How to Create a Stress Management Toolbox
What if I showed you 1 hammer + 2 screws and told you it was my toolbox?
You’d laugh, right? And probably think I was woefully under-prepared for any home improvement issues? I wouldn’t blame you!
We can’t expect to tackle a problem when it arrives, if we don’t equip ourselves with the solutions beforehand.
The same goes for our stress management toolbox.
If we only have 1 or 2 strategies that we use over and over again to deal with stress and anxiety, we’re going to be in a tight spot when the job calls for a wrench and we only have a screwdriver.
I’ve been studying the science of pleasure and dopamine for years now. It’s part of the work I do with Food Story. I can tell you for certain: We all need a well-stocked stress management toolbox. Especially now!
Everyone’s toolbox varies and different tools work in different situations, but I encourage you to think of at least 6 or 7 things that will calm you, center you, and provide relief when you need it.
Here are some ideas:
Cuddle with a pet or loved one
It’s difficult to remember what stressed me out when I’ve got a big, fluffy pup smiling back at me. Dogs are such wise teachers, too. Mine always remind me to rest when I’m tired, keep things simple, and stay in the present moment.
Make a meal associated with positive memories
When we indulge in food that made us feel good as children or the meals from a time when everything seemed easier, we channel that inner child-like wonder. Recreate those dishes to bring back those calming and joyful moments, whether it’s a Grown-Up PB& J, a batch of Sweet Potato Muffins with Chocolate & Pecans or classic chocolate chip cookies. They’re guaranteed to make you feel nourished, heart and soul!
Dance to your favorite song from high school
When we move around (in any way), we’re more patient, more focused, and more relaxed. Movement releases endorphins, which can reduce stress, bust bad moods, and promote restful sleep. Bonus: Music helps double down on the mood-boosting benefits, especially when we hear familiar old tunes!
Get out into nature
We often don’t consciously realize it in moments of stress, but our bodies are starving for nature. Scientific studies have proven that spending time in nature makes you calmer, happier, more energized, and gives you a clearer mind. Dopamine (a mood-boosting chemical) goes up. Cortisol (stress hormone) levels go down. Immunity function increases. And scores for depression, fatigue, anxiety, and confusion decrease as well. Bottom line: Nature is powerful medicine!
Take a nap – even if it’s just resting your eyes for five minutes
Gently ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” A time-out from your phone and all the stressful news? A quick 5-minutes of stillness? Give yourself what you need physically and emotionally.
Fill up on grounding deep breaths
It may sound embarrassingly easy, but connecting to your breath is totally game-changing. With each slow inhale and exhale, you create a barrier between what’s happening around you and reconnect to what’s going on within you.
Do something nice for someone else
The best kind of happiness is the kind that’s shared! Look for little opportunities to bring joy to those around you: compliment your child on a job well done, check in with a far-away friend, purchase from companies that donate proceeds to the front line, or help a neighbor who needs it. When you send happiness out into the world, you’ll find it comes back to you and fills you up, too. Never underestimate the power of making someone else’s day to lift your own.
Whip up a healing batch of soup for you and your family
There’s no doubt you want to feel extra resilient, extra strong, and extra nourished as we head into the colder months. By including simple ingredients and easy recipes in your daily repertoire, you’re being proactive about your health and keeping your mind and body nourished to handle whatever comes your way. Try: Mexican Spiced Quinoa Soup, Moroccan Chickpea Soup, or my go-to Coconut Curry!
As simple as these sound, they’re all backed by science. When you add a few to your stress management toolbox, you make it easier to feel how you want to feel, no matter what!
Now it’s your turn: What are some of your most effective tools to deal with stress?