I don’t know about you, but I feel like we could all do with adding some fun, stress relieving activities into our lives. Living through a global pandemic has been stressful in a lot of ways. And on top of that, we also have all the usual sources of anxiety to deal with. (Why hello there, work deadlines, financial worries, health problems and relationship woes!)
Let’s take a look at five fun, stress relieving activities you can do to start feeling calm and energised again.
5 Fun Stress Relieving Activities
1. Get Outdoors And Play!
When I’m feeling stressed, I generally want to spend the weekend in my dressing gown. Sometimes I even wish it would rain so I don’t have to feel “guilty” about not going outside! But the thing is, I actually love being outside. It’s just that I feel resistant to doing it when I’m drained after a busy week at work.
If you can relate to this, it’s really worth making the effort to push past that resistance. The occasional duvet day is bliss and there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of lounging. But if you find yourself regularly hibernating indoors, here are some fun activities to tempt you outside:
- Go on a “photowalk” – it’s basically a photo-based scavenger hunt and you can do it alone or with a friend. You choose a theme based on where you’re walking. E.g. flowers, bridges, puddles, doors, reflections, branches, birds, street signs or cloud formations. Find as many as you can and take pictures!
- Do some gardening or offer to help a friend or family member with their garden.
- Sign up for an outdoor workout class or group walk. I find having a pre-arranged activity helps me stick to going out. Also, the group element is fun and having a shared activity takes away any pressure to chat if you feel shy.
…Or just take a walk around the block to get some fresh air. Take your time and look out for any interesting leaves or clouds on your walk.
If for any reason you’re currently unable to go outside, don’t worry! You can still get a huge mental health boost from watching a nature documentary. I recommend having a browse for anything with your favourite animals or far-flung countries you’d like to visit from your sofa.
2. Gaze At Some Fractals
Fractals are repeating patterns that you can see in nature – such as ocean waves, leaves, flowers and snowflakes. They also appear in traditional artwork, like mandalas.
Research has shown that looking at them can reduce our stress by up to 60%, which I think is amazing!
This is yet another reason to get outside, as fractals are everywhere in nature. But you can also enjoy them at home:
- Look for some fractals online, like these beautiful computer-generated mandala fractals.
- Watch a few minutes of this “Trip to Infinity” fractal zoom video on YouTube (I recommend pausing and letting it load for a bit).
- Create your own fractals using a fractal generator (I had one on the family computer as a kid and I spent hours and hours on it!)
This is actually one of my favorite stress relieving activities because as well as being fun, it’s completely unexpected! I would never have thought that looking at these intricate patterns could have such a deep effect on our minds. But it makes sense when you think of the incredible sand mandalas that Buddhist monks spend hours creating.
3. Sing To Activate Your Vagus Nerve
You might not have heard of the vagus nerve, but it’s a game-changer for stress! It’s actually one of the most important nerves in your body, as it helps regulate your heartbeat, digestion and breathing.
Most importantly for us, while we’re trying to manage our stress, the vagus nerve also deals with fear management and relaxation.
(If you’re wondering, “vagus” comes from the Latin for “wandering,” because it stretches all the way from your brain, down through your chest and into your belly.)
Singing and humming are great ways to activate your vagus nerve, as it’s connected to your vocal chords and the muscles at the back of your throat.
What if you don’t like singing or humming? Some other ways to activate your vagus nerve are physical exercise, getting a massage, breathing exercises, meditation, splashing very cold water on your face, or gargling some water.
As stress relieving activities go, some of these are more fun than others, of course! If you’re looking for a fun way to activate your vagus nerve and beat stress, try singing, doing a body-positive YouTube workout or getting a relaxing massage.
4. Watch Some Feel-Good TV
Yes, really! We’re often told that watching TV is bad for us, but that’s only true if we’re watching so much that we’re neglecting other activities (like seeing friends or getting exercise). TV can give us a relaxing break from our worries and responsibilities.
I’d definitely recommend staying away from anything that makes you feel worse afterwards (like dating shows with toxic beauty standards), but dramas and comedies can be a brilliant escape! They can even allow us to explore difficult life issues in a therapeutic way, when we find characters and situations we relate to.
Research shows that watching re-runs of our favorite shows is an especially good stress-relieving activity.
Personally, I can’t wait for the next series of Queer Eye – it’s one of the most feel-good reality shows I’ve ever seen and never fails to make me cry (in a good way!)
5. Hang Out With a Pet
I’m going to start by saying that sadly I don’t have a pet (I would love to adopt a cat, but I don’t have a suitable apartment right now).
You might be in the same position. So, before I talk about how helpful pets are for our stress levels, let’s look at other ways to spend time with them:
- Pet-sit for a friend or family member
- Sign up to a dog-walking or cat-sitting app, to help look after pets in your area
- Volunteer for a local animal charity
My mum has a gorgeous black rescue cat called Molly, so I always make sure to give her a lot of fuss and attention when I visit. (Molly enjoys all the chin scratches and gentle belly rubs!)
If you do have a pet, then I’m sure you already know how calming it is to spend time with them. Yes, I know sometimes they chew the furniture or get sick and worry us, but most of the time it’s wonderful to have company from a furry (or feathered, or scaly) friend.
Hanging out with our pets can boost our dopamine and serotonin (two neurochemicals that are important to our happiness), lower our blood pressure and relieve stress and anxiety. There’s nothing like a purring or wagging floofball to make you feel calmer and happier on a stressful day!
The Importance Of Fun
I hope I’ve inspired you to try some of these stress relieving activities – it’s good to remember that we can have fun while working on our stress! It doesn’t have to be a chore. Getting those early bedtimes and doing some exercise is important, but so is playing, relaxing and simply having fun.