7 February Stress Busters

*I’ll be taking a blogging break during Valentine’s week. Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

With the flip of the calendar to February, it’s time for another installment in our Stress Busters blog series. I started it in September and I pray it’s been a blessing to you. Hopefully you’ve discovered some new ideas for reducing stress as we think of strategies especially appropriate for each month of the year.

Since February is the month of love, some might think stress should disappear, but alas, the expectations of Valentine’s Day can actually add stress to some of our lives. Combine that with the other stresses that invariably rise up to drag us down, and yes indeed, it is a very good idea to consider how we might reduce our stress levels.

So here, my friends, are seven stress busters for your February days:

  1. Say “I love you” to someone every day this month. Whether saying the words, writing a note, or posting a meme on someone’s Facebook page, brighten days for others and lift your own spirit as you share love. See how many different people you can touch.
  2. Perform a random act of kindness. Offer an encouraging word, hold a door, leave an extra generous tip, or pay for the person behind you in line. Surprise someone unexpectedly. Not only will it make you happy, but you might just change the course of someone’s day, week, or life.
  3. Offer a comforting touch or hug as often as an opportunity presents itself. Loving touches have a way of helping stress melt away for both parties involved. Bless others—and let others bless you—with a hug.
  4. Show yourself some love with an out of the ordinary treat. Get a massage, indulge in a candlelit bubble bath, order your favorite dessert, or take a day (or afternoon) off to do something fun. Enjoy yourself!
  5. Make a list of the things you love about your life. The biggies will come to mind first, but nothing is too small to include. If it brings you joy, jot it down. As you do, whisper a prayer of thanks.
  6. Call a friend or family member you rarely get to see and share some love and laughs. Sometimes hearing a distant loved one’s voice soothes our spirits the way nothing else can.
  7. Read and reflect on a passage from the Bible—God’s love letter to us—each day. Let the Word of God infuse your spirit with peace and joy and wisdom. Let it refresh and recharge you to deal with the demands of your life.

Your stress is sure to diminish if you put these ideas to work this month. As you do, may your February be filled with love and joy. And chocolate. Don’t forget the chocolate!

“Love never fails . . .” 1 Corinthians 13:8 NIV 

*Which of these stress busters will be the easiest for you to carry out? Which will be the biggest challenge?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Tania_Cataldo, Creative Commons License

7 January Stress Busters

by Cheryl Barker  CherylBarkerWriter

Happy New Year, friends! What say we kick off 2018 with some January stress busters? Hopefully you’ve been enjoying—and benefiting from—the monthly Stress Buster blog series I’ve been offering over the past few months. I pray you’re finding some new ideas and also being reminded to try some strategies you may have heard of or tried in the past.

As far as January goes, some might think that since the holidays are over, January would be smooth sailing. But January holds stresses all its own.

Many are coming face to face with paying for their Christmas spending while others are paying in pounds for their holiday eating. Some may be battling the stress of cabin fever and others are dealing with the stress of winter blues and seasonal affective disorder. And then, of course, there are the regular stresses of life that plague us any time of year. So yes, Virginia, there is indeed stress in January.

May the following January stress busters help get your 2018 started off on a good foot. Be blessed as you try them, friends!

