Play Beats Stress: How to Have Fun and Stop Feeling Overwhelmed
Play is a practical resource that adults can benefit from, just as our former childhood selves did, to promote creative wellness and eliminate stress.
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The term lucid is defined as filled with overflowing light. It is also defined as fully using one’s abilities to learn and enact choices based on their power, authority, prerogative, or inherent capabilities. When I think of this definition of lucid, I think of a child’s light - their innocence, and natural desire to be completely who they are, as they are imagining their ideal world full of fun, play, laughter, creativity, and adventure.
Adults need lucidity too. Pressure to maintain our households, pay bills, etc. can make us miss the opportunities to add play into our lives. But at what cost? At what point does enjoyment for enjoyment’s sake become negotiable?
Feeling Overwhelmed on Every Level
Feeling overwhelmed occurs when you believe your internal strengths and external resources are exhausted with no possible solutions for relief. Some symptoms of feeling overwhelmed can lead to long-term damage if left unchecked. To prevent this damage and build a sense of empowerment, start to observe when you’re feeling overwhelmed and when fun and play can be added into areas of your life to cope with life’s stressors. Practicing Wellness, even amidst stressors that lead to feeling overwhelmed, will help to support long-term well-being.
Learn to identify the symptoms of overwhelm. "Symptoms of emotional stress can be [sic] physical, mental and behavioral (1)". Some symptoms include (1),(2):
Clenching your jaw
Feeling overwhelmed or on edge
Difficulty remembering, making decisions, concentrating, or completing tasks
High blood pressure
Poor immune function
Loss of interest or pleasure
Seek professional support when you feel like your emotional distress is overwhelming, or like it's interfering with your life. Seeking professional support is a sign of strength and courage. Therapists are trained mental health professionals that can help you make sense of your emotions and create a safe, nonjudgmental space to help you move forward in life as you desire. To get started on your mental health journey consider these essential questions before scheduling a consultation.
Benefits of Adding Fun and Play Into Your Everyday
Does relaxation time after work and in between your family duties look like you scrolling through social media or aimlessly jumping from one streaming platform to the other? I’ll admit it. I am guilty of having done this too.
As an alternative, consider creative ways to add fun and play to your everyday life. Fun is defined as playing with the sole purpose of amusement or enjoyment, without a focus on meeting commitments (3). HelpGuide.org describes play as unstructured, creative socialization or independent activities (3). Both are necessary for people of all ages and have many benefits.
Play can "fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and well-being" which can "add joy to life, relieve stress, supercharge learning, and connect you to others and the world around you. Play can also make work more productive and pleasurable" (3). Most notably, for mental health, play is known to "heal emotional wounds", counter inaccurate unhelpful core beliefs and associated behaviors, decrease stress and depressive symptoms, and "prevent memory problems and improve brain function" (3). For more on the benefits of play, click here.
My Experience Adding Fun and Play into My Life for 29 Days
You may feel like you wouldn’t be able to stick to a challenge to have more fun and play, but ironically, you know you could benefit from it. I started a 31-Day Challenge to add more fun and play to my life. I learned new things about myself, for sure!
One powerful lesson is that I had more experiences in my ‘play wheelhouse’ than I thought. I also learned that it’s okay to skip days if needed - rest and play do not have to compete. One final lesson I’d like to share is that being intentional about consistently playing was critical for my success. Writing the activities down increased my awareness of how I spent my time and what I considered fun and playful. It also prompted me to think of different things to do. What I liked was the playbox I created. It's something I use now even after the challenge when I don't have anything planned and want to be spontaneous and do an activity at random.
3 Tips to Add Fun and Play into Your Daily Routine
Staycations like these offer great ground rules for play - even at home. Or these, which offer great Pinterest visuals for the Carolinas. These ideas are great for Fall and Winter weather, and you’ll have plenty of options with this list of 101 staycation ideas!
Develop a travel mindset all year to experience nostalgia anytime you want.
Use a ready-made cache of play activities. Create your own playbox using these suggestions that offer 70 and 40 ideas for play with yourself, loved ones, and even friends waiting to be made (a.k.a. strangers)! Or you may even try these fun activities designed for stress relief such as these, or these. Remember, these are customizable experiences, so take any unnecessary pressure out of it and enjoy your playtime!
There are benefits and challenges to adding consistent wellness practices into your everyday life. Truthfully, sometimes life can be overwhelming and prevent you from activities that lead to experiencing those benefits. However, adding fun to your daily life has mental, physical, and emotional benefits. There are also practical ways to add it to our daily routine. Play bolsters creativity and offers a genuine way to make every day less robotic and live a more robust life experience.
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Emotional Stress: Warning Signs, Management, When to Get Help. Cleveland Clinic. (2020). Retrieved 26 September 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/6406-emotional-stress-warning-signs-management-when-to-get-help.
Scott, Ph.D., E. (2022). How to Watch for Signs of Burnout in Your Life. Verywell Mind. Retrieved 27 September 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/stress-and-burnout-symptoms-and-causes-3144516.
The Benefits of Play for Adults - HelpGuide.org. HelpGuide.org. (2022). Retrieved 27 September 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/benefits-of-play-for-adults.htm.