I think you’ll agree with me that chronic stress seems to be an occupational hazard of momhood, right? It seems we are in constant need of effective ways to relieve stress.

Whether we work in or out of the home, we are multitaskers, often the primary caretakers of our children. We are the glue and the heart of our families. Our many life roles can amount to stress, anxiety and worry on any given day—if you’re like me, many times a day.

As a mom of a teen with moderate autism, I often feel my stress level rise as I think about my son’s future and his level of independence as an adult. And then there are the day-to-day worries that are so good at spiking my blood pressure:

Is he eating enough? He looks so skinny!

Oh no, he just ate that French fry that fell on the floor .

Is he ever going to sleep through the night consistently?

When will I hear him say “I love you, Mom”?

After developing several stress-related health conditions, including adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism, I had to learn to cope with stress better. It’s still a struggle, but I’ve learned that even small purposeful steps on my part, everyday, can significantly lower my stress and anxiety.

Below, I’m going to share with you 7 research-backed, easy ways to reduce your stress at the end of a long day.

Former college football coach Lou Holtz once said,

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”

This quote resonates with me because that’s how I’ve always seen my adult health journey: when I encountered the most stressful period of my life–my only child’s diagnosis of autism–the way I handled that stress caused my health to just slide downhill.

I grieved, of course, but I also internalized the hurt and pain and confusion I was feeling.

I blamed myself, I worried, became anxious, and indulged in more than a little self-pity. My mental state took a toll on my physical health.

But over time, with help from my doctor, research, better eating habits, exercise, and these ideas below, I got my stress, anxiety and bad mental habits under much better control.

1. Meditation

This. This is a game-changer right here. Meditation. More specifically, mindfulness meditation.

If you’re not familiar with that term it might sound sort of mystical and out-there, but it’s really very simple and easy.

Basically, mindfulness meditation is you, focused on your breath–the rhythmic movement of air going in and out–or some other focal point.

You can either clear your mind of all thoughts for a few minutes, or just observe your thoughts. No rules. Just stay like that for a few minutes or longer, being present in the moment.

Super simple but extremely powerful.

How powerful?

A recent study showed that regular meditation significantly improved women’s body satisfaction and self-compassion. I like that kind of stress relief!

Meditation has been studied to the moon and back, and it has been shown to:

Dr. Herbert Benson, a director emeritus at Harvard University, calls the effect of mindfulness meditation the “relaxation response”; the powerful and positive physiological changes that soothe, calm and unclench.

 Two great apps to try for blissful mindfulness, especially if you are a complete newbie:

  • Headspace. This is a very popular meditation app, and the first one that I used. The app actually teaches you how to meditate in a very uncomplicated and non-intimidating way. There are timed sessions from as short as 1 minute (called Minis) up to 20 minutes. I especially like the guided 3 minute sessions that help me stay in the moment and focus on my breathing.  This is free with premium upgrade available.
  • Calm. Another well-rated app with over 5 million downloads, Calm offers a ton of resources: timed meditations; themed meditations; music to help you sleep, focus, or relax; nature sounds; sleep stories and a new meditation masterclass. I love to use this app at bedtime to fall asleep to the nature sounds or a sleep story.  This is free with premium upgrade available.

2. Aromatherapy

Ahhhh, aromatherapy—another favorite stress-reliever of mine.

Now, you might be thinking that aromatherapy doesn’t necessarily pack much of a stress-relieving punch, but hear me out.

What we’re talking about is the therapeutic aroma from essential oils–and essential oils are AH-MA-ZING.

In scientific studies, these oils have been shown to lower anxiety in stressful situations, improve sleep qualityreduce stress, promote relaxation and even lower blood pressure.

Here are 3 ways to get the therapeutic benefits of essential oils fast:

Tip: Combine lavender and chamomile essential oils for a relaxing blend in the bathtub.
  • Use 5-20 drops of essential oils in a diffuser. This diffuser is pretty, affordable, and works for hours and hours.
  • Add 5-20 drops of essential oils in your bathwater, along with 1/2-1 ounce of a carrier oil like sweet almond oil or coconut oil
  • Put a few to several drops of your essential oil in a spray bottle and use as an air freshener

Check out this infographic below for 9 essential oils that are great to use as you wind down for bed.

3. Gentle yoga neck, shoulder and back stretches

Are you like me–you carry the day’s stress in your neck and shoulders?

No matter what your day entails–whether you’re hunched over a computer keyboard for hours or you’re on your feet all day–we often wear stress in our neck, shoulders and back.

Easy stretches at the end of the day to release that tension can be so important as you ease into sleep. I know it is for me.

