One of my favorite sayings is, “Action is the antidote to despair,” by activist, songwriter, musician, and singer Joan Baez. I discovered this gem years ago while flipping through the pages of a life-changing quote book. Ever since then, I’ve found these wise words invaluable for keeping positive in stressful situations.
When you’re stressed, doesn’t it feel better to take action? Addressing the problem is essential, but engaging in other activities is important, too. Any action that relieves the stress is good as long as it doesn’t hinder your (or anyone else’s) health and safety. Let’s take a look at different types of activities and explore why a variety is ideal.
- journaling and identifying issues
- brainstorming, setting goals, and testing solutions
- monitoring progress and adjusting plans, as needed
Problem-solving actions get to the root of the issue and so address it head-on. Putting off the problem can cause stress to build to an overwhelming point. That’s why it’s better to take action sooner rather than later. However, overthinking can complicate matters, and overdoing things can tire you out. When it feels like you’re weaving a tangled web or hitting a wall, it’s time to do something else or take a break. If it feels like you’re beating a dead horse, you’re overdue.
- financial obligations: paying bills and returning rentals on time to avoid late fees or cancelled services, adding money to public transportation cards to ensure adequate funds to ride the bus or subway, and moving your car on street sweeper days to avoid parking tickets
- errands: getting your car filled with gas, washed, and serviced, dropping off or picking up clothes at the alterations and cleaners, dropping off or picking up mail and packages at the post office, shopping at the grocery or hardware store, and bringing your pet to the vet
- chores and repairs: decluttering, cleaning windows, dusting shelves and tabletops, mopping, vacuuming, washing and drying clothes and dishes, ironing, folding, or hanging clothes, organizing, throwing out green waste, recyclables, and trash, doing yard work, and fixing or replacing broken things
Routine actions don’t address the problem, but they are the “something else’s” to do. They help reduce stress by lightening our workloads. And when we do them in a timely manner, we can prevent more problems and work in the long run. In addition, getting them done gives us a sense of accomplishment and clears the way for problem-solving. Ideas may even pop up while we’re doing them.
- hygiene: brushing and flossing your teeth well, doing your hair and nails or getting a haircut, manicure, and pedicure, getting or giving yourself a facial, and taking a bath or shower
- nourishing: preparing and consuming or treating yourself to a healthy, tasty meal and water at a table, away from a computer or tv
- physical activities: dancing, doing yoga, stretching, playing sports or with pets, hiking, jogging, riding a bike or scooter, rock, stair, or wall climbing, running, skate boarding, skating, swimming, and walking
- relaxing and resting: gazing, getting some fresh air and sunlight, getting a massage or messaging yourself with a foam roller, going for a drive, sitting in a hot tub, and taking a power nap
- spiritual activities: meditating, praying, and saying affirmations
Self-care actions are great for taking a break from the problem, but they should be done throughout the day. They relieve us of stress and allow us to recharge and come back fresh. When done on a regular basis, being mindful of ourselves and appreciating simple things can really make a difference in our overall health and well-being.
- hobbies: baking, cooking, building, gardening, collecting, coloring, designing, drawing, painting, sculpting, crocheting, cross-stitching, embroidery, knitting, sewing, photography, playing an instrument, and singing
- entertainment: listening to music, a podcast, or an audio book, doing puzzles, playing a game or cards, reading a book, magazine, newspaper, or the comics, and watching a movie or show
- community service and socializing: volunteering, participating in church or club activities, and having coffee, tea, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and shopping with a family member or friend
Recreational actions are pleasant distractions that take our minds off stress. They’re fun, but they can divert us away from the problem for too long, causing us to procrastinate. However, “using a different part of our brains” can give us mental clarity to think about the issue in another way. Family, friends, and even strangers can provide us with good company and an alternate perspective, as well.
Do you agree that keeping positive in stressful situations calls for a variety of actions? When you’re stressed, which types of activities do you engage in first? Are there any you should engage in instead or more often? Which actions are your favorite? Do you combine them? Please share your comments and this post below 🙂