There are numerous ways to reduce the high levels of stress in our lives. Here is my list of 5 creative ways to decompress.
- Learn an instrument
- Color like a 7 year old
- Sweat it out
- Bonus tip at the end
LEARN AN INSTUMENT
From the moment I brought my first born home, I quickly realized life was completely different than it was two days prior. I was an adult, with real responsibilities. No more partying after work. No more working out at my leisure. No more spontaneous fishing excursions.
A very little person relied on me being around.
Along with those responsibilities comes the stress. Stress from not sleeping (EVER). From not knowing what the F@$K you are doing. Crying, puking, boogers, baths, too hot, too cold, too much, too little, and everyone’s advice about how you should be caring for your baby (enter hair loss and gray beard).
What did I do to relieve stress pre-baby? Party!
One night shortly after my daughter was born I was ready for some good old stress relief. It also just happened to be St. Patrick’s Day. A cherished day for all us green beer loving folks. Like they say “Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day”. Right? And I actually have a touch of the Emerald Isle in my blood so I was ready to sham-ROCK.
I called up 30 of my closest friends and proceeded to paint the town green. Good times were had by all. I was thinking to my self “man, you still got it buddy. No baby’s going to rule your life…”
Fast forward 4 hours to 6:00 am when the baby starts crying. The only thing that was painted green was me. Sick as a dog. To all my parents out there, y ‘all know that a little taste of hell on earth is a hangover and a baby. The oddly sweet, yet still disgusting smell of (pre-solid food) baby poo. The warmth of fresh spit up slowly rolling down your back. The indescribable scent of a full and ripening diaper genie. Each one is unpleasant in it’s own way, but the combination of the elements is enough to gag a gnat.
That being said here I was, defeating the odds. A couple Excedrin migraine, some Gatorade and bowl of soup. I was coming back to life.
I had taken off my shirt due to a serious case of the hangover sweats. I was bouncing my baby in the chair position with her legs hanging over my arm and her back against my chest when I heard a suspicious noise. Much like the sound of an expresso maker. The once rough feel of the diaper rubbing on my chest was now a smooth gliding sensation. I slowly peered down to realize the atrocity that had occurred.
BLOW OUT !
From neck to navel it looked like a poo emoji had used my chest as a slip and slide. I ran to my wife yelling “take the baby, take the baby!” I handed her off like Jim McMahon giving the ball to “Sweetness” (Walter Payton) and it was off to pray to the porcelain god.
It was that experience that brought me to the realization that I needed a new stress outlet. One that I could do from the comfort of my home. One that would not end in complete horror like my previous strategy.
That was the day I called my brother and asked if he wanted to take guitar lessons with me. We signed up at the Old Town School of Folk Music and I have been playing poorly ever since. This is no fault of the Old Town School of Folk Music. I actually loved the classes there and highly recommend them if you live in Chicago. I just suck at music.
That being said, playing guitar is my main source of stress relief. It takes so much concentration for me to play that it is nearly impossible for me to think of anything else. I love the sense of accomplishment when I work hard and play a note right, but my expectations are low so I don’t care if I mess up. I know I will never be Jimmy Hendrix but maybe someday, someone may let me play a set with them in their garage.
I wasn’t able to keep up the Old Town School of Folk Music lessons due to moving, but I utilized the numerous videos available on YouTube as well as song books to help me learn. Because of resources like YouTube, learning an instrument of any kind is easier than ever.
Choose an instrument you have always loved the sound of and give it the old college try. You may find a hidden talent, and that would be music to my ears.
Get yourself a good glass of wine, a great recipe, perhaps some Coltrane, and a loved one to cook for. Lose yourself in the experience. RELAX…
I love to fish. It gives me an opportunity to get into nature and enjoy the scenery. I usually go fishing with family and friends. The water is a nice quiet place to catch up with the life events of a loved one, or reminisce about times past. As busy as I’m certain you are, I know you are fully aware of how long it can be before seeing a good friend. We laugh the day away while the waves gently lap against the side of the boat. We sip the contents of a cold can and philosophize about life. I cherish those moments.
My love for fishing inspired me to build custom fishing rods. Little did I know at the time that it would become a key source of stress relief in my life. As you can gather from the photo below, custom rod threading is meticulous. The need to focus keeps my mind engaged and my worries quickly fade away.
Custom rod building is just one abstract example of crafting. There are countless activities to get involved in. I have friends who love to garden, crochet, paint, take photos, wood work, leather work, and brew craft beer. I even tried my hand at making Kombucha (fermented black tea). The process is rather simple once you grow a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY). You can make it for pennies on the dollar and create your own flavors.
