1. Exercise. This is the #1 way I’ve found to work off stress and to help me relax. I feel better mentally and physically when I get on the exercise bicycle or walk regularly. I also find that I sleep better, I have more energy, I feel stronger, and I don’t tend to get sick with every passing virus so easily. It’s definitely better and better for you than a pill or a drink.
2. Writing. Blurry was written based on recurrent dreams I had while Rick and I were building our home. Anywhere But Here was written based on knowing several people struggling with depression, and a conversation they had when they crossed paths one day. Splinter, Move, and Obsidian were written based on major life changes I went through a few years ago, and the subsequent adjustments I had to make. And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I started the rough draft of Fracture five days after my father-in-law passed away and five months after losing my parakeet to cancer. For every major novel I’ve written, I can give you stories of how I used it to help myself cope with what was happening in my life at the time. Somebody recently suggested to me that people who don’t want to talk it out usually write it out, and this is actually a great way to work through what’s going on in your head. If fiction isn’t your thing, then you can journal privately, or blog about your thoughts and experiences (you can blog publically to get feedback, or you can do it privately if you don’t want to release it online). I’ve been “writing it out” since before I knew it was a coping mechanism, and I believe this is a great way to work things out.
3. Hobbies. I believe we all need something that is ours and ours alone, that we do purely for enjoyment and no other purpose. In addition to writing, I also enjoy reading, but there are countless other hobbies that give you joy and a purpose beyond the requirements of daily living. From gardening to cooking to decorating to artwork, there are many ways to find creative outlets in your life.
4. Moderate Socialization. As tempting as it might be to hide away from the world, it’s actually good for you to get out there some. That doesn’t mean pack your schedule, which is why I say “moderate.” You still do need some time to yourself, but not every minute. Take some time to talk on the phone, have lunch with a family member or a friend, or go out to the movies or an activity you enjoy. Get out there in the world and stay connected, because you tend to find strength and inspiration in times, places and people that you least expect.
5. Volunteering. If you’re a member of a church, then there are countless opportunities to volunteer to help out the congregation or the community. Whether you serve on a committee or sign up to help with an event, it’s good to help out other people and/or people you don’t know. The best way to get your mind off your troubles, after all, is to help other people with their needs.
Of course, I would add to this list to seek therapy if you are really struggling. There’s no shame in this and in fact, I once saw a therapist to help me through a trying season of life and I still say it was the best thing I did because what I learned still benefits me years later. It can be a great help to have somebody removed from the situation to give you a new perspective and to guide you to new and better ways to handle situations. This can be especially helpful if everybody in your “inner circle” is involved in whatever is happening and is emotionally connected to the situation. Sometimes, one set of eyes from the outside can be a tremendous help.
Sometimes blessings come in the least expected ways, so keep your eyes open for opportunities and look for good, healthy ways to deal with whatever challenges come your way.
That’s all today. Take care, and have a great rest of the week.