My Top 3 Ways to Cope with Stress

This month has been hectic.  More than the usual hectic.

We saw two of our Thai exchange student friends off at the airport (early flights out meant waking at 4am).  We helped my 83 year old mother who recently had back surgery pack up the house she has lived in for the past 19 years, and move into a (MUCH smaller) independent living apartment.  We somehow made room for my father’s collection of approximately 1,000 LPs in our home (a process that involved supporting a wall with steel poles and flanges!)   We registered our new Taiwanese student for school and started making a room for him –  he’ll arrive in August.  And yes, he gets to sleep in the room with the LPs.  (Where else could we put them?)  We nurtured Shanti through finishing 10th grade and today she flew to Seattle — unescorted — to visit with a friend there before she leaves for Japan to study at a language immersion school in Fukuoka for the month of July.  And of course, all of that goes on while we’re both working full time, walking the dogs 3 times a day, food shopping, cooking, doing dishes, and falling behind on laundry. Oh, and how could I forget, we also had our roof repaired this month.

And I discovered something useful about myself (Self discovery seems to be the bright side of all things exhausting).  I got to see my top 3 ways to cope with stress.  These are the strategies I seem to reach for first, and fortunately two out of three are accessible while I’m on the go, and they’re all healthy so I thought they’re worth sharing.

1.  Silence.  My number 1 way to cope with stress is to turn everything off.  Turn off the radio in the car.  Turn off the TV at home.  Turn off sound.  The less auditory stimuli, the better.  When I’m stressed my head is already noisy enough without adding any more noise from the outside.  Quiet outside, quiet inside.  Silence helps reduce my feeling of being overwhelmed.  It simplifies and limits what’s coming at me.

2. Clean.  When I feel stressed, I clean.  Getting the space around me organized makes me feel more organized inside.  When things are clean and orderly, it’s like I’ve made the environment quieter.  Environmental silence.  Messiness is a kind of noise.  At least it is for me.  It’s too distracting.  I don’t know, maybe that’s a little OCD, but it’s selective OCD — I can happily postpone cleaning most of the time.

3. Appreciating beauty.  This one, like silence, is really portable. You can do it anywhere.  This is not the kind of appreciation that happens when you try to be grateful.  It’s just spontaneous noticing of hidden treasures, happy little distractions from whatever it is that weighs on you.  I don’t go looking for them.  It almost seems like they look for me!  They jump out at me.  Grab my attention for just the instant it takes to switch background and foreground.  For that moment, the stress fades into background, as the beauty comes forward, more vivid, more real.  And I feel better.  A smiling baby in a grocery store.  The smell of ground coffee.  (I have to confess here that I sniff bulk coffee dispensers).  A cloud that’s an unusual color.  Overhearing a kind exchange between strangers.  The perfect word in a sentence –  now that’s a thing of beauty.

Use the comment button below and tell me, what are your top 3 healthy stress relievers?



{ 3 comments… add one }
  • maryellen

    June 28, 2013, 6:57 am

    My top 3 ways to relieve stress:

    1) Workout, do something physical and get out of my head
    2) Talk with a friend
    3) Do a random act of kindness ( during the busy season I asked a perturbed customer at the market to go ahead of me at the checkout)

    • Susan

      July 2, 2013, 3:57 pm

      I love your top 3, MaryEllen! These are great!

  • Arlene

    July 19, 2013, 4:06 pm

    I completely agree with your three ways of coping with stress, Susan, and may I add that I love to listen to soft rain, petting one or both of my dogs lightly while listening to soft music, and I love sitting in my comfy love bath tub soaking my achy bones in bubble bath, as I gaze at a beautiful picture on the wall which has dozens of different colored wildflowers with a stone path leading towards a huge bulky pure green tree and one black kitty sitting with his back toward the viewer as if he is staring at the tree with a saying in script underneath which reads “The ideal of beauty is simplicity and tranquility” by Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Thank you for allowing me to share : )

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