In addition to my neck and shoulders, my back is often sore and stressed by the end of the day, and my sweet hubby is always happy to oblige me with a massage :). But if another pair of willing hands isn’t available to work out your knots, try the stretches in this video section.

4. Listen to music/nature sounds

“I don’t sing because I’m happy; I’m happy because I sing.” – William James

Remember the last time you were driving on a sunny day, windows down, wind whipping through your hair, the sound system blasting your favorite song? Remember how you felt?

On top of the world, blissful, happy?

We all know that a great song can give us total feels…the right songs can carry you through your workouts, make you sad enough to cry, and can even put you “in the mood”.

How does music do this? Science shows us that certain types of music and sounds can evoke feelings of peace and relaxation.

What’s more, some music can cause positive physical changes–lower cortisol levels; lower blood pressure; slower, more even breathing and heart rate.

Did you know...

Pan flutes, Native American music, Celtic music, nature sounds and classical music have all been shown in studies to produce alpha brain waves (a type of brain activity seen during periods of relaxation) .

Studies show us that music can:

  • actually make us happier through our brain’s release of the “feel-good” transmitter, dopamine
  • help us sleep better
  • literally lower stress by reducing cortisol levels in your body

These are all good things when you want to wind down after a long day.

What are the most relaxing types of music? According to studies, music with around 60 beats per minute is the most relaxing because our heart rate tends to synchronize to the beat, thus producing alpha brain waves. Our brains produce alpha waves when we are relaxed and awake.

Songs that are around 60 beats per minute:

  • After Midnight by Eric Clapton
  • She’s Got A Way by Billy Joel
  • Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye
  • I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing by Aerosmith
  • Can’t Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley

And here are a few popular videos that pair relaxing music with lovely nature scenes:

5. A warm bath (it’s more effective than you think)

Outside it’s dark, and the temp has dropped to 45 degrees F, or lower. Inside, you’re stepping into a warm, almost hot, bath, the water covered in a thick layer of bubbles. Wine glass is sitting tubside, soft music playing in the background.

It’s bliss, right?

You close your eyes and let your mind drift, while your cortisol (stress hormone) level drops, and your brain is likely swimming in lovely alpha waves.

Our brains produce alpha waves when we are calm, relaxed and awake.

Can’t get to the gym today? Research suggests that a nice, long bath can have similar positive effects on blood sugar and inflammation as moderate exercise.
But warm baths do more than induce alpha waves.

Several studies show that long soaks can lower blood pressure, ease muscle pain and tension, and set you up for a good night’s sleep. The bathwater heats you up, and then your temperature falls once you’re out of the water.

The falling temperature signals to your brain that it is time for sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster.

Yep, soaks in the bathtub are great before bed. They are a hugely important part of my nightly ritual, and I count on them to get me to sleep quickly.

Tip: If you love bubble baths, like I do, but you don’t want to soak in a toxic chemical soup, try this all-natural, toxic chemical-free DIY bubble bath recipe by Dr. AxeIt takes me about 2 minutes to whip this up, and a batch can last me almost a week.  The lavender and chamomile essential oils are super soothing, and the almond oil and honey lightly moisturize.

Homemade Bubble Bath with Lavender & Chamomile

Total Time: 5–10 minutes
Serves: 26 ounces or 4–6 baths

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup light almond oil
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup liquid Castile soap
  • 1/2 teaspoon chamomile essential oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon lavender essential oil

Directions:

  1. Using a jar or bottle with an airtight lid, combine the almond oil, egg white and honey.
  2. Blend well.
  3. Add the Castile soap and the essential oils.
  4. Mix all ingredients well by placing the lid on the jar and giving it a really good shake or by stirring with a spoon or fork.
  5. Store remaining bubble bath in the refrigerator.

6. Start a gratitude journal

This is one of my favorite techniques for changing my mindset, especially after a stressful day.

The act of expressing gratitude has been well studied, with researchers linking a grateful attitude to better self-esteem, more empathy, more mental resilience, even faster wound healing.

Research shows that it is difficult for the brain to focus on a negative and a positive aspect of your life at the same time.

And once your brain starts to recognize things to be grateful for, it begins to seek out other things to appreciate. That may happen because feelings and thoughts of gratitude can activate dopamine receptors in the brain.

This “feel good” neurotransmitter also motivates the body to seek out rewards and to keep doing whatever released the dopamine in the first place.

So it’s possible to create a gratitude loop— the more you practice gratitude, the more your brain seeks out things to be grateful for.

