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  • Start Your Own First Aid Kit for Stress

    Why You Need a First Aid Kit For Stress

    If you’ve been a client or following my blog for any length of time, you know that the best way to deal with stress is to be proactive and reduce the number of stressors in your life so you have less overall stress. However, no life is ever completely stress free; we all have some routine stressors that we can’t get rid of (parents, in-laws, boss, kids, traffic, etc.). In those cases we need to find ways to regularly manage our stress and dial down our stress response.

    That’s all well and good, but what do you do on those occasions when a normal stressor flares up to an unusually high level, a code-red level stressor rears its ugly head intermittently, or a one time stressor pops up? That’s when you need a stress first aid kit. It’s pretty simple to create one, and it’s totally worth any and all effort you put into it.

    What To Put In Your Stress First Aid Kit

    When building a first aid kit for stress, it’s best to  start small with a couple items and gradually add more items as they prove useful to you. Ideally, your kit will contain items that will instantly (or nearly instantly) start to calm you down.

    Since everyone’s stress response is different, you will have slightly different needs than the next person. Because different situations call for different responses, you will also need a somewhat varied kit. To that end, I’ve created a list of stress-busters that should be a good starting point for your own stress first aid kit.

    • Rescue remedy – Found in health food stores, wellness centers, and natural pharmacies, Rescue Remedy comes in drops, gum, & lozenges. This stuff has helped me immensely during some of the most stressful times I can remember. Let’s just say it saved me, and several co-workers (once I told them my secret), from having to make countless trips to the restroom in tears during a “bad boss” period.
    • Essential Oils – Many essential oils have calming, stress-relieving qualities including lavender, roman chamomile, neroli, frankincense, palo santo, sandalwood, patchouli, and geranium. You only need one or two of these oils in your “kit;” they should be ones that always smell good to you, and that have an immediate and noticeable calming effect on you whenever you smell them.
    • Tea – There are many herbal teas that are known for their tendency to calm. The easiest to find are lavender, honey lavender, chamomile, and lavender chamomile.
    • Music -Music really does soothe the savage beast. You may find that the type of music that calms you may change over time or be slightly different for certain stressors. It will likely have a few qualities in common, no matter which type it is – a slower pace, meaningful lyrics, or a favorite instrument. Whatever you find that works to calm and soothe you most reliably is the music you want to have loaded on your iPod, iTunes, Pandora, or what ever method of portable music you use.
    • Dark chocolate – Sorry milk chocolate lovers, but dark chocolate is the only chocolate that has a high enough concentration of antioxidants and flavonoids to lower your levels of stress hormones, improve mood, and increase feel-good hormones like serotonin and endorphins. Good news: dark chocolate comes in a variety of cocoa levels that are usually listed as percentages on the package, so even a dedicated milk chocolate lover may find a lower concentration palatable.
    • Laughter – It really is the best medicine and is an amazing stress reliever. This one isn’t necessarily appropriate to use in all situations. For instance, laughing at a funny video moments after your boss reams you new one will probably only bring on more of the stress that you’re trying to relieve. That said, make sure to bookmark your favorite comedy site, download a few funny videos to your desktop, or keep a joke book or list of jokes somewhere handy.
    • Deep breathing – No purchase, download, or carrying case required for this one. While any slow, deep breath will help to calm you, there’s a secret to maximizing the effectiveness of your deep breaths; make sure that your exhale is longer than your inhale. When your out breath is longer than your in breath, your body dials down your stress response and increases your relaxation response more fully.
    • Exercise – This is another one that isn’t appropriate in all situations, such as running away from your boss who just finished yelling at you, but it is very effective in helping  you burn off some steam in the right situations. Just make sure that it’s a form of exercise that you enjoy, otherwise you’ll be adding to your stress, not relieving it.

    Do you have a stress reliever that could go in a stress first aid kit that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below.