We all get stressed out once in a while, and that’s okay. We’re human, right? It’s important to understand the cause, how your body reacts to stress and and how to deal with it. Here are healthy 10 tips for managing stress.

1. Exercise. You knew I was going to put this first. I have a saying. “When in doubt . . .Exercise.” Other than an acute injury during exercise, how many times can you say that you felt bad or worse after exercise? Stress hormones reduce, endorphins increase, and exercise helps your body to get rid of toxins. Walking, lifting weights, swimming, playing basketball, etc. It’s all good. The important thing is to choose an exercise or activity that you enjoy doing and will do consistently. ­čĆő´ŞĆ

2. Read. Of course, what you choose to read may add to your stress. But I am talking about turning off the screen, setting the phone aside and picking up a good book. An interesting biography, a mystery, an epic or a graphic novel.  Reading requires you to be more engaged and active than watching. I may not be the fastest reader, but I do have about ten books on my nightstand. When I get particularly stressed I like reading Gary Larson’s comic strips. Hilarious!

3. Listen to music. It doesn’t have to be spa/massage music. Although I do like hearing gentle flutes, bagpipes and cellos. I can feel myself taking deeper, fuller breaths when I listen to relaxing music. As much as I like hard rock and heavy metal for working out, I may choose some classical, jazz or Hawaiian music for relaxing. 

4. Watch a fun video. If you can, watch a video that will make you laugh. Any movie directed by Mel Brooks: Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles or Spaceballs. Or if you’re more of a Zucker Brothers fan, there’s Airplane! and The Naked Gun. Don’t forget Three Stooges, The Little Rascals, Laurel and Harry, Abbott and Costello. How about some of the classic silent films with Charlie Chaplan and Buster Keaton? You can tell that I’m partial to black and white movies.

5. Chase your spouse around the house. I think this is pretty self-explanatory. The pursuit of happiness and the happiness of pursuit.

6. Eat healthy. One of the worst things you can do is to drink your stress away or dive into a bowl of comfort food. They might temporarily make you feel better, but excess alcohol, sugar and fat cause inflammation and are stressful on your digestive system. Instead, pick up your favorite cookbook and try a new recipe. Something that has lots of vegetation.

7. Get a bunny rabbit. A few months ago I bought a Mini Rex bunny from a woman in Monroe whose daughter raised rabbits for 4H. Why did I buy a rabbit? Simple answer. I wanted to have something cute and soft to pet to help me relax. Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. We named the bunny Amos, and my boys joke that he is my emotional support rabbit. True. I put his cage in our dining room next to my chair. We built a wooden den for him, feed him grass hay (that I collect and dry after mowing the lawn) and fresh water. Early in the morning and late at night (when he is active and alert), we let him out and into our SunPorch. He zooms around, runs through our little red kid’s tunnel, leaps onto the furniture and chews on approved cardboard and bark. He is so much fun to watch!  When I offer him dandelions or plantain weeds, he jumps up on my lap and lets me feed him. Then the pies de resistance, I get to pet him.

8. Create a project. Do something new. Build a birdhouse. Start a garden. Take up photography. If you’ve never done these before, you may need to develop new skills and invest in some tools. For the last several years I have been working diligently (supervised by my wife, Heather) to establish a prairie in our front yard. I was tired of mowing the lawn and wanted to create habitat for plants and animals, increase diversity and beauty. And did I say that I didn’t want to mow the grass? So I read a prairie restoration book and was ready to move forward. The only thing was that I wasn’t going to use broad-spectrum herbicides and then buy a prairie seed mix. Like most things I do, I was going to do it the hard way. Little by little, Heather and I planted prairie flowers and grasses. We watched them grow, die, get eaten. We like to call this space our Someday Prairie.

9. Spend time with friends and family. Messaging is fine. Over the phone is good. In-person is best.  Being connected with other people is key to how I live my life. A few weeks ago Heather and I hosted a social-distancing happy hour with some neighbors outside on our driveway. It was great! Four couples sitting in camp chairs six feet apart. Everyone brought there own food and drink. Rose brought the music. And if anyone had to go to the bathroom, they just walked across the street or across our yard to their house. It was great reconnecting, catching up, enjoying the great weather and having a cool beverage.  I am also spending more time with my boys shooting hoops at the park, going for walks, working in the yard, practicing archery and playing badminton. They definitely keep me on my toes. 

10. Get back to nature. Fresh air, sunrises, birds, rolling hills, lakes, forests, wildlife, streams, fields, sunsets. Makes you want to go on vacation, right? You can. You should. Maybe it’s in your own backyard or at a nearby nature preserve. No matter where you live, there are green spaces for you to enjoy.