BY BRITTANY ORIE
Although smoking cigarettes is widely known for reducing stress, it’s one of the most dangerous. For the smoker who wants a different way to relax, here are some beneficial suggestions.
Adult coloring books. Colorful, exciting, creative, and artsy, adult coloring books help to focus your mind by encouraging you to stay in between the lines. The wild and unique patterns on each page will help stimulate your mind as you color and bring them alive. Seeing the art come together will relax your mind and body and may help you feel less stressed. Adult coloring books actually helped someone I know to quit smoking!
Physical exercise. Working out is a well-known stress reliever. Try taking any angry or aggressive energy inside of you and release it in a healthy way, such as kickboxing, running, dancing, or other sports. Keeping anger and aggression inside will hurt you mentally, physically, and emotionally, so try letting out that stress through your body.
Breathing exercises. There is a popular breathing technique that is known for lowering anxiety and inducing relaxation. This is called the diaphragmatic breathing method. When either sitting or lying down on your back, place one hand on your chest. Place the other hand on your stomach, below your rib cage. Slowly breathe in through your nose allowing all the air to expand your stomach while your chest is still (your chest should not rise or fall while breathing). Slowly breathe out through your mouth while gently pressing your stomach back in with your hand. Repeat until you feel more relaxed. This is worth attempting up to four times a day.
Meditate. For a smoker or a non-smoker, meditating is an impactful way to declutter your mind from any chaos that takes place during the day. When you meditate, you clear your mind and focus on something that brings you peace and helps you feel centered. You can do this anywhere—outdoors, at home, at work, or in your car—for at least 30 minutes a day.
Squeeze a stress ball. This non-stressful activity helps your body and mind in amazing ways. Squeezing stress balls helps blood circulate better throughout the body. Our bodies get tense under stress, so releasing tension through our hands with a stress ball helps to relax our entire body. This activity stimulates our mind as well because it helps us focus on only one thing while distracting us from our stressors.
Confide in a friend/family member. Talking to a loved one who cares reduces stress in a big way. It feels great when there’s someone who can relate to us and help us through our troubles. Talking about, say, a rough day, especially to a good friend, alleviates stress by releasing our burdens from inside us. Hey, you may just laugh it off afterward!
Listen to calming music. Listening to classical music, instrumentals, soft jazz, or meditative sounds relaxes your mind and body. It’s even more effective when alone in a quiet, relaxing environment. Do it wherever you feel the most comfortable.
Drink relaxing tea. Try indulging in some soothing herbal teas such as chamomile, peppermint, and lavender. These decaffeinated teas have a relaxing aroma and a rich taste that will relax your mind and body. They are perfect for after work and can induce sleep as well.
Stretch! Stretching our limbs releases tension like crazy! Sometimes our bodies ache under stress, so stretching our backs, shoulders, and necks, especially, will not only increase blood flow (because stress restricts our blood flow) but will make our bodies feel calmer. Don’t forget to breathe while you stretch!
Get artistic. Be creative and dabble in a new hobby, or even an old one. Engaging in arts and crafts is both mind stimulating and relaxing. Try drawing, painting, pottery, or sewing. Cooking is also a delicious art. Try taking a cooking class or experimenting with your favorite foods.
Laugh! What makes you laugh even on your worst day? This is something you can ask yourself when stress wants to be your company. Laughter releases tension from your whole body and releases a chemical in your brain called “endorphins” making you feel good and more positive. Try surrounding yourself with people who feed your sense of humor, read a funny book, or watch a comedy and de-stress.
Whatever you do, don’t reach for a cigarette!