7 January Stress Busters

  1. Before getting out of bed, start each day with a short prayer. You could say good morning to the Lord while telling him you love him and asking him to go with you through the day. Or perhaps you can give your day—and yourself—to the Lord and ask him to help you be a blessing to him and to others. As you put your focus on him first thing in the morning, you’ll be more likely to turn to him when stress begins to mount.  
  2. Increase your physical activity in simple ways. Try standing or walking while doing some of the tasks you normally do sitting down. Or take the stairs at work rather than use the elevator. Think of your own routines and get creative. Let endorphins released during exercise combat the stress of the day.
  3. Take some time one evening to relax and re-read the Christmas cards and letters you received in December. Most of us are so busy during the days before Christmas that we don’t have the time to truly savor the beauty and messages of the holiday greetings we received. After reliving those greetings, go ahead and recall some of your favorite moments of the season and give God thanks. 
  4. Soak up some sunshine every time you get the chance. January can have an abundance of gray days so when the sun comes out, take advantage and recharge. Whether at home or out and about, when it comes time to find a place to sit, choose a spot in the sun. And if possible, spend some time outside when the sun is shining. Soak up the rays even if the air is still cold.
  5. Make a few simple changes in spending habits to help pay off your bills more quickly. Instead of buying bottled water or expensive hot drinks, fill up a stainless steel insulated bottle or tumbler with your favorite hot or cold drink and take it with you. Also, don’t spend your change. Save it and apply it to a bill that’s weighing on your mind. Spend a few minutes evaluating your habits and see what else you might be able to do.
  6. Make the most of the cold weather and enjoy the cozy comforts of January. Savor the warming effects of candlelight, comfy throws, snuggly sweaters, and fires in the fireplace. And don’t forget to wrap your hands around a cup of hot cocoa, coffee, or spiced tea. Enjoy!
  7. Break free and go on a spur of the moment outing. If you’ve been snowed in or are staying in as much as possible due to bitter temps, brave the elements and get away from the stir-craziness of your four walls. Go see a movie, meet friends for coffee and conversation, or go wander the aisles of your favorite home improvement store and make plans for spring and summer projects. Do something to re-energize your spirit.

Here’s to less stressful living in 2018—in January and beyond!

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NLT

*Which of these stress busters will best hit the spot for you?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Caaru, Creative Commons License

7 December Stress-Busters

December dawned a few days ago, but is it possible during this “most wonderful time of the year” that we’re actually feeling a teensy bit of stress? I’d say not only possible but probable—and not only a teensy bit but a pretty big chunk. A chunk that seems to grow, in fact, as the days tick past on the calendar.

If ever there’s a month where my blog series on stress busters appropriate for each month is needed, December has got to be it. So let’s get right to it. May the following stress busters prove to be an early Christmas present for you, my friends!

December Stress Busters 

  1. Take some time each day—even if just two or three minutes—to sit and gaze at your Christmas tree. Take a deep breath, relax your body, and enjoy your tree—the beauty, the nostalgia that Christmas invokes, and the sense of joy and worship that Christmas trees have a way of inspiring.
  2. Plan for simple meals. Fix one meal for dinner each week that will be enough for at least two nights then throw in a night of take-out and go out to dinner once as well. Give yourself a break where you can.
  3. Don’t just listen to Christmas music—sing along. I’m willing to bet it’s impossible to stay all balled up in stress if you’re actually singing the words to your traditional Christmas favorites. Sing while you wrap presents, do laundry, or bake for the holidays. And sing the carols of Christmas during your personal worship time. It will add a whole new dimension of joy and peace to your celebration of Christmas.
  4. Hire a young teen to wrap your Christmas presents. You won’t have to pay as much and the teen will be glad to earn some extra spending money. And as you reduce your work-load, your stress will shrink as well.
  5. Set aside one night each week to watch one of your favorite Christmas movies. Not only will this give you some extended relaxation time, but it will provide a full-circle kind of contentment as you participate in one of your well-loved traditions.
  6. Enjoy the lights of Christmas—both candlelight and twinkling lights. Candlelight is always soothing but seems to take on an extra measure of beauty and peacefulness during Christmas. And the twinkling lights of Christmas? Get outta here. Be sure to go on a light-looking adventure one night and your stress will get lost along the way.
  7. Read Twas the Night Before Christmas and other classic Christmas books and stories to a child. Stress can’t reign if you’re sharing the magical and wonder-filled joy of Christmas with one (or some) of your favorite littles. And if children aren’t in your holiday picture, read aloud to yourself and slip back in time for some Christmas nostalgia.

So there you have it, friends—some ways to trade your stress for joy and peace this holiday season. And remember, over all these methods and any others you may employ, our best stress-relief can be found in spending time with and worshipping the Savior whose birth we celebrate. Come and adore him and you’ll find your stress melting away!

“In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” John 1:4

*Which of these stress-busters will you use this holiday season? What else can you add to the list?

Have you subscribed yet to Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue? If not, sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, just scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Jonathan Stonehouse, Creative Commons License

7 November Stress-Busters

The calendar has turned the page to another new month so that means it’s time to offer you another set of month-appropriate stress-busters. I hope you’re enjoying beginning each month with some ideas designed to help you relax and refresh in the face of stress.

