I’m a young adult fiction author with a full-time job, which essentially means I have two full-time jobs. Both are extremely challenging, require a ton of creative focus, and put me on the receiving end of critical feedback… and it takes a toll. And I know I’m not alone — having two full-time jobs, whether your second job is writing, parenting, or something else, is enough to stress anyone out.

As I approached 2016, I knew I had to change something about the way I dealt with stress when I got overwhelmed. My stress was starting to manifest physically — my immune system was crapping out, I was constantly fatigued, my eyelids were twitching, and I even chipped teeth from grinding. Also, stress is often responsible for the onset of heart disease, which runs rampant in my family. Life is short, and I didn’t want to make mine even shorter by being a perpetual ball of anxiety.

So it was time to take de-stressing very seriously. And vegging out in front of the TV clearly wasn’t enough to relax my mind.

I’d dabbled in meditation before, which some people swear by, but it’s hard for me to sit still and clear my mind. I also didn’t have much of a workout routine. Before I started writing novels, I worked out almost every day, for 30-60 minutes per day. But when you have the equivalent of two full-time jobs, 60-minute P90X DVDs and trips to the gym are harder to fit in — and I dreaded those painful workouts and boring elliptical sessions. But over the past couple months, I’ve found a few ways to reduce my stress without torturing myself. It’s worth the time they take because I sleep better, and I’m more focused and productive during the day. Hopefully these methods can help you, too!

1. Do Yoga

I’d heard great things about yoga, but I’m not the type of person who enjoys going to yoga or gym classes — why would I trek all the way to a gym/studio at an inconvenient time when I can get the same instruction in the privacy of my own living room whenever I want? Instead, I do a yoga workout using the Yoga Studio iPhone app every day, even if I only have time for 15 minutes, and I really look forward to it. And I never looked forward to the gym or P90X. Seriously, it’s magical.

Yoga Studio costs $3.99 and is only available for iOS (Android is coming soon) — there are other free alternatives out there, but Yoga Studio is the best by far. Sometimes it’s worth paying a few bucks for a high-quality app than getting a free app that tries to upsell you with expensive in-app purchases every two seconds. You can choose your yoga by skill level, area of focus (balance vs. strength vs. flexibility vs. relaxation, etc.), and time (anywhere from 5 minutes to 60). Videos walk you through each yoga workout, and the voice and music are both incredibly soothing. They even have a few guided meditation videos if you just need a breather, but I find yoga and the focus it forces as I do each pose to be the best way for me to meditate.

Yoga Studio App


2. 7 Minute Workout

Researchers have discovered that there are 12 exercises you can perform in seven minutes that’s the equivalent of an hour’s workout, as long as you push yourself to the best of your ability and don’t take breaks. At first, my gut instinct was to call bullshit. But I gave it a try, and my muscles were crying out in protest the day after completing the workout for the first time. You can read more about the science here. I’m still calling just a tad of bullshit since the study says, “The circuit can be repeated 2 to 3 times” several times, but hey, seven minutes is better than zero minutes. I use the 7 Minute Workout Challenge app (iOS | Android) on my phone (it’s $2.99) and I do one circuit of the 7 minute workout and reward myself with a 15 or 30 minute yoga session, depending on how much time I have that day. There’s a free 7 Minute Workout app here (iOS | Android), but I haven’t tried this one.

7 Minute Workout App

3. Adult Coloring Books

You’d have to be living under a rock to not know about the adult coloring book craze, but the thing is, it’s really relaxing! I listen to movie soundtracks and color away. I have Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest, and color with Prismacolor colored pencils. (I’ve also tried Studio Series colored pencils, which are cheaper, but they’re not as good.)

My coloring book supplies

I mean, just look at this sheer talent:

Sheer talent, folks.

I’ve also ordered the Harry Potter coloring book, but it’s out of stock on Amazon. WHAT. *Stares at mailbox.*

If you want a coloring book on the go, try the free Colorfy app (iOS | Android)! You don’t have many colors to choose from (unless you want to pay for them, of course), but it’s still fun.

Colorfy Cat

4. Give Up Caffeine

Not only is coffee addictive, but it can amplify the effects of stress. According to this study by Duke University Medical Center, “The effects of coffee drinking are long-lasting and exaggerate the stress response both in terms of the body’s physiological response in blood pressure elevations and stress hormone levels, but it also magnifies a person’s perception of stress.”

I never drink soda — regular or diet — but coffee is my vice. I’ve given up caffeine in fits and starts before, but tend to pick it back up whenever I go to Europe. I mean, they have amazing coffee over there, what can I say? But ever since I returned from Paris in September, I gave up caffeine for good. Instead, I drink decaf — yeah, it still has a little bit of caffeine, but I still love having my morning coffee as a reward for, well… going to work, I guess. But by mostly giving up caffeine, it might be helping with my stress levels, but it definitely helps me to not feel like an absolute sloth each morning before I get my hands on a cup of coffee.

5. Drink Herbal Tea

Herbal tea not only smells great, but is soothing and can help you relax… or even to get in the zone. When I write, I drink Yogi Vanilla Spice Perfect Energy. When I want to relax, I drink whatever looked good during my last grocery shopping trip — I like to mix it up. This Yogi Honey Lavender Stress Relief tea is nice. I used to think tea was gross, and used to need artificial sweeteners to make it tolerable. But now I drink tea without any sweeteners, and it’s helping with my sleep. I use a free app called Sleep Cycle (iOS | Android), which tracks your sleep and shows trends over time. Apparently, drinking tea is the most influential in getting a better night of sleep for me. Oh, and hey look… those few times I slipped and drank coffee? I got a worse night of sleep.

Sleep App

Science, people. Science.

I still think green tea is gross.

6. Read Books

As a writer, I read a LOT. It’s one of the best ways to learn the craft. But reading for pleasure is really important to me, and when I’m really busy with work and with writing, reading for fun tends to fall by the wayside. Yet when I go on vacation, I can tear through 3-4 books in a week, and I LOVE it. So why not make that a part of my everyday life? Now I try to read for a half hour before I go to bed. Some nights, when I’m writing, I can’t pull it off. Just because I’m less stressed doesn’t mean there’s magically more time in the day! But replacing TV time with some quiet reading time is definitely a more peaceful way to end the evening.

How do you relax and de-stress? Let me know in the comments below!

Yoga cat photo via icanhascheezburger.com.

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