Choose a craft. Whether it is with the kids, alone or both. Like I stated earlier learning has never been easier thanks to YouTube videos. You can find endless ideas on Pinterest. There is no excuse. You may just find your self relaxing while you have fun and learn something.
My newest custom design
COLOR LIKE A 7 YEAR OLD
I recently took a trip to the emergency room with my daughter.
At the recommendation of my brilliant wife we had brought along a intricate coloring book and some colored pencils to pass the time.
We all know how long an ER visit can last and I was not in the mood to color. I blew off the idea of coloring as childish and boring. When I previously saw adults coloring on the train, in planes, or in waiting rooms I would laugh. I thought of it off as silly.
While awaiting test results and after watching cartoons for an hour my daughter pulled out the coloring book. “Help me color” she said. “Ok” I replied. What else was I gonna do?
We began to color and suddenly the tension and anxiety that comes from being in a hospital was gone. “Can I use the green?” I would ask. “Ok, I will try this neat shade of pink” my daughter would reply. “Great color combination” one of us would say. “I love how you did her scales” I told her (picture below). We were in our own world. We laughed, shared, and complimented each other. Coloring with my daughter was one of my favorite recent memories of our time spent together. We worked in unison to bring a dull group of black and white lines to life.
I will never again laugh at adult coloring books. Got a long fight? Staying in a hospital for a few days or know someone who is? Grab a coloring book and some colored pencils. Coloring is a great way to occupy the mind and beautify the soul.
SWEAT IT OUT
Physical exertion. Pick your poison. Yoga, weights, running, rowing, boxing, cross fit, walking, biking, swimming, sports. Any which way you go offers stress relief. Choose one or ten. The more physically active you are the more energy you will have. Exercise boosts chemicals in your blood that improve mood and libido. How can you argue with that?
I try to exercise as much as possible, but finding the time is difficult. As a father of three with a full time job and a working wife who is busier than I, time seems to elude me. Sound familiar? Probably sounds like your life too right? As busy as we are we still need to find the time to keep ourselves healthy so we can live longer for our kids. When we are interacting with our children it is equally important to have the energy to enjoy the time we spend together.
Personally, I have always enjoyed martial arts. I really love Krav-Maga (an Israeli form of Martial Arts). During classes you focus a lot on cardio and conditioning. The level of intensity would leave me with extreme runners high by the end of class, and I would walk out feeling renewed and clear headed. I had so much energy I felt I could accomplish any task thrown at me. I also felt like I could kick some serious ass if the need should arise.
I weight lift and run most often now but I found a new love. Volleyball! In my grade school days they only offered volleyball to the girls, so naturally I assumed it was a girl sport and carried that assumption well into my adult years. 5 years ago my father in-law signed the family up for a coed intramural volleyball league as a fundraiser for the local grade school (not mine).
I was guilt tripped into playing in the first game and boy did I suck. Between games I ran to the concession stand to grab a drink and realized they were selling 2 dollar beers. Suddenly my frown was turned upside down.
A beer or two into the game and my suck level was diminishing. I was less tense and self conscious. I was still horrible but I walked out of there wanting more. Why had I been lied to my whole life? This game was fun and lots of girls do play it. That could have come in handy years ago.
I still play to this day and look forward to every new season. I no longer need the beer to loosen me up and I suck way less. I am grateful to my family for dragging me along to play. If I had never tried something new, I would be missing out on an aspect of my life I love.
It doesn’t matter HOW you exercise, just that you DO exercise. Don’t be afraid to try something new. You may discover your new passion. Playing sports is a great way to meet people, boost your self esteem, and sweat away the stress.
I am adding a bonus stress relief strategy.
Writing is a form of release. A release of ideas, concerns or feelings. Keeping such things bottled inside your head can be a source of stress in your life. Whether you are writing an email sharing your ideas, writing a love letter expressing your deepest desires, or writing a blog in hopes of sharing thoughts on life and a couple of cheep laughs. Writing will alleviate pressure from your soul. Just writing myself a grocery list helps take away the stress of potentially forgetting something from the store. Any way I can make my life a bit easier, a bit more interesting, and a bit less stressful I take it. You never know, you may be the next Mark Twain or J.K. Rowling.
Whether you learn an instrument, cook, find a craft, color a book, sweat it out, pour your thoughts onto paper or utilize any other means of relaxing.
The common ingredient to all 5 of the listed strategies is that they all involve a great deal of focus. By paying attention to the task at hand you can’t think about your problems.
In the end try to remember that most of what we worry about is irrelevant. What really matters is our health and the well being of our loved ones. Without that everything else won’t matter.
I hope you found these 5 creative ways to a stress-less life helpful. Please subscribe to my blog below. Leave a comment below. I would love to hear about your best methods for stress relief or any feed back you have about what I have written. stay safe and continue to have fun and learn something.