I spent ten years as a military spouse trying to get some zen in my life. Then I spent the next three years post-military trying to do the same thing. I have two young kids, a full-time job in public relations, a three-hour daily commute, a freelance writing career, and a halfway-done second novel.
I’ve always thought of myself as “a stressed-out person, trying not to be so stressed out.” The funny thing is, the busier I get, the more I learn about calming down. Here are some of the top things I’ve learned:
Do yoga, but don’t pay a lot for it, or do it for long.
Let’s be honest – getting to a yoga class is not an easy accomplishment, especially for most moms, who are the ones who often need yoga the most. Most yoga classes are no shorter than an hour, and when you add in the drive to the studio, you’ll need to set aside at least an hour and a half. If your spouse is deployed or out of town, add in the cost of a babysitter, and the yoga studio fees, and a yoga class becomes pretty expensive, both in money and time.
I’m a big fan of yoga apps, especially Asana Rebel. I find it has just the right amount of strength training and “om” to destress me but also make me feel like I’m getting a workout. Most of the workouts are 25 minutes or less, and that’s about all the time I have most days, which is really all the time you need.
Paint your nails.
If you’re an anxious person, you’re probably a nail biter. Biting your nails exacerbates the anxiety cycle. Keeping your nails smooth and painted will deter you from biting them. But I don’t have the lot of time to sit at a nail salon once a week, which is about how long the average manicure lasts (gel lasts longer, but takes longer to get done). I found that swiping on a top coat alone wasn’t enough to keep me from biting them, but I didn’t have the patience or skill to put on two coats of nail polish, then a top coat. Instead, I’ve started using sheer nail polish – just one coat, no top coat, and done. I especially like Olive and June’s EC shade.
Find faith, whatever that means to you.
This doesn’t have to mean going to church, or temple, or whatever religious institution you were raised in. I spent most of my life thinking that because I was raised Catholic, I should be going to a Catholic church. One day I decided to try an Episcopal church, and then a nondenominational church. When I broke out of the mold of labeling myself as a religion, and just trying to grow my faith, it brought me much more peace.
I’ve explored a lot of faith-inspired resources since then, and I love Alabaster’s Bibles, the Daily Grace podcast, the book The Hidden Messages in Water, and the book How to Get to Heaven Without Really Dying, which explores how you can combine ideas from a variety of different religions. Finding peace is really more about finding, and giving, goodness in your life than finding the perfect church.
Meditate. No really, meditate.
To be truthful, I’m still tackling this one. It’s a lot easier and more interesting to read about the benefits of meditation than to actually do it every day. But I religiously play a 20-minute kids’ meditation for my kids before bed, to help them wind down, and it’s worked wonders for them. I’ll often lie in bed with them and listen to it. I use Insight Timer, a free meditation app, for both kids’ and adult meditations. At the very least, commit to just a tiny bit of deep breathing when you’re stressed (four counts in, eight counts out).
Water can be very helpful in reducing anxiety, in all its forms. Drinking water is one way. Taking a five-minute shower is another, if five minutes is all you have – try to be mindful of the feeling of the water to get the most benefit. Taking a bath and reading a book is my preferred method of relaxation, if I have ten minutes or more. Spritzing a nice-smelling water on your face is a great way to feel refreshed and snap yourself out of any worrying. Swimming, playing in the sprinkler with your kids, or getting a pedicure with a foot bath are also great relaxation tools.
I’ve tried it all – acupuncture, massages, spas, aromatherapy… ultimately, I’ve found reflexology works the best for me. Reflexology is a massage that applies pressure points to the feet and hands – you can find it at most massage parlors. I only have time to get it about once a month, but it is incredibly refreshing. Acupressure in general, even if you can only do it on yourself, is a small but effective way to get some zen.
Consider the mind-body connection.