Online shopping and home delivery are two of my best friends in life. Need a last minute school supply and don't feel like sorting through half-empty bins at the local Target? Hop on Amazon.com and they can be at your door within 2 days. Need a gift for a party this weekend? Amazon will do that for you. Need someone to ship toilet paper to you every month so that you never run out? Amazon can do that.
You know what else Amazon is good for? Helping you manage your stress and anxiety. Honestly. There are lots of products available on the Amazon website that can be useful tools to have in your anxiety management toolkit and below you can find 7 of my favorites. Some of these links are considered "affiliate links," meaning if you click through these links to make a purchase, I might earn a small commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and these products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. All of these are products that I have used personally or professionally and many have also been successfully used by my clients and colleagues.
1. Weighted Blanket
Are you someone who likes a good hug or snuggling up under a warm blanket? Do you feel better when you can sit somewhere that makes you feel safe and secure? A weighted blanket provides all of those physical sensations. I first used weighted blankets over 25 years ago when I worked with children who had sensory processing difficulty. The blankets were heavier than your normal blanket and would help calm them and make them feel safe. I soon learned that they also worked for me, giving me an instant feeling of calmness even from holding the blanket on my lap. Today, weighted blankets are available in a variety of sizes from lap blankets to king size blankets and in a wide variety of weights. I promise you, a weighted blanket will quickly become your favorite item to turn to when feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
2. Essential Oils
I use essential oils all the time in my home and in my office. (For more information on how I use essential oils, visit "Seven Ways to Use Essential Oils.") When it comes to anxiety relief, there are essential oil blends specifically formulated to reduce stress, improve relaxation, and help you to calm your mind. You can use some of these oils topically (mix them with a carrier oil first such as almond oil) or even ingested. I prefer to diffuse a few drops of them in an essential oil diffuser. Just a few drops will help to ease any stress and anxiety you or your family may be feeling and it will leave the air smelling fresh!
3. Workbooks and Journals
If you are self-motivated, workbooks and journals can be a great tool to use to help you gain insight into the root causes of your anxiety. You can set some time aside each morning or evening to review a section and complete some of the worksheets included. Although not a replacement for one on one counseling, workbooks and journals like the ones below can be an excellent way to help you start to gain control of your anxious feelings.
4. Zen Garden
If you have ever seen these tabletop Zen Gardens, you know how calming it can be to allow yourself to do nothing but rake the sand and lay out the decorative rocks. Adding one of these to your desk at work or to a tablespace at home will provide you with a daily reminder to slow down and breathe.
5. At Home Fitness
One of the most effective ways to combat anxiety is to find a way to release some of the pent-up anxious energy. Exercise is a perfect way to do this. If you don't have time or the funds to go to a gym, there are lots of ways that you can work out right in your own home. Cardio has a lot of benefits when it comes to anxiety management so a simple home exercise machine like a rower or a stationary bike can be a good addition to your routine. You can get one delivered to your door for less than $120. That's a small price to pay for some anxiety relief.
6. Adult Coloring Books
There is something very calming and relaxing about coloring an intricately designed picture. I'm not talking about cartoon character coloring books like we had when we were young. These coloring book options for adults are meant to take some time and are even more enjoyable when done with a set of good quality thin tip markers or colored pencils. This is an activity you can do with others too. So, grab a few friends, put out some refreshments and get your coloring on! Watch as your anxiety starts to drift away.
7. Bath Bombs
You either are a bath person or you've never actually had a good bath. A nice hot bath at the end of a long day can be a great way to quiet your mind and increase your relaxation. Bath bombs can make the experience even more beneficial by adding some calming fragrance and skin softening properties to the water. Don't like bath bombs? Try bath salts or take a bubble bath. No matter how you prefer your bath, make some time to pause from your daily hustle to slow down and relax.
Wouldn't it be great to feel like you have a bit of a better handle on your anxiety? Can you imagine your life without the weight of anxiety always looming over it? Isn't it time to add to your anxiety management tool kit? Go ahead and invest in yourself!
When I became a parent nearly 14 years ago, I knew absolutely nothing about parenting. I’d read all the baby books, perused all the baby websites, signed up for the weekly emails about my baby’s development and yet still was woefully under-prepared for what it would take to be a mother.
Not much has changed since then. I still feel inadequate most days as I stumble my way through the maze of parenthood.
As my oldest approaches his 14th birthday, I find myself amazed by how much he has changed in just one year. Facebook Memories and Timehop remind me almost daily that every day he steps closer and closer to adulthood, slipping further and further away from childhood.
Blinking back tears, I look at him today, amazed at the young man he has become and I am humbled by just how much he has taught me during his 13th year:
1. Hold on loosely, but don’t let go
It turns out that 80’s bands gave us more than just good music — they gave us solid advice to live by as parents. My 13 year old has taught me this year that while I need to hold onto him and continue to guide him, I can’t cling too tightly. He needs space to find himself and that means space to make his own mistakes. If I hold too tightly, he’s never going to learn how to make it as an adult.
