Stress is a normal part of life, but as the demands pile on, the effects of a stressful lifestyle mount: you’re scattered
and anxious and you can’t stop the cycle. Worse yet, every time a well-meaning friend tells you to take up
meditation, it makes you even more uneasy, because it never seems to help you, and you feel like the only person
you know who can’t meditate. In reality, many people struggle to find relief in boilerplate advice about breathing
deeply, sitting in the bathtub, or drinking tea. If this sounds like you, read on for three unconventional—but
proven—ideas for handling stress, your way.
Treat Yourself to Your Favorite Food
Caring for your mental health means eating a healthy diet. For the most part, you’ll want to stick to fruits,
vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, with mood-boosting supplements like a red superfood powder.
However, fixating on whether foods are “good” or “bad” can be counterproductive, especially when you start to feel
obsessed with eating only the right things.
Comfort food doesn’t have to be about eating a big or unhealthy meal; psychological researchers have discovered
that the real comfort comes from associating certain foods with family traditions, social events, and cultural heritage.
If food is a way for you to be creative or connect with your loved ones, take some time to prepare and enjoy
whatever meal you enjoy most without feeling guilty. Especially if the rest of your diet is nutritious, it’s perfectly
fine to treat yourself sometimes.
Indulge Your Creative Side
Often, people think about creativity as a habit limited to professional artists or performers, but there’s a whole world
of activities you can try to engage the creative side of your brain. The relaxing effect of creativity may be related to
its ability to put the brain into a state of flow, in which you’re focused only on what you’re doing. The residue of
stressors and negative emotions fades away and is replaced by a positive experience as your brain releases dopamine in response to this pleasantly absorbing activity.
No matter what you like to do most, there’s a way to engage in it that leads to flow. Crafting and painting are
well-known options, but cooking, exercising, working with animals, writing, solving puzzles, and even
programming can all unstick your mind from sadness and anxiety and give you the benefits of creative activity.
Connect With Nature Differently
Sometimes, stress can sap so much of your energy that going for a run or taking a walk sounds like an
insurmountable task. But simply spending time outdoors can sharpen your mind, regardless of whether you feel up
to exercising. A 2008 experiment found that walking in a natural environment enhanced performance on a
subsequent concentration task by more than 20% compared to walking in a dense urban area, even when the weather was unpleasant.
According to the experiment’s authors, nature offers experiences that are just interesting enough to both give your
brain a break from the focused attention that work tasks demand and keep you from engaging in the stress-driven
rumination that sometimes arises when there’s nothing else to think about. To get the most out of this concept, take a note from the Japanese practice of forest-bathing. There’s no need to find a body of water; instead, try to focus on
the experience of being outdoors by noticing something you can experience with each of the five senses.
This exercise can reorient your mind to something less negative and allow you to connect with your body, which are both essential practices for managing your emotions. Just because you don’t connect with common suggestions for managing stress doesn’t mean that you don’t have any options. There are plenty of newer ideas for self-care that take a fresh approach to emotional and mental wellness.
Remember, the best technique is the one that works for you, so feel free to experiment until you find a strategy that
resonates with you.
Author: Kevin Devoto