspective. (Side note: A good therapist is supportive and will provide you with tools for effective problem-solving and communication, coping with grief and loss, building self-esteem, making difficult choices, managing stress, overcoming obstacles, improving social skills/emotional intelligence, and better understanding yourself. A good therapist empowers you. A bad therapist, on the other hand, will offer advice and/or tell you what to do, disempowering you.)

Image by HannahJoe7 from Pixabay

Regarding support groups, there are many options for family members, friends, and significant others with a loved one who has a SUD, including Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and Families Anonymous. Support groups provide the opportunity to share in a safe space and to receive feedback, suggestions, and/or encouragement from others who relate.


“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.”

Audre Lorde

In sum, self-care is not optional; it’s essential for surviving the addiction of a loved one. Self-care enhances both overall wellness and your ability to help your loved one; in order words, take responsibility for your health and happiness by taking care of yourself.

For more information on how you can help your loved one, visit The Center for Motivation and Change.

350 Ideas for Hobbies

Discover a new hobby with this diverse list of assorted leisure activities, which range from beekeeping to Kombucha brewing to knife throwing to ghost hunting.

A list of over 350 hobbies to try

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay

I developed this list (with the help of Wikipedia, and Google, of course) as part of a project I was working on and thought it would be worth sharing. (Click below for a PDF version of this list.)


350 Ideas for Hobbies

Jump to a section:

Animals & Nature Hobbies

  1. Attend pet shows (or horse shows)
  2. Beekeeping
  3. Berry or apple picking
  4. Bird watching
  5. Butterfly garden (Visit one or create your own!)
  6. Butterfly watching
  7. Be a plant parent; nurture and care for indoor plants
  8. Composting
  9. Dog training
  10. Dog walking
  11. Fossil hunting
  12. Grow and tend to a fruit tree
  13. Grow an indoor herb garden
  14. Grow plants from seedlings (and plant outside when in-season)
  15. Hang humming bird feeders and then sit back and enjoy the company!
  16. Horseback riding
  17. Become an expert at identifying various plants
  18. Mushroom hunting
  19. Nature walks
  20. Adopt a pet
  21. Pet fostering
  22. Pet sitting
  23. Plant a flower bed
  24. Go on a swamp tour
  25. Tend to a vegetable garden
  26. Topiary
  27. Visit a farm
  28. Visit an aquarium
  29. Go to zoos and/or nature centers
  30. Watch wildlife on Animal Planet
  31. Go whale watching

🔝

Arts & Crafts

  1. Drawing
  2. Candle making
  3. Collages – Use whatever materials you desire!
  4. Coloring
  5. Crocheting
  6. Design your own greeting cards or stationary
  7. Flower arranging
  8. Glassblowing
  9. Jewelry making
  10. Knitting
  11. Lettering/calligraphy
  12. Mixed media art
  13. Mosaic making
  14. Origami
  15. Painting (watercolor, oils, acrylics, etc.)
  16. Paper crafts (including paper mache)
  17. Photography
  18. Pressed flower craft
  19. Pottery
  20. Quilting
  21. Scrapbooking
  22. Sculpting
  23. Sewing
  24. Sketching
  25. Soap making
  26. Weaving
  27. Wood carving

🔝

Collection Hobbies

  1. Action figures
  2. Antiques
  3. Autographs
  4. Barbies
  5. Books (classics, signed copies, etc.)
  6. Christmas tree ornaments
  7. Comics
  8. Fun socks
  9. Hot sauce from around the world
  10. Movie or music memorabilia
  11. Obsolete tech (i.e. outdated cell phones, tape players, etc.)
  12. Original artwork
  13. Plates
  14. Purses, shoes, and other accessories
  15. Recipes
  16. Records
  17. Retro video games
  18. Rocks and/or crystals
  19. Shells
  20. Souvenirs
  21. Sports memorabilia
  22. Stickers
  23. Ticket stubs
  24. Toys
  25. Vases
  26. Vintage items

🔝

Cooking & Baking

  1. Braising
  2. Bread making
  3. Cake decorating
  4. Canning
  5. Cheese making
  6. Coffee roasting
  7. Cookie decorating
  8. Grilling and BBQ
  9. Hosting dinner parties
  10. Kombucha brewing
  11. Learn ethnic and regional recipes
  12. Learn recipes from cooking shows
  13. Make “fun foods” for kids
  14. Make homemade ice cream
  15. Make jam or jelly
  16. Make your own beef (or vegan!) jerky
  17. Participate in competitive food festivals (or just go and enjoy the food!)
  18. Pasta making
  19. Pastry and confection making
  20. Pickling
  21. Pie making
  22. Raw diet meals
  23. Recreate menu items from your favorite restaurants
  24. Reduced fat cooking
  25. Sautéing
  26. Slow cooker meals
  27. Smoothie making
  28. Soup, sauce, and stock making
  29. Sushi making
  30. Take a cooking class
  31. Tea brewing
  32. Try new recipes on a regular basis
  33. Use an air fryer
  34. Use a dehydrator
  35. Use Pinterest for inspiration
  36. Vegan cooking
  37. Watch Food Network for inspiration

