We all need to ease the stress that comes with work obligations, managing money, caring for others, and just navigating life’s ups and downs. If we let the tension build up, we only put our health at risk.
But taking “me time” and restoring your inner calm doesn’t always have to mean meditation, yoga, nature walks, and long baths. There are alternatives that you might not know about, some of which even let you tap into your creative side.
The next time you feel tense, try one of these lesser-known stress busters.
Adult Coloring Books
Coloring isn’t just for kids anymore. Adults can relax with colored pencils in hand thanks to books like the popular Secret Garden by Johanna Basford. This and other grown-up coloring books feature intricate patterns — some doctors and therapists say that concentrating on filling in the elaborate scenes can be therapeutic because it relaxes your mind, sharpens your focus, and helps you fight negative thoughts with pleasant imagery.
This mobile app was created at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden by a team that studies the biological impact of music. The app uses your phone’s camera to measure your heart rate and gives you instructions on how to breathe along with specially designed music to guide you to a calmer heart rate and breathing pattern, which ultimately reduces stress. It takes about five to 10 minutes, so you can use it for a quick break whenever you’re feeling wound up.
The idea behind this artistic tool isn’t new; it’s inspired by the by the centuries-old Zen concept of finding joy in the present. You simply use a brush and water to paint on the board’s surface, and the image you create slowly fades away, leaving behind a blank canvas. The idea is that the more you use the Buddha Board, knowing your painting will disappear, the more you’ll stay tuned in to what you’re creating and practice staying in the moment. The goal is also to become more comfortable with impermanence and change — concepts that often bring up anxiety, stress, and fear.
A quick and easy way to chill out is to use an aromatherapy diffuser, which releases and distributes scents from essential oils. Scientific evidence is sparse, but years of anecdotal evidence suggest aromatherapy is worth a try — and at the very least, you’ll make the room smell better. Diffusers usually start around $25, and they often come with at least one bottle of oil to get you started. Clary sage, lavender, and chamomile are among the oils known for their calming properties, and you can also find oil blends for stress relief.