Stress Relief for the Time-Poor
August 14, 2007 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Got any quick, cheap, effective stress-reduction tips?

Yeah, so I've been getting these headaches. Three-day critters, and if I'm lucky I get a whole day before the next one starts up. I think in the last month I've had about four headache-free days. (Yes, I have made an appointment with a neurologist.)

I work full-time, and I have two little kids (5 years and 10 months old). Since the beginning of the year, I've had surgery, been laid off, and started a new job. I'm still breastfeeding and plan to continue for some time, so pharmacological solutions are mostly out (and the baby is still night-waking, so I don't get quite enough sleep). Between all of my various obligations, it's really hard for me to carve out a big chunk of time to go to a yoga or aikido class (or, heck, take a nap).

As you have certainly guessed, I am confident that stress is one of my contributing headache triggers, so... how do I become less stressed? No, really, don't laugh. Anything I can do in 10-minute chunks that might significantly help me? Or can you think of any changes I can probably make to my lifestyle?
posted by Andrhia to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you can you should get a cat. They are great at forcing you to relax.
posted by uandt at 7:54 AM on August 14, 2007

Response by poster: I have a cat, actually. One I am deathly allergic to, so I can't pet him. Also he is an ankle-biter.

Nice suggestion, though. :)
posted by Andrhia at 7:57 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Probably meditate.
Small time investment and free.
posted by beccaj at 7:58 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Breathe deeply (preferably not around the cat!).

Any time you have a moment, and any time you feel your stress level rising, take a moment (or a minute, or two minutes, or ten minutes) to stand or sit up straight, close your eyes, and breathe deeply and slowly, so that the air goes down into your belly.

(And that's basically yoga right there.)
posted by occhiblu at 8:00 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Close your eyes and breathe slow breaths. This is something you can do with the 10mo (as long as s/he's in a safe spot they won't know you're "ignoring" them for 5min and it brings you back in a better spot). Actually, during breastfeeding is a great time to meditate. Let the 10yo know you need at least 5min of uninterrupted time. I suggest a lot of visualization of relaxing the muscles around your mouth, jaw, neck and shoulders while you breath. Also, forward bends are very relaxing to me--especially "modified" forward bends where you bend at the hips and rest your arms and head on a chair in front of you. Hold and breathe. Good luck.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:02 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Adding another vote for just breathing. Deep, slow, focused breathing even for a few minutes can help centre you. If you want, you can add a mantra to it like "I am" when you breathe in and "calm" when you breathe out. Other adjectives could be "relaxed", "pain-free", or whatever state of being you want to achieve.

Guided Relaxation could also help you out. This site has free mp3s for download that take you through a guided relaxation session. Each track does things a different way: diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, and guided imagery. I think all four tracks add up to about half an hour in length, but you could do one or two if you are pressed for time. I've used these mp3s and I do find them helpful. I like to listen to them before bed but I have listened while sitting at the computer at home.

I'm not a parent, but I have had physical issues that developed from heavy stress. Feel free to contact me if you want to talk away from AskMe. My email is in my profile.
posted by melissa at 8:10 AM on August 14, 2007

Response by poster: Hm, so deep breathing and possibly even into meditation could be a good start. I'll give it a whirl, either in the middle of the day (I work at home) or after the kids are in bed at night.

Does anyone have any other suggestions, too?
posted by Andrhia at 8:20 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: A quick run around the block, if there's someone else who can look after the kids. Throw on running shoes and a jog bra (and other things too, I suppose) and really just run around the block.

There are anti-anxiety medications you can take while breastfeeding, but I suspect you already know that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:24 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Oh, also -- do you have time scheduled for yourself every week? Is such a thing possible? Not a whole day, but just "I get one hour to go get a cup of coffee and a magazine every Saturday morning" or some such.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:27 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Humor! Don't watch anything on tv or read anything very serious. I love a good episode of Whose Line is It Anyway or Flight of the Conchords. I also tend to rent more comedy tv series like The Office or Extras than I used to. It's nice to have 30min of sanctioned laughter.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:30 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Periodic light stretches that incorporate turning your head and flexing your back could really help, both as a break from work and to prevent headaches. I would get a migraine after every long car drive until I realized that it was sitting stiffly and alertly for a few hours in the same position that was doing it.
posted by xo at 9:00 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Music always does it for me. Put on earphones and listen to something gentle that will soothe your frayed nerves.

Alternatively, put on something truly happy while driving the car, and sing to your heart's content.
posted by LN at 9:15 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: This may sound trivial, but learn to juggle. Juggling is really more like an active meditation, as you have to focus on something very simple and it really does pull your mind way from other concerns. Combine that with the aforementioned breathing exercises and have a good stretch beforehand. It works. I keep juggling bags at work for when things start to get too hectic.

You will also amaze and entertain your family and friends!

Books on juggling are easy to find and some book stores will even sell the bags as well. It would be better to find someone who already knows to teach you, though. It takes 10 minutes to learn the basic cascade, but a lot longer than that to get facile with it.
posted by elendil71 at 9:23 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Easy, cheap & fun = get some silly putty and squish your stress away.
posted by dumbledore69 at 9:23 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: get some silly putty and squish your stress away.

Oooh, another great idea! I recommend Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty. Great stuff and fun to play with. I have some of that at the office too.
posted by elendil71 at 9:45 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Well you're certainly way stressed, but it could also be a combination of factors, or maybe something one wouldn't even think of. My mother had debilitating headaches for months, saw a couple of neurologists, had cat scans, etc. ... and it turned out that her glasses were too tight.

Could it be the cat? I can see an allergy contributing to headaches. For that matter, do you have decent air quality in your home and workplace? Do you wear glasses? :) Or maybe you need them. I'm sure the list could go on and on.

