Christine Lin, Contributing Writer
Many of us are staying home these days, which has its challenges as well as its perks. To help make the best of the experience, we’ve compiled our favorite tips to reduce stress and improve well-being.
1.Read for the Pleasure of Reading
Though you might read a lot for work, few adults make time to read for pleasure. Reading for pleasure differs from reading for information. When we’re reading for information, we often skim, looking for key points in the text. Reading for pleasure, on the other hand, allows us to slow down and immerse ourselves in the content, savor the language, and indulge in the experience of reading.
We recommend choosing a work of fiction from an author whose writing style you genuinely enjoy. Fiction allows us to escape to different worlds, be it ancient times, a fantasy world, or a far-away part of the planet. If possible, opt for a physical book over a digital one—the feel of real paper and the rhythm of turning the page is so soothing.
2. Stretch, Meditate, Hydrate
Relax your body with 10-20 minutes of gentle stretches, making sure to activate each part of your body, focusing on areas where you tend to hold tension. Commonly, these are in the neck and shoulders.
Then, clear your mind with meditation. Shen Yun performers do Falun Dafa meditation, an ancient Chinese mind-and-body discipline. Whatever meditation you choose to do, the key is to close your eyes and empty the mind as best you can. When you’re done, you’ll find that anxious thoughts no longer dominate your consciousness, and that you possess the mental focus to tackle the day’s tasks.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated with your favorite tea or lemon water. It’s amazing how often we forget to do the most basic things to care for ourselves. Now is a great time to get into the habit.
3. Make Art
Give yourself the liberty of getting creative. Get out the colored pencils, sketchpad, paint, or coloring book and wait for inspiration to strike. If you are into crafts, use items found around the house—twine, cotton balls, coffee filters—and make something interesting to look at. It sounds counterintuitive, but the fewer supplies you allow yourself to use, the more ingenuity you’ll discover from yourself.
You don’t need to start with a goal in mind. In fact, the discovery process is precisely where the fun lies. In every art project, there’s an awkward moment when you don’t think it’s going to work out. Let go of the urge to prematurely critique your art and keep playing with it. You might be pleasantly surprised at the end. When you give yourself the permission to experiment, you’ll feel like a kid again.
4. Journal or Write a Letter to a Friend
If you’re like most adults, you haven’t physically written anything significant in quite a while. Getting our thoughts and feelings out on paper can be a cathartic experience. Write in a journal, or write a letter to a friend—whether or not you put it in the mail is up to you. Just start with whatever topic is at the top of your mind, and see where it goes.
Journaling is a powerful tool of self-discovery. People who regularly journal know that sometimes you might not even be aware of some thoughts or feelings until you’ve taken pen to paper and seen it expressed on the page. It’s a way to be radically honest with yourself, which leads to greater understanding, growth, and self-forgiveness.
If the idea of writing a “dear diary” journal entry doesn’t appeal to you, you probably have the type of personality that prefers to talk things out with someone else—which is why we also recommend writing a letter to a friend. Just write the way you speak, and it will come naturally.
Even if you’re stuck in the house, there’s no reason you can’t see it from a new perspective. It’s remarkable what a fresh coat of paint and some new wall art can do to a space. You don’t have to reupholster the furniture to liven things up—some new cushions will do the trick. Look in your cabinets and drawers for knickknacks and tools that might look good on display. Common objects like art supplies or jewelry don’t need to be tucked away—when not in use, they can double as decor that show off your hobbies and personality.
Plus, if you’re a parent struggling to get your kids off the couch, you can simply move the couch! Rearranging your furniture or refreshing your decor is a great family activity. Get everyone’s opinions of what looks good and functions well. After you redecorate, live with the new arrangement for a few days and reassess. If it doesn’t work for the family, move things around again.
6. Enjoy Music
While you’re cleaning or cooking (and who isn’t doing plenty of both lately?), what better companion than some inspiring music? Listening to music, especially classical music, helps with the body’s stress response, improves concentration, and even reduces pain.
Think of a way to organize tracks into playlists that suit you. You might organize them into “upbeat” and “relaxing” for example, depending on how your day is going. Or, you might organize them by activity. While reading, writing, and conversing with others, for example, background music without words might go in an “instrumental” playlist. While by yourself, enjoy opera and other vocal music in a “vocal” playlist. If you enjoy the bel canto vocal pieces in Shen Yun’s performances, check out “The Singers of Shen Yun.”