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Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

You can find my personal blog at

Managing stress, part 1 of 2

Categories: Managing stress


Things are stressful right now. (Work/too-much-to-do kind of way, rather than personal/family-distress.) I feel like I’ve heard meditation and exercise and bubble baths and yoga advice mentioned a million, billion times; here are some of the other things I do (some of which may also have been mentioned a million, billion times):

1. Puzzles (photo from I’m working on KenKen now; I’ve also done Sudoku. I find puzzles soothing and distracting: they take my mind off things, but also make my mind feel tidied up. They’re a good thing to work on in a waiting room, or if I have a few minutes between tasks. I like the feeling of a small accomplishment.

2. Thinning out—not necessary in order of priority. Sometimes when I am feeling very, very stressed, the issue is that I’m feeling all the many things I need to do buzzing around me in a cloud. And sometimes when that’s the case, there is a percentage of things that are low-priority but could be done in a short amount of time.

If I write down the twenty things I need to do, including even the small things like changing the battery in the bathroom clock or responding “Okay, I’ll do that!” to an email, not only does that let me stop rehearsing the list mentally, but also I can often do, say, five of the things in five minutes. Getting the list down from twenty items to fifteen makes a huge difference in how stressed I am—whereas if I’d done the things in strict priority order, I’d still be on the first item and still feeling the other nineteen looming.

3. Valerian root (photo from I like my bottle better, because it says “Helps promote relaxation” instead of “Sleep support.” I suspect some brands are trying to compete with melatonin, but I think of Valerian as for daytime as well as nighttime. When I worked in a pharmacy, I asked the pharmacist/boss about Valerian because I was kind of assuming it wouldn’t really work. He said people have varied results with it, of course, just as they do with prescription tranquilizers, but that it’s a real thing—the kind of herb it’s especially important to mention to your doctor if you’re taking it. One thing to note: the capsules can smell DREADFUL. But YOU will not smell that way after ingesting them. Just be ready to wash your hands right after you take them. Blick.

4. Smoothies. I find the smoothie-making ritual soothing, and I also find I have some happy faith in anything that any nutritionist has ever referred to as a “superfood”—or anything I remember might have at one time been called a superfood by really pretty much anyone, even back in the ’80s. This unreliable but faith-fueled mental category includes: blueberries, spinach, pumpkin, flax seed meal, oats, yogurt, banana, and apple. So I include all of them in the smoothie. I drink a big cup in the morning, and I put the rest in the refrigerator to drink at about 3:30/4:00 in the afternoon, which is a very stressful time of day even if there are no additional stressors. The act of drinking it has become stress-relieving: I feel like the Good Chemicals are ON THEIR WAY to repair! and support! and energize wheeeeeeee!


Next week:

- lavender stuff
- doing things at the right time to do them
- half-hour before bed
- semi-interesting books
- shopping at Target
- gin
- the other things I’ll think of between now and then, usually while driving or in the shower

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5 comments so far...

  • Thanks for your recent tip about adding frozen leftover pumpkin to smoothies. I made pumpkin/choc chip cookies for my husband this weeked, had pumpkin leftover and had a PLAN for it! I’m actually sitting here drinking my first one using it this very second!

    Denise V.  |  October 17th, 2012 at 11:07 am

  • When I’m stressed because I have a million things to do I find writing a list helps so much because it removes the worry about forgetting things, which is a large component in the stress. When it’s all written down I can make a Plan and then I feel in control and can get things done.

    Anna  |  October 17th, 2012 at 3:13 pm

  • I don’t know if you care, but clinical studies have shown that valerian root is no better than a placebo at anything it claims to do. That being said, when I used to take valerian root I stored the bottle in a ziplock baggie and that kept the funk from spreading to other things.

    Brigid Keely  |  October 17th, 2012 at 3:49 pm

  • Brigid Keely- The thing about a placebo effect is that it IS an effect—but it only happens if the patient believes it will. So….yes, of course I would rather not know if it doesn’t work! Fortunately, since I haven’t seen the clinical studies, I can continue to believe the trusted pharmacist who said it DOES work, and perhaps I will still continue to get some benefit.

    swistle  |  October 17th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

  • BTW, I write on herbs for a living, and there are positive studies on Valerian, quite a few in fact. It’s one of the only herbs I actually take, though I use it for sleep.

    StephLove  |  October 17th, 2012 at 6:36 pm