Activities that take attention and demands away from the self can rest and refresh the mind. We use distraction, focus, and just “being” for this purpose automatically, whether we realize it or not. Binge watching a television series, playing a sport or a game of chess, and daydreaming are examples. But life is stressful. Having a few extra coping strategies can help ease that stress and bring a feeling of control back to both body and mind. Here are six options to consider.

1. Exercise

It might sound strange to talk about exercise as being restful, but moving the body creates changes that help clear the mind as well as relax the body, especially if you are experiencing chronic stress. A short walk at lunchtime can do the job as well as more strenuous or longer bouts of movement. Dancing, a game of ping pong, or lifting weights can help, too. You don’t have to run marathons to receiving this kind of benefit though that’s okay, too. Do something you enjoy, and watch your overall wellness score improve.

2. People-Watching

A lot of our time is spent waiting. Rather than worrying or feeling frustrated because you are stuck and can’t get to the other twelve errands you need to complete today, take a look around you. Public transit and grocery store lines offer a glimpse into the lives of others. Maybe that young mom struggling with a toddler mid-tantrum could use your seat on the bus. Maybe you wonder what in the world will be for dinner as the older couple in front of you debate prices and remove items from their cart. Has that businessman with the dozen roses found love? What will that student do for the world? Even if you never know the truth, stepping outside of your own thoughts can bring insights and freedoms, always things of value. It helps the wait time pass more pleasantly, too.

3. Nature

Walking or sitting in natural surroundings is an opportunity for healing. Nature makes no demands of us yet gives so much. Peaceful colors, fresh oxygen, and a variety of pleasing textures, and sounds are conducive to finding a spot for contemplation or watching clouds float by. Changing seasons may bring back fond memories or give hope for new ideas. Vast expanses of trees and mountain streams with running water pull us away from worries that take up much of our time, but a simple garden or even an indoor plant can inspire hope every time we look at it.

4. Meditation

Today many people still practice the ancient art of meditation in one form or another. Studies show there are physical and mental benefits. People with conditions like depression, anxiety, and chronic pain can respond positively to meditative techniques, and those undergoing treatment for conditions like cancer often are encouraged to add meditation to their daily routine. With many forms to choose from, it is easy to try various techniques in the search for a good fit. From a focus on the breath to guided meditation, there may be several that work for you. Try Qigong, for example. Read about this topic or check options for local instruction. Of the many types of meditation, most have in common the need for uninterrupted time in a peaceful and safe location.  

5. Animals

If you have a cat or dog, you are probably familiar with the peaceful feelings watching animals or just stroking their fur gives you. Heartrate slows, and the mind calms. If you don’t have any animals of your own, you can still interact with a variety of species when you visit or volunteer at butterfly houses, zoos, aquariums, or even a friend’s house. Animal shelters can always use a good volunteer. Some also have foster programs for those who can’t adopt. Walking the dogs, socializing puppies, or taking an animal for a weekend visit here and there gives both you and the animal time to focus on something different. There is a peaceful magic about being around animals. They deserve companionship and care just as you do.

6. Play

We tend to lose the freedom to play as we become adults, but it can be rediscovered when new family members are born. It can also be fostered through hobbies, sports, and other activities. Take an art class or just buy some art materials. Go swimming. Work puzzles. Complete a craft project or two to check out what that feels like. Devote time to imagination. Collect toys. Sit on the porch or find a swing big enough to hold you. If you’re going camping, bring along a hammock. Enjoy getting together with families and friends. 

All of these activities take you away from the stresses in your life and restore your soul’s balance. Include them in your regular routine, and make time for other people as well. Want to slow down time? Pull out one of your coping strategies and focus on that for a while.