2. Hit the Whoa
Every year there is some new “dance” that takes over on Tik Tok and You Tube. If you’re lucky, your 13 year old will tell you about it, teach you it, and then tolerate you when you are in public and try to show off your skills. I’m still not exactly sure what the Whoa actually is though…
3. Be honest with friends
Middle school has been rough for me as a parent this past year, as it turns out that middle school drama doesn’t really stop when you leave middle school. It all rears its ugly head again when you become a middle school parent. During moments this past year when my 13 year old caught wind of such drama, he was always very matter of fact and eager to offer advice to me. He always encouraged me to “just talk to them” and be honest. His message — if they are your friends, they’ll understand.
4. Hard work pays off
This past year has seen my 13 year old face a significant arm injury, requiring lots of visits to specialists for testing, physical therapy, and sports restrictions. Pain, daily ice massages on his elbow, strengthening and stretching workout and playing baseball with his team while not really be able to do anything more than swing a bat sometimes would be a lot for any adult to manage, let alone a teenager. But he persevered and was able to finish the final few games of the season without any restrictions. I think most adults, myself included, would have given up.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff
You can learn a lot from how 13 year old boys handle conflict. While they have their share of disagreements with their friends, get hurt, and have drama, they are quick to let it go and move on. They don’t sweat the small stuff. They let it roll of their backs. We could benefit from doing more of the same as adults.
6. Teen music is great for working out
I think every generation has a “I can’t believe what those kids are listenting to for music these days” moment. But, it turns out, if you are open minded and let them play their music for you, you just may find yourself asking them to add some of those songs to your workout play list. The music those crazy kids are listening to these days is great for cardio and weights at the gym!
7. Sleepovers are the worst
I thought sleepovers would get better as they got older. They don’t. Although they can regulate themselves and then recover a bit quicker than my 10 year old when it comes to going to sleep at a normal time, now that they are teenagers the responsibility of hosting becomes so much more stressful for us as parents. Are other kids bringing in vapes, drugs, or alcohol? Are they going to try to sneak out? Are they doing something on social media that might hurt other kid’s feelings? Nope. Sleepovers for 13 year olds still suck.
8. Disney is magical, even for teenagers
Our family has always loved taking trips to Walt Disney World. Each time we go, we wonder “Is this it? Are they too old for the magic?” It turns out that 13 is not too old! As we were walking out of Epcot park at the end of an evening in Disney last month, my 13 year old leaned over to me and said, “Mom, even though we are older now. Doing this is still a lot of fun.” I tried to give him a hug as tears started forming in my eyes but that was quickly shot down as hugs are a bit of a rare commodity for some teens.
9. Hugs are the greatest gift
When my son was little, he was a great hugger and snuggler. Now, hugs are much harder to come by. But, when I do get a surprise hug hello or thank-you or as a comfort, it is one of the greatest gifts ever. I wish I hadn’t taken all those toddler hugs for granted, I never knew how much I would miss them.
10. Teenagers can navigate
Earlier this month we went tubing down a river in New Hampshire with a large group of families. It was 5 mile river float and we let the group of teenage boys float off together ahead of the adults. Many of us worried that they wouldn’t be aware enough to see the tiny sign that would indicate it was time for them to get off the river. When we rounded the bend and saw the beach with the sign, the teens were nowhere in sight. I immediately wrote them off, assuming they missed it but I could not have been more wrong. Not only had they seen it, but they had returned their floats to the rental place and were waiting together for us near our cars.
11. Car rides are special
Joining a travel sports team has meant lots of long car rides over the past year and although those often meant waking up early and staring at headlights for 2+ hours, they also mean that I got to ride side by side with my 13 year old, trapped in a moving box. Just us. Something special often happens on those long car rides. The air shifts just a bit and he begins to open up about his life, his friends, his feelings, his fears. I love those car rides now.
12. Teens have instincts too
One of the biggest lesson I’ve learned from my 13 year old is that just because we, as adults, are older, doesn’t necessarily mean we are wiser. Teenagers are humans too and have some gut instincts that sometimes are spot on. It’s important to give them a chance to use their voice and share their instincts. Being able to tap into that insight will help them immensely in their adulthood.
13. We need more cereal
One of the primary sources of fuel for 13 year old boys is cereal. It could be a meal for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack and teenagers eat it by the boatload. My 13 year old has taught me to assume that we always need more cereal. If you see me at any store these days, I can guarantee I have some cereal and milk in my cart.