IOW, I'd look for any other potential contributing factors, because there could be a bunch of them.
posted by sgass at 9:59 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: New(er) mom who also values 10-minutes:
-Get a gel eye mask that goes in the fridge (They're readily available now, and cheap.) Sit for ten minutes with a cup of tea-- some antioxidants with your caffeine-- and the eye mask.
-For the feet, modern capitalism has invented buckwheat filled slipper inserts-- sometimes sold separately, sometimes with the slippers. Allows for very relaxing warming of the feet.
-Metafilter for 10 minutes. (ding! Time's up.)

Actually, I have the slippers at work, and after explaining what the bright pink things were, my boss bought them. His are blue, mine are pink.
posted by Arch1 at 11:03 AM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Living the Full Catastrophe. Sorry, no time for linky, three-year old needs me...
posted by craniac at 12:38 PM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: i'm seconding juggling. when i'm stressed, i have a lot of nervous energy, and with juggling at least i have something to occupy my hands. plus juggling is a great skill to have anyway!

also, tea calms me down when i'm a second away from a nervous breakdown. definitely deep breathes. theres a breathing technique i do in yoga, where you kind of constrict your throat and force out the breaths... something about concentrating on each breath i take manages to calm my jitters. i do this when i'm scared or nervous etc. It's hard to put into words but maybe someone else who does yoga can explain it?

i also write in my journal to calm myself down. just write a stream of conscious rant. its very cathartic!
posted by silverstatue at 12:49 PM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: Just to follow up on sgass's post, make sure your eyesight prescription is right.

Singing without words works for me (maybe because of the breathing).
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 1:35 PM on August 14, 2007

Best answer: What's your bedtime routine? Do you have one? I find mine to be relaxing and (when I actually do it), something to look forward to.

Here's mine:

x - pajamas

x - brush teeth, wash face

x - light candles (I use two novena candles like these - inexpensive, last a long time, safe)

x - turn off lights

x - read using booklight, with flicker of candles on the nightstand

Turning out the lights and reading by booklight with candles on the nightstand is relaxing for me. It's something different from any other part of the day, and signals my mind and body that it's time to relax and calm down.

You could also skip the reading/booklight, and just spend a few minutes in candlelight, maybe listening to relaxing music.
posted by splendid animal at 3:46 PM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I breastfeed also (on my third), no formula at all, and co-slept/shared our bedroom with each child. Is night weaning or at least spacing out feeds at night for longer so you can get six to eight hours uninterrupted an option for you at all if you need more sleep? 10 months is old enough for some babies but obviously every baby is different: I suggest this not knowing the details of your schedule, style of parenting, or personality of your child, of course, so only you know if it might work.

At that age, my first was sleeping through or only waking once quite early in the night; my second woke up a lot at night and it got worse as he got older (and he wasn't hungry) so we ended up moving him out of our room and my husband handled most of the wakeups, getting him back to sleep, etc. - once he realized waking up didn't automatically get him the breast he stopped waking up so often, and got used to sleeping on his own.

It's not all or nothing, either; bumping up the 2 AM feed, perhaps, or if he wakes twice, cutting out one of those feeds, could go over just fine and you'd get more rest. You could try feeding more solids/nursing closer to bedtime to carry him through longer, also. Since my first was an easier sleeper than my second, I assumed my second needed more attention and help to get to sleep, but it turned out he actually needed less attention in order to sleep better, and once we left him be and he wasn't distracted by my presence in the room, he worked it out himself. Who knew? Trial and error. I was pretty exhausted until figuring it out, though.
posted by Melinika at 8:21 PM on August 14, 2007

Response by poster: corpse: It's a nice idea, the running around the block. I'd have to alter it to something else, but 'random couple of minutes of exercise' is definitely feasible. (Going outside requires a ton of sunblock and changing clothes and showering after I get sweaty plus the preventative albuterol... meh. And running is supposed to be simple, go figure!)

cocoagirl: Hmm, that's very interesting. I'd stopped mainly reading news when I was pregnant because it made me too upset and I couldn't cope. Never thought to active replace with something funny!

elendill and silverstatue: Juggling? Really? Would it improve my clutziness, too, d'ya think?

sgass: Oh, I'm dead certain there are a bunch of factors at work. Stress just seems like the lowest-hanging fruit.

lullaby: Amusingly enough, I have a brand-new contacts prescription, which was double-checked by an opthalmologist not long after I got it.

splendid: Bedtime... routine...? I have this thing where I kind of write until I'm dead tired, and then I wash my face and brush my teeth and take my contacts out and fall into bed. Either I'm writing for work, or I'm writing to finish this $#@%& novel... I'll count this as a vote for "do something restful in the evening before you sleep." I'd worry about candles when you never know when a small child is going to pop in for a visit!

melinika: Baby used to go to sleep in her crib some time between 9:30 and 11:30, and then wake up around 3:30 am, at which point we'd bring her in to snuggle with us. Last month she had roseola, and hasn't gone down into her crib without drama since. NOW, she goes down at around 8pm, (though she cries for a few minutes when we leave her, which isn't helping the stress level thing). And then she sleeps until maybe 1:30, and after that nothing we do will make her sleep in her crib again, so in she goes with us for a snack and her trademark restless sleeping. But it's worth it for me right now, because at least I'm getting a couple of hours to myself before I go to bed, which I hadn't had in months. I can see I'll be desperate for her to sleep through the night in a few more weeks, though.

everyone: Thanks for your answers. It's already been helpful to me. MeFites rule!
posted by Andrhia at 7:20 AM on August 15, 2007

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