Whether dealing with the normal daily stresses of life or additional major stresses, we all need ways that can help us step back for a few minutes and intentionally put that stress on a back-burner. If we do that often enough, we may find our overall feelings of stress diminishing as we learn to better cope with them day by day.

May the stress-busting strategies below come in handy in November when you find yourself in need of refreshment and relief. Be blessed, friends!

November Stress-Busters

  1. Take a few minutes to watch the leaves fall from the trees and dance their way to the ground. As you watch them float gently down, imagine your stress falling from your head, your shoulders, your arms, your hands, your legs, and your feet in the same way. Consciously relax your body.
  2. Before going to bed each night, jot down at least one thing that happened that day for which you’re thankful. Gratitude has a way of changing our perspective and lessening the worries of the day. By the end of the month, you may decide to keep a gratitude list or journal year-round.
  3. As you begin thinking ahead to Christmas, decide on at least two ways you can simplify your life or the celebration of the season in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. If you can go beyond making two changes, wonderful. Anything you can do to ease the increased demand of the holiday season will be well worth it.
  4. Enjoy some Thanksgiving nostalgia. Recall and share with family or friends some of your memories of childhood Thanksgivings. Welcome and listen to others’ stories as well. End by sharing your most memorable Thanksgiving whether long past or fairly recent. Let the comfort of past joys soothe your spirit today.
  5. Head outside for some impromptu physical activity. Get in a little leaf-raking therapy or go on your own little turkey trot around the neighborhood. Or you might grab some loved ones and challenge them to a quick game of basketball or touch football. Let your adrenaline pump that stress right out of your mind and body.
  6. Reach out to someone hurting or in need and in the process watch your stresses fade into the background. No question about it—you will be blessed as you bless someone else.
  7. Simplify at the end of a busy day and have breakfast for dinner. Set aside an evening of time-intensive dinner prep and cleanup and fix pancakes and bacon or scrambled eggs and sausage instead. You’ll still enjoy a hot meal with a touch of comfort to boot.

Add to these November stress-busters the ultimate stress-buster of dropping your burdens at the feet of Jesus and peace will be your portion this month rather than worry. Can’t beat a trade like that!

“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’” Matthew 11:28

*Share with us—tell about your most memorable Thanksgiving or mention what you’re thankful for today. We’ll all be blessed!

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Vijay Gunda, Creative Commons License

7 October Stress-Busters

After posting 7 September Stress-Busters last month, I thought it might be nice to offer month-appropriate stress busters each month throughout this next year. Stress certainly doesn’t take a vacation, so many of us might benefit from some fresh stress-busters at the beginning of every month, huh?

May the following stress-busting strategies come in handy in October when you find yourself in need of refreshment and relief. Be blessed, friends!

October Stress-Busters

  1. Enjoy a fun fall activity with some favorite kiddos in your life. Visit a pumpkin patch, collect colorful leaves, or carve pumpkins for Halloween. Enjoy the season like a kid again!
  2. Decompress with the beauty—and awesome autumn scents—of candlelight. Light candles in various spots in your house so their soothing beauty and comforting aromas will refresh you as you move from room to room.
  3. After the leaves change color, go on a walk in the woods (or your favorite tree-lined street or park.) Let the awesome oranges, reds, and golds fill your spirit with joy.
  4. Spend an entire day (or morning or evening) in your favorite comfy pants and cozy socks. As you change into your relaxed attire and let it comfort your body, take off the stress of the day or week as well. Let your spirit and soul relax and be refreshed.
  5. Plan a coffee or lunch date with friends and treat yourselves to some special foods or drinks offered during fall. Get that pumpkin spice latte or apple cinnamon muffin. Slow down and savor a taste of autumn.
  6. Watch for an especially cool evening and start a fire in the fireplace or firepit. Sit for awhile and soak up its warmth and relaxing beauty. And don’t forget to roast some marshmallows or make some smores. Fully enjoy this evening respite.
  7. Let the cool evenings of October give you permission to curl up on the sofa with your favorite hot drink and a good book (or a must-see tv show.) Lose yourself—and your stress—in a compelling or funny story. Enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor.

Along with these stress-busting strategies for October, let’s not forget to turn to the One who knows every stress we face and is willing and waiting to take the load from us and let us relax in his arms. No better place to be—no matter the day or month!

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by dan.kristiansen, Creative Commons License