There are whole sections of bookstores devoted to the topic of how to parent a teenager. You could read every single one of those books and still feel unsure of yourself as you navigate the waters of parenting a teenager. But, I’m learning that the best way to parent them is to see them, hear them, and accept them for who they are right now…and feed them lots and lots of cereal.
Jenni, stop! You’re overthinking it!
My friend’s words snapped me out of my anxious thought pattern and brought me back to reality. Nothing about my situation required me to be overthinking anything. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a moment, and then opened them, taking in the full scene before me.
It was a sunny summer day without a cloud in the sky. I was spending my Sunday morning lounging in an over-sized inflatable tube, tethered to a group of over two dozen of my friends and their children, all in their own individual tubes, as we floated lazily down 5 miles of a river in New Hampshire. The air was filled with the sound of laughter as music from a speaker in a waterproof pouch provided the soundtrack. Other groups in kayaks and tubes drifted by us, everyone smiling and waving at each other.
What could there possibly be to overthink?
Bags were stowed safely in inflatable rafts of their own, complete with sunscreen, dry towels, cell phones, empty trash bags, and snacks. Even our coolers filled with ice-cold beverages had their own floats, some with very useful cup holders. We could take as much time as we wanted floating down the river back to our cars. We could stop whenever we wanted and rest on a beach at the river’s edge. Everything about the day was laid back and care free.
Except for me.
Just one day before our river tubing trip, my husband, our two sons, and I rode a gondola to the top of a New Hampshire mountain where we took in the breathtaking scenery and prepared to eat a picnic on the mountaintop. As I was taking a photo of the view, my 10 year old found a sign near a trail that indicated it was part of the 2200 mile long Appalachian Trail.
Let’s hike it!
My 10 year old proposed the idea with a huge smile on his face, a smile I don’t see quite as often now that he is approaching his teenage years.
Instantly I began overthinking it.
But we don’t really know where it goes…We were going to take the gondola back down….We have our lunch with us…I don’t know how hard the trail is…What if someone gets hurt…
My 10 year old son and my 13 year old sons looked at me and sighed.
Come on, Mom! It’ll be fun. We’ll just go in and when we want to be done, we’ll turn around and come back out.
This was a magical moment, my two sons were wanting the same thing and weren’t arguing about anything. Just then my husband came up behind us and when the boys told him their plan, he shrugged his shoulders and said,
That was it. No overthinking. No “what if…” Just, “cool.”
In that moment, I desperately wished I could be more like the three of them — carefree, able to be in the moment, not anxious. So, I pushed all my fears aside and we headed into the trail. The thoughts continued inside my head during our hike but I kept them to myself, determined to not let them ruin my day or anyone else’s day.
It turns out the hike was pretty strenuous. We were climbing up rocks, jumping down over structures, and had a few stumbles. But, we shared a few laughs, got to help each other with the climb and descent, and enjoyed the time on the trail. On our way back to the top of the mountain, we met a woman who was hiking with two companions, each over 70 years old. She shared that they had hiked nearly all of the segments of the Appalachian Trail in their lifetime and this particular part of the trail and one other in the area are all they had left to complete.
There’s no way they were overthinking it. They were living their best life, climbing a flipping mountain at over 70 years old. Yet there I was, in the middle of a mountain, and then in the middle of lazy tubing trip down a river, overthinking all the small stuff.
If I had listened to my anxious thoughts on that mountain, I wouldn’t have the amazing memories my family now has from that trail. I wouldn’t have heard the story about that couple in their 70’s. We wouldn’t have been so interested in the Appalachian Trail that we would read about it later as a family. If I had listened to my anxious thoughts on that river, I wouldn’t have laughed so hard that my stomach was sore the next day. I wouldn’t have found the humor in so many memories from that day, even when our group of tubes got caught on some mini rapids and we needed to work to free ourselves. My overthinking almost stopped me from fully living in so many moments on that trip.
So, here I sit, overthinking my overthinking.
Is it possible to leave my overthinking tendencies at home on my next vacation? Could I add “hide the overthinking” to my pre-vacation To Do List? Could I at least tuck it away in my suitcase and just leave it there during the trip like all the unused “just in case” shirts and outfits?
I’m not quite sure of the answer but what I do know is that even if my anxious thoughts tag along on my next vacation, I don’t have to listen to them. I don’t have to believe them. I don’t have to give them power. I don’t want to let them keep me from fully enjoying my vacation, my family, my friends, or my life.
Instead, at least for now, I can simply keep telling myself,
Jenni, stop! You’re overthinking it!
About Changing Perspectives
I often find myself encouraging people to consider changing their perspective or reframe the way in which they view things. This blog is an extension of that practice and is also an opportunity for me to write from a number of different perspectives including clinician, educator, mother, friend and supervisor. Blog topics are also quite varied and changeable. Topics explored include, but are certainly not limited to, grief, parenting, health and wellness and relationships. Join me and explore a number of changing perspectives!