🔝

Entertainment

  1. Attend movies, operas, plays, and musicals
  2. Bingo
  3. Board games and/or party games
  4. Card games
  5. Chess
  6. Strategy games
  7. Dine out at new restaurants
  8. Escape rooms
  9. Gaming
  10. Go to museums
  11. Go to poetry slams or open mic nights
  12. Jigsaw puzzles
  13. Karaoke
  14. Murder mystery shows
  15. Read entertainment/celebrity magazines
  16. See your favorite bands/artists perform live
  17. Standup comedy
  18. Theme parks
  19. Watch your favorite Netflix series, but make sure you become overly invested (borderline obsessed) with the story line and characters in order for this to qualify as a legit hobby

🔝

Home Improvement & DIY

  1. Add a backsplash to your kitchen
  2. Bathroom remodel
  3. Build a shed
  4. Build furniture
  5. Design a meditation room, home office, “man cave,” or “she shed”
  6. DIY headboard
  7. Fireplace makeover
  8. Hanging shelves
  9. Home organization
  10. Install smart home technology
  11. Kitchen remodel
  12. Paint an accent wall or update your entire home
  13. Paint old cabinets
  14. Redecorate a room
  15. Stencil or wallpaper
  16. Update a closet
  17. Update furniture
  18. Update lighting
  19. Use chalk paint or metallic spray paint

🔝

Literature, Music, & Dance

  1. Acting
  2. Visit art galleries
  3. Attend literary fests
  4. Ballroom dancing
  5. Belly dancing
  6. Blogging/guest blogging
  7. Break dancing
  8. Editing
  9. Go to book signings
  10. Go to the library
  11. Join a book club (either in-person or online, i.e. Goodreads)
  12. Listen to music
  13. Play/learn an instrument
  14. Puppeteering
  15. Rapping
  16. Reading
  17. Sell your art on etsy.com
  18. Singing
  19. Song writing
  20. Submit articles/opinion pieces/essays to magazines and newspapers
  21. Swing dancing
  22. Take a dance class (swing, hip hop, ballroom, etc.)
  23. Take a drama or improv class
  24. Take voice lessons
  25. Wikipedia editing
  26. Write a book
  27. Write poetry
  28. Write short stories

🔝

Outdoor & Adventure

  1. Backpacking
  2. Boating
  3. Bungee jumping
  4. Camping
  5. Canoeing
  6. Caving
  7. Fishing
  8. Geocaching
  9. Go-Karting
  10. Hiking
  11. Hot air ballooning
  12. Kayaking
  13. Laser tag
  14. Mountain biking
  15. Mountain climbing
  16. Paintball
  17. Parasailing
  18. Rocking climbing
  19. Sailing
  20. Scuba diving
  21. Skiing
  22. Skydiving
  23. Snowboarding
  24. Snorkeling
  25. Waterskiing
  26. White water rafting
  27. Wilderness survival

🔝

Self-Improvement & Social Hobbies

  1. Advocate for a cause
  2. Attend support groups/meetings
  3. Attend workshops
  4. Bullet journaling
  5. Daily positive affirmations and/or self-reflection
  6. Join a club
  7. Join a gym
  8. Join a Meetup group
  9. Join a political campaign
  10. Journaling
  11. Keep a gratitude journal
  12. Listen to podcasts
  13. Make a vision board and update it regularly
  14. Meditation
  15. Read research
  16. Read self-improvement books
  17. Social media
  18. Stretching
  19. Take a class (i.e. self-defense, a foreign language, etc.)
  20. Use a habit tracker app
  21. Volunteer
  22. Watch documentaries
  23. Watch inspirational Ted Talks
  24. Wear a fitness tracker
  25. Yoga

🔝

Sports

  1. Archery
  2. Badminton 
  3. Baseball
  4. Basketball
  5. Biking
  6. Body building
  7. Bowling
  8. Boxing
  9. Cricket
  10. Darts
  11. Disc golf/frisbee
  12. Fencing
  13. Football/flag football
  14. Golf
  15. Gymnastics
  16. Hockey
  17. Ice skating
  18. Jogging/running
  19. Knife throwing
  20. Lacrosse
  21. Martial arts
  22. Poker
  23. Racquetball
  24. Racing
  25. Riding a unicycle
  26. Roller derby
  27. Rugby
  28. Skateboarding
  29. Soccer
  30. Surfing/body boarding
  31. Swimming
  32. Table football
  33. Table tennis
  34. Tennis
  35. Thai Chi
  36. Volleyball
  37. Weight training
  38. Wrestling

🔝

Travel

  1. Alaskan cruise
  2. All-inclusive resorts
  3. Beach vacations
  4. Caribbean cruise
  5. Cross-country train trip
  6. Explore your home town and other nearby place as though you’re a tourist
  7. Guided group tours
  8. Mediterranean cruise
  9. Road trip
  10. See the Northern Lights
  11. Travel to all the continents in the world
  12. Travel to all the states in America
  13. Trip to Las Vegas
  14. Visit the Grand Canyon
  15. Visit the New Seven Wonders of the World
  16. Visit the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World
  17. Go on city walking tours

🔝

Miscellaneous Hobbies

  1. Astrology/astronomy
  2. Billiards
  3. Couponing
  4. Creating DIY home products
  5. Fantasy sports
  6. Genealogy
  7. Ghost hunting
  8. Hair styling/braiding
  9. Hula hooping
  10. Juggling
  11. Keeping up with the latest fashions
  12. Kite flying
  13. Learning magic tricks
  14. Makeup application
  15. Metal detecting
  16. Model building
  17. People watching
  18. Storage unit auctions
  19. Sunbathing
  20. Yard sale shopping/thrifting

🔝


Note: The Wikipedia webpage, “List of Hobbies” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hobbies), was utilized as a reference for this list.