Many people thought that 2021 would be a farewell to the stresses and anxieties of 2020 – a year that many would like to forget. If you’re like me, the stress of enduring a global pandemic, working from home while taking care of children, canceling travel plans and major events, and forgoing socializing with friends and family, was indeed a challenging, anxiety-ridden time.
And while we are far from finished with COVID-19, I think we could all use a collective sigh of relief from the stressful time we’re living in. Though none of us can fast forward time, there are easily attainable tools and tricks for managing stress and anxiety.
I spoke with three therapists, all ranging in a variety of specialties, who gave insightful wisdom and advice on managing stress and anxiety in practical, easy-to-apply methods, with things like journaling and jewelry.
Audrey Grunst, LCSW, is the owner of Simply Bee Counseling in Vernon Hills and Northbrook, Illinois. Like many therapists, Grunst believes in the art of journaling, which is why she created a five-month set of therapeutic journals called the “Bee You Planner Series,” which guides users through the often overwhelming process of self-reflection and self-improvement.
Bee You Planner
"Each month is a new step, so it gives you an opportunity to advance yourself one step at a time. The first month is about becoming aware. It teaches you how to become aware of the big four, which are your thoughts, feelings, urges, and physical sensations. The second level is how to use mindfulness and observe the things you’ve become aware of. The third [level] is how you respond to the things you’re observing rather than react. Step four is to integrate. You know how you feel inside now, so it’s how you go to your environment and interact with other people and make action plans outside yourself. The fifth step is growth and reflection. Basically, let’s recap the last four steps, what I’ve learned, and what I need to do next.”
Though Grunst uses the series with her patients, she said you don’t have to be in therapy to appreciate the journals and utilize their therapeutic benefits.
“I’ve sent it to all my therapist friends, and they often suggest it to their clients to use, but I have had people in my own family who don’t go to therapy use it, and they feel like it’s very effective,” she said.
The Five-Minute Journal
Anita Guajardo, LCSW, a psychotherapist and owner of Ilumina Counseling in Austin, Texas, helps individuals struggling with self-care and setting boundaries. Like Grunst, Guajardo believes in the power of journaling.
She understands, though, why the activity might be overwhelming for some to consider, especially for those who lead busy, jam-packed lives. That’s why she encourages people to look into “The Five-Minute Journal,” which includes daily thought-provoking, easy-to-tackle prompts.
“The fact that it’s called ‘The Five-Minute Journal’ is very appealing to the fast-paced lifestyle most of us have. Having a structure with prompts helps contain the experience of what’s coming up so you’re not getting overwhelmed and re-living a stressful story because you’re writing about it,” she said.
Fidget Ring Set of 3
“Fidget jewelry can have smooth edges, rough edges, and can help you cope with anxiety,” she said. “Fidgeting is you trying to release the anxious energy in your body through certain ways. So instead of doing something harmful like picking at your nails or your skin, you are using something that isn’t harmful.”
Hamoery Natural Stone Lava Rock Diffuser Bracelet
Grunst said rubbing essential oils into lava rock jewelry can also help soothe anxiety: “The essential oils absorb into the beads and you can rub those in between your fingers and have that fragrance with you all day. Lavender can calm you down, or you can have orange or lemon to wake you up. You can use oils to bring your energy up or down.”
For Stress Management:
Guajardo also said her patients have experienced great results using apps that help encourage self-awareness, such as Daylio. The free, mood-tracking app tracks a person’s various moods with their daily activities, which in turn is used to track a person’s overall happiness. Individuals can utilize the app to understand the association between their moods and activities.
“It’s a quick check-in tool that lets people log on for a couple of seconds and you just put in an emoji visual selecting your mood right now and your activity, and then it tracks it, “ she said. “Technology is with them, so they’re using something that is already part of their day. This is adding in something quick, simple, that doesn’t take up too much time, and can be very engaging.”
Mindful Breathing Necklace
Guajardo said there are also mindful breathing necklaces “that almost look like a whistle,” which can help a person calm down and focus on breathing during particularly stressful, triggering situations.
Supplements and Teas
Lastly, Guajardo said carving out meaningful time to enjoy beverages like tea or coffee can help people decompress and get in touch with their thoughts and feelings.
“I say find time to create moments, and in those moments are pockets for intentions. Take a moment with a cup of tea, and the entire time you’re drinking it set an intention to slow down and practice gratitude, from the time the mug is full to the time it’s empty. You decide if that time is going to be fast or slow.”
For The Biome Stress Therapy 7-Flower Infusion
Dr. Anne Black, a community psychologist and founder of the Warrior Connection, also has a great appreciation for enjoying a tea-like beverage. In fact, Black suggests For the Biome’s Stress Therapy 7-Flower Infusion as a supplement that can help manage stress and anxiety.
“I take and recommend For The Biome Stress Therapy for daily stress management because it is a science-backed, clinically proven formula that improves your ability to adapt to stress [and provides] emotional strength and clarity of mind,” she said. “It also helps support serotonin production and strengthens your gut barrier. Its synergistic bouquet of restorative flowers has an immediate and lasting impact on your central nervous system, mood, gut microbiome, and even your immune system.”
Gifts for The Stressed Out:
Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty Hot Head
Black once owned a condolence-based gift business, which sold tangible items that helped individuals navigate stress, depression, and anxiety following a loss in their life. According to Black, the business featured a multitude of products, including items like Angry Putty and lavender-scented eye pillows.
Blissful Being Namaste Yoga Eye Pillow with Lavender
“[Angry] Putty is a palmer that physical therapists use to build up hand muscles. Sometimes just having something to squeeze, touch, and hold is useful,” she explained. “With the [lavender-scented] eye pillow, you can lie down and let the eye pillow take that stress of even just holding your eyes closed away.”
Linen Pocket Square or Handkerchief
Black said it’s also useful to keep a handkerchief on hand as a reminder that it’s perfectly okay, and often healing, to cry during stressful, depressing times. Black said this tool has been particularly meaningful for veterans, who often have the “if you cry, you die” mentality instilled in them.
“Many people have thousands of uncried tears in their body. Going through a hard time can be a great opportunity to offload some of that,” she said. “All of those unprocessed feelings and experiences are in there. They’re still stuffed in the body. So they’re either going to implode or they’re going to explode.”
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