Did you also know that stress can seriously accelerate the rate at which you age because of the incredible strain it puts on your body?
Stress was already at alarming levels before these past few months, but it’s now at critical levels for so many of us. There is no escaping the media coverage of the planet’s recent economical debacles and everyone, at some point, will feel some pain in their pocketbook.
So many people have lost the value of their homes, or they’ve lost their homes due to hurricanes, fires or bankruptcy, they’ve lost the value of their life savings and in some cases they’ve even lost their jobs to recent cutbacks. It’s quite unsettling to hear financial experts compare this period to the crisis of 1929 and it’s equally scary to hear the head of the most powerful country in the world sound the alarm on the current financial situation.
Most of us have never (EVER) thought about how dangerous stress can be to our health and very few of us make the conscious effort to manage stress so it doesn’t take over our lives.
Normal levels of stress won’t harm you, but high levels of stress can lead to these negative health conditions:
- Heart palpitations
- Panic/anxiety attacks
- Chest pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Spastic colon
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Chronic fatigue (constant tiredness)
- Chronic headaches
- PMS – Premenstrual tension
Stress can also change your personality and affect how you interact and deal with others. When you look at problems like anger, irritability, aggressiveness, verbal abuse, mood swings and road rage, you can see how they can be brought on by too much stress in your life.
When stress gets out of hand, it’s time to find practical ways to slow down and lower your stress levels.
I know that money is tight for a lot of us, so I’ve compiled a list of 10 easy and free stress-reducing activities you can do right now to help lower your negative stress levels:
- Turn off the TV: This might sound obvious but watching the financial news channels all day long will only increase your stress level since they report on the latest downs in the stock market on a minute-by-minute base.
- Go for a walk: This time of the year is so precious, especially if you live in an area with tons of trees. Take time to reconnect with Mother Nature and take time to escape from all the bad news.
- Call up a friend: Sometimes, just the fact of spending time with a friend over a cup of coffee or a walk can make a huge difference to the way you feel. Don’t underestimate the power of human contact and friendship when times are difficult.
- Take advantage of free events: Each city has a list of weekly free activities that are open to the public. Grab a newspaper and find out which ones might interest you and go out there and discover something new!
- Hang out at your favorite bookstore: This is an activity I’ve always enjoyed so much. You can spend hours just browsing and looking at the latest books. Who knows, this might spark your creative juices!
- De-clutter your home: Most North Americans have closets and even garages filled with products that they’ve bought and never used. In many cases, a lot of us still have sales tags on items that are just sitting there. This might be the perfect time to clean up your home and organize a garage sale or you take your clothing to secondhand stores. Remember that someone’s junk is someone else’s treasure. Also, because times are tougher, many people will turn to secondhand stores and garage sales to find affordable items for themselves or to give as gifts during the Holidays.
- Treat yourself to a hot bubble bath by candlelight: This is such a relaxing activity. If you take as little as thirty minutes to soak away your worries, you’ll feel like a new person.
- Bake your favorite cookies or your favorite cake: Nothing is more comforting than homemade desserts and cookies. Why not take time to make some and take the time to enjoy them. The activity of baking will get your mind off of things and your hands working. Now, you might have to buy a few extra ingredients that you don’t usually store in your pantry, but this stress-reducing activity should not cost you much.Note: If you are stresses everyday, please don’t eat a cake everyday. This is for occasional use only!
- Brew a special cup of tea or coffee and sit down in your favorite chair: Grab a book or your favorite hobby magazine and take some “me” time. Even if you’re able to take 30 minutes of “me” time while the kids are away at their piano lessons … this will do you a world of good.
- Update your photo album: We usually take photos of the happy times we want to remember. By updating your photo album and putting in recent photos you’ve not had the time to file yet, you can be transported to those times where you were happy and smiling. The feeling from this activity will surely lift your spirits and lower your stress levels.
Sometimes the simplest things can be extremely effective and because there is no (or little) investment of money, you can start putting these stress-busters to effect immediately!