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This article will discuss how to manage stress the healthy and frugal way. With times so uncertain, it’s a sure bet that most of us are stressed out. The pandemic has changed life for pretty much everyone in too many ways. So how can we cope in healthy ways on the cheap?
Many of these activities can be done solo or used as quality family time. Kids also need to cope with stress and anxiety. And, it’s beneficial to learn good habits right from the start. So read on!
What Effects Does Stress Have On the Body?
Chronic stress affects all of the major body systems. The fight or flight instinct is strong and is usually the first reaction to a stressful situation. The body tenses, breathing quickens, and our heart pumps harder and faster. The endocrine system releases stress chemicals into the body, including cortisol. This tension affects our gut biome and may affect our ability to eat, raising our stress levels. Living in this condition for days, weeks, months, or years can permanently damage our organs, including our brain. Chronic stress can lead to both tension and migraine headaches. [source]
So what can we do about it?
Get Moving and Elevate Those Endorphins!
Exercise of any kind, preferably outdoors if feasible, has an incredible number of benefits. Fit muscles use less energy and require less food to maintain. Activity generates endorphins, brain chemicals that help us feel better. Chocolate also generates these chemicals, but exercise is both cheaper and healthier. Physical activity strengthens both body and mind, significantly mitigating the adverse effects of stress.
If you can exercise out in nature, so much the better! Nature is also very stress-relieving. So get outside and get moving! Take a walk in a park, hike, bike a trail, or jump rope in your yard! Take your family with you if you have one. It can be a great time to bond as a family and learn respect for our natural world.
Yoga, Tai Chi, and Meditation Calm Your Mind and Ease Pain.
I’ve written before about the benefits of these ancient arts, which apply to managing stress and anxiety. Tai chi has been called meditation in motion. Both Yoga and Tai chi help maintain balance and flexibility and have documented effects on easing back pain and arthritis. Meditation comes in many forms, and research has shown many beneficial effects.
All three forms can help you manage stress the healthy and frugal way! In fact, you can do these for FREE! There are many free videos on YouTube to help with all three. Your local YMCA may offer classes on the cheap as well.
When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go to the Garden!
Gardening is a productive activity that can be enjoyed solo or with the family. Soil contains antidepressant microbes that raise cytokine and serotonin levels, resulting in a better mood. While you’re out there, you’re absorbing Vitamin D from the sun. Gardening is like therapy, plus free tomatoes!
Kids who garden learn math, chemistry, and ecology. Gardening also teaches kids prosocial behaviors that will serve them for a lifetime. Plus, you’ll stabilize your food supply; every little bit helps! If you don’t have space at home, consider renting a community garden plot. Your investment will pay off in spades!
Manage Stress the Healthy and Frugal Way Indoors!
There are many indoor activities the family can enjoy together. Board games such as the traditional Monopoly or Clue can be an excellent way to pass some time. A simple deck of cards yields a ton of possibilities in gaming. Enjoy a few laughs while bringing your family and friends closer! Cards and board games are a great way to get away from screens too.
Laughter is good for the soul and decreases the level of stress for everyone. Laughter can relieve stress, reduce tension, and even improve the immune system.
How about a game of charades?
Lighten Your Load by Filling Up With Gratitude!
The Kokikai school of Aikido teaches positive mind as its fourth core principle. The idea is that a positive mind is easier to carry than a negative mind. A negative mind sees only what’s wrong, whereas a positive mind sees challenges and can find solutions.
Count your blessings! Focusing on what’s right in your life and the good decisions you’ve made is a much more effective strategy when dealing with uncertainty. What’s going right in your life today? What are you grateful for?
To Selco, We Listen!
Selco, from The Organic Prepper, gives some great advice on keeping your head together under stress. One thing he discusses is the concept of circles of control. Global level is the largest circle, with circles getting smaller all the way down to your personal space. Stay focused on the small circles containing the things you can control and let go of the rest.
In a similar vein, turn off the news! The creators of our 24-hour news cycle designed it to be as shocking as possible, riveting the audience to the TV. Watching the news is a sure way to increase stress and anxiety since it focuses the mind on things outside of one’s control. Deliberately chosen images of blood and disaster increase anxiety and make the audience fearful.
Access news sources long enough to know what’s going on, then turn off and tune out. Your body will thank you for it!
Don’t Let the Social Media Vampires Drain You!
In my view, there are few things more stressful and less valuable than a Facebook or Twitter fight. Arguing with usernames solves nothing. Moreover, governments worldwide have been using social media to conduct military psyops or psychological operations. Foreign operatives create accounts and do their best to suck people into fights. These operations sow discord, among other things.
The political pages are especially toxic in my experience. I don’t think our legislators care much about what we think. Write them directly if you feel the need. However, stay off their pages and don’t engage with other users trying to suck you in. It’s a waste of time and energy that raises both stress and anxiety levels. Don’t play that game.
It’s also believed that social media can become an actual physical addiction. Social media use triggers a dopamine reaction in the brain, which is part of the reward system. Everyone likes to feel good, so when posts receive positive feedback and trigger the reward, we’re often back for more when the effect wears off. (This is a very classic addiction pattern.)
Our screens have become like vampires, sucking our energy and raising our stress levels. Get rid of the electronic vampire and watch your stress level drop!
How Do You Tackle the Stress Monster?
In this article, I’ve detailed a few ways to manage the stress of interesting times in healthy ways, on the cheap. There are no doubt many more. Do you have any suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.