The Five Minute Journal is great for gratitude journaling. I really like the prompts it gives me to help me look for and appreciate the little things each day. There’s also space to write a thought or two about different aspects of my day. You can see and purchase it here on Amazon, with over 1,000 5-star reviews.

7. Adult Coloring

Remember a few years ago when everyone discovered adult coloring books, and it was this trendy mental health thing? Well, we were right to get excited about it.

Some studies have come out in the last few years on the benefits of adult coloring and here is a little of what they show:

And if you swap out your cell phone or computer for a coloring book and pencils before bed, you may even improve your sleep.

A calming activity like coloring that doesn’t involve blue light before bed (which we know can decrease melatonin) is definitely a good thing.

If you’d like to try out adult coloring, or try it again, you can pick up some popular, inexpensive coloring books on Amazon here and here. I love these particular Crayola pencils.

So let me know….what’s the most relaxing thing you do to de-stress and unwind at the end of the day? A Netflix binge? Alcohol? Sex? All of the above, lol? Tell me all about it in the comments :).

Have A Diffuser? Want Some Free Recipe Blends?

12 Oils + 21 Recipes = Happy Diffuser Dance!

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Have A Diffuser? Want Some Free Recipe Blends?

 

12 Oils + 21 Recipes = Happy Diffuser Dance!


Download 21 diffuser recipes now. It's free!

 

7 Sure-Fire Ways to Relieve Stress Tonight

I think you’ll agree with me that chronic stress seems to be an occupational hazard of momhood, right? It seems we are in constant need of effective ways to relieve stress.

Whether we work in or out of the home, we are multitaskers, often the primary caretakers of our children. We are the glue and the heart of our families. Our many life roles can amount to stress, anxiety, and worry on any given day—if you’re like me, many times a day.

As a mom of a teen with moderate autism, I often feel my stress level rise as I think about my son’s future and his level of independence as an adult. And then there are the day-to-day worries that are so good at spiking my blood pressure:

Is he eating enough? He looks so skinny!

Oh no, he just ate that French fry that fell on the floor.

Is he ever going to sleep through the night consistently?

When will I hear him say “I love you, Mom”?

After developing several stress-related health conditions, including adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism, I had to learn to cope with stress better. It’s still a struggle, but I’ve learned that even small purposeful steps on my part, every day, can significantly lower my stress and anxiety.

Below, I’m going to share with you 7 research-backed, easy ways to reduce your stress at the end of a long day.

Former college football coach Lou Holtz once said,

It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.

This quote resonates with me because that’s how I’ve always seen my adult health journey: when I encountered the most stressful period of my life–my only child’s diagnosis of autism–the way I handled that stress caused my health to just slide downhill.

I grieved, of course, but I also internalized the hurt and pain and confusion I was feeling.

I blamed myself, I worried, became anxious, and indulged in more than a little self-pity. My mental state took a toll on my physical health.

But over time, with help from my doctor, research, better eating habits, exercise, and these ideas below, I got my stress, anxiety and bad mental habits under much better control.

1. Meditation

This. This is a game-changer right here. Meditation. More specifically, mindfulness meditation.

If you’re not familiar with that term it might sound sort of mystical and out-there, but it’s really very simple and easy.

Basically, mindfulness meditation is you, focused on your breath–the rhythmic movement of air going in and out–or some other focal point.

You can either clear your mind of all thoughts for a few minutes or just observe your thoughts. No rules. Just stay like that for a few minutes or longer, being present in the moment.

Super simple but extremely powerful.

How powerful?

Meditation

A recent study showed that regular meditation significantly improved women’s body satisfaction and self-compassion. I like that kind of stress relief!

Meditation has been studied to the moon and back, and it has been shown to:

Dr. Herbert Benson, a director emeritus at Harvard University, calls the effect of mindfulness meditation the “relaxation response”; the powerful and positive physiological changes that soothe, calm and unclench.

Two great apps to try for blissful mindfulness, especially if you are a complete newbie:

  • Headspace. This is a very popular meditation app, and the first one that I used. The app actually teaches you how to meditate in a very uncomplicated and non-intimidating way. There are timed sessions from as short as 1 minute (called Minis) up to 20 minutes. I especially like the guided 3-minute sessions that help me stay in the moment and focus on my breathing.  This is free with premium upgrade available.
  • Calm. Another well-rated app with over 5 million downloads, Calm offers a ton of resources: timed meditations; themed meditations; music to help you sleep, focus, or relax; nature sounds; sleep stories and a new meditation masterclass. I love to use this app at bedtime to fall asleep to nature sounds or a sleep story.  This is free with premium upgrade available.

2. Aromatherapy

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