April is Stress Awareness Month.

Hmm, you may be thinking, April’s almost over. Why is this blog post showing up now? The answer’s pretty straightforward. It’s because we’re all aware of stress. Every. Single. Day.

We’re glad April is dedicated to making us mindful of a problem that touches so many lives. Still, it’s just as vital to be aware of how to deal with stress during the other 11 months of the year.

You most likely know about the very viable things you can do to help you with stress relief, such as exercise, meditation and getting enough sleep, to name a few. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to add hobbies to the list.

How hobbies provide stress relief

It makes sense to add hobbies to the list of ways to de-stress. Research certainly supports the notion that people have more positive moods and less stress when they’re engaging in leisure activities than when they aren’t.

The study, published by the Society of Behavioral Medicine, followed more than 100 adults and their daily activities. In just three days, the researchers learned that participants who engaged in leisure activities were 34% less stressed and 18% less sad during the activities. They reported feeling happier, their heart rates were lower and their sense of calm lasted for hours.

Hobbies for the win!

Stress relief with hobbies like potteryHobby ideas: let them find you

You may now be thinking: What about my busy life? It takes time to pursue a hobby. The thing is, hobbies take as much time as you want to give them. After all, it would defeat the purpose of de-stressing if you’re feeling discouraged about a huge ball of yarn that’s almost the same size as when you bought it to knit a scarf. Or you’re getting tense thinking about the model trains gathering dust on their tracks. Not to mention worrying the ducks will go on strike if you don’t herd them soon.

Wait. Ducks? What?

Here’s what’s great about hobbies: They can be whatever floats your boat. Or in this case, floats your duck. Yes, duck herding is a thing. Some people find this pastime a welcome distraction and enjoyably challenging. Since that’s the case, it’s doing its job as a stress-reliever.

But what if you don’t have a hobby that gets you in the habit of relieving stress and caring for yourself? How do you find your herd of ducks, so to speak?

First, don’t stress about where to begin. These tips can help.

Three questions to help you find your stress relief hobby

What do you love to buy just for fun?

There may be more than guilty pleasures hiding in those store receipts. There could be clues. What do you tend to buy most when you’re shopping for something fun (or, let’s face it, shopping because you’re stressed out)? Maybe you gravitate toward images of butterflies or birds. Try painting them yourself. Love to wear colorful scarves? Knit one or learn silk printing. Fashion … books … pottery … These items could be telling you that what you love to buy may become what you love to do, as in sewing … writing … working in clay.

What’s the last thing you did that made you lose track of time?

Time flies when you’re herding ducks. Or knitting. Or collecting rocks. Think about the last thing you did that felt like it took no time at all — something you didn’t want to end. What was behind the experience? It may not even have been recreational. It may have been work-related in some way. The point is to dig into that moment and get to the core reason it was so special to you. Then see if you find the same absorption in an activity that could become a hobby and ease your stress.

What makes you feel like a kid again?

What did you love doing as a kid? There’s something about that time when most of us felt free, creative and in love with just doing stuff. Maybe you were on your bike every available moment, racing the wind. Buy a used bike and hit a trail. Were you a whiz at baking? Take a page from poet Emily Dickinson’s book. She enjoyed baking for family and friends (which is a perfect way to keep calories at bay, too).

Speaking of writers, did you write reams of stories as a youngster? If you enjoyed it then, set aside some time now and see if you can stir the muse to create something besides work emails. Look to the kid inside you and you just may find a long-ago hobby waiting to return.

Having a hobby is a satisfying, effective way to handle stress. Pursue a hobby and you’ll find that, just like herding ducks, it’s all it’s quacked up to be. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Do you have a hobby for stress relief? We’d love to read about it! Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.