6 Low or No Cost Ways to De-Stress and Find Balance by Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

A lot of complementary therapies are expensive. I know because I use their services or products (massage, chiropractor, vitamins and herbs, naturopath). For balance, I have other outlets to offset my budget to give my mind/body/spirit a break from the hustle and bustle of my life. I’m sure many of you can relate – life is busy.

What can you do to stay ahead of the stress? Here are some suggestions that won’t break the bank or your budget.

1. Reading

Join a library. Most libraries charge a nominal fee for membership. This is where I get 90% of my fiction books. The others are through exchanges with friends. Non-fiction books I get from the library first. If I find they will be useful and a resource, I buy them through Amazon using the $25.00 free shipping option – I wait until I have enough books to make up that amount.

Books usually have a message for me – fiction or non-fiction. Even when reading the front and back cover, there is no clue to what message will be waiting for me to discover inside. This magic happens when a book catches my eye usually as I’m browsing. Sometimes a friend suggests a book or a book is given to me. There are many ways books move into my world. They all share an uncanny sense of being the right book at the right time.

The other benefit of reading is total absorption. The world melts away. I’m not thinking of anything else. No lists, tasks, obligations – just the book. My brain gets a total rest from the track it was on. This is when solutions appear – knotty problems I’ve been working on magically work themselves out. Amazing!

2. Knitting (and Crafts)

This activity may cost something for the yarn and needles, but often people will donate yarn they are not ever going to use. You can find ‘leftover’ bundles online or in thrift stores. These are great mixes for hats, mittens, afghans, socks, baby items – small projects. Online there are several places you can get yarn at a discount or wait until there is a yarn sale in a local outlet. Good quality economy yarns can be found at Walmart and Michaels. I was fortunate to grow up in an area with mill outlets where yarn is inexpensive. These outlets can still be found in Ontario. Not sure about other provinces.

I learned to knit when I was very young. My mother taught all of us, my two younger sisters and me. It wasn’t so much that I wanted the garments as I enjoyed the activity. Yes, I knit sweaters for myself and for gifts. It was fun to create. I actually used to knit and study. Knitting was my saviour when I was in the theatre. There were long periods of time in rehearsals when we were not needed yet you couldn’t go anywhere. I’d knit, keep an eye on what was happening, and be ready to move when called.

These days, I knit for my grandchildren, and sometimes their parents. I knit when my brain is too full and needs either calming down or sorting out. Knitting does that for me. It helps me be quiet when I’m restless – I can sit and knit while I watch TV. It makes that time productive.

Since I’ve been leading a knitting class, my creative side has expanded. I have found different ways to encourage people to knit. We’ve created afghans with our own designs, not designs found in pattern books. It’s been fun. This creativity is liberating and has led to being more creative in other areas of my life. As a group, we’ve created a fun place to be, much like the quilting bees. Our hour together always goes so fast. And, something of value is being created as the learning progresses – afghans for cancer patients.

3. Coloring

When was the last time you opened a coloring book and colored? I remember spending hours coloring when I was a kid. My favorite Christmas gift was a paint-by-number oil painting set. That painting would occupy me for the whole holiday. Then we grow up. While some of us get to color with our children or other people’s children, most of us leave coloring back in our childhood.

Finally the market has caught on that coloring is not just for children. A whole array of adult coloring books are available everywhere, some inexpensive, some more so. They are totally awesome. I have one myself. I take it when I’m traveling. It’s a great way to spend time on a plane or waiting in the airport – and what about those times when you sit and wait for appointments or treatments. Or even those nights when there really is nothing on TV yet you still want to do something. Coloring is fun.

On Friday, I had lunch with my grandchildren. The restaurant hostess gave out coloring placemats to my grandchildren. It looked like fun so I asked for one too. What a great time we had sharing our coloring adventures. It opened up a whole new world of conversation.

4. Walking

Walking is a wonderful activity, especially on a beautiful day. Put on a pair of running shoes or boots, coat, hat or whatever is appropriate for the weather and head out. The fresh air is exhilarating. It brings new energy into my body. As I move into a rhythm with my dog, Bear, beside me, I feel my body stretch and smooth out. There is something soothing and freeing when I walk. It’s being in tune with the world. I get a chance to notice what is around me. On my daily walk, it’s the mountains and the people walking in the park.

No matter where I am, I always manage to find an interesting place to walk. My body seems to need it. It started when I was a child as I recall always enjoying a walk. I’d walk downtown with my mother, make trips to the library, or go on hikes with friends. When I lived in England, I’d choose to walk if I had the time rather than take a bus to wherever I needed to go. I saw so much more walking and could enjoy little side trips, adventures along the way.

5. Dancing

Do you ever just turn on some music and dance your heart out as if no one is looking? I know I’m a dancer, but I often put on upbeat music, especially when cleaning time comes around. It is great motivation and makes cleaning fun. Just letting it all go is so liberating. All those stuck emotions bubble up and dance away. My heart feels the bubble of joy. When I add singing, it gets the breath going allowing energy to flow in and out. This type of dancing is different than going to a formal dance or exercise class. This is just about you and the music with no one to judge.

And, it’s free. All you need is music, some space, and yourself.

6. Cooking

Not all of us like to cook, but I do. I have since I was young. I’d look through cook books to find some new recipe to make. My mother, bless her heart, was very patient and indulged me, mess and all. In turn, when I had a family of four boys, I also let them have free reign in the kitchen. They were inventive and many new recipes and creative renditions of old recipes were created. When they got older, all of them were able to fend for themselves and cook for their families.

Nowadays, cooking for one, the joy of cooking for others has disappeared. With four hungry boys, they provided a great audience and ate everything in sight. These days, I batch cook soups or entertain when I can. On these occasions, I find myself humming and totally immersed in the joy of puttering around in the kitchen. It is so fulfilling. As I’m writing this article, it is serving as a reminder to me that I need to cook and entertain more often for the sheer joy of it.

Hopefully I’ve tweaked some interest for you to find what works for you. We don’t all like or have the talent or interest to do the same things. I’m sure, with exploration, you will find your toolbox of de-stressing activities that will benefit your health.

These activities are tools that allow our body to reset itself. We can reach the essence of ourselves in ways that are quite subtle, while we’re having fun. Our expression of self in these activities highlights our unique talents and skills. By finding and expressing our authentic self, we give our body/mind/spirit the opportunity to come together in wholeness and health.

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