Calming Activities

Simple and easy things to do to calm the body and nourish the soul.

The education field does not pay well. The average salary for a teacher is about half as much as needed to support a family on one income. The hourly wage of a para is even less.

I work as a para and at our school, we work six and a half hours a day and are not paid for days off like teacher training days, snow days, and holiday breaks. This makes it hard to plan and budget when each paycheck could be in a different amount. 

Working as a para, to me, is a good job. I get off in the early afternoon, I get weekends and holidays off, and a long break in the summer; in Minnesota, that is the best time to be outside!

It is also a stressful job. I do not think paras and teachers are paid appropriately for the amount of physical and emotional stress they deal with everyday. Working in special education is even more challenging and stressful, those educators often have less resources to work with than a general education teacher.

Before I started as a para, I served in a federally funded program called AmeriCorps VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America. I am proud of my service and received a large amount of money to go towards my federal student loans. It was my first experience serving as a literacy tutor in an elementary school and the experience helped me to learn I like working with children. That opportunity led me to where I am today and I love working with my students.

As a VISTA, I earned a small stipend every two weeks and was not funded my money for my student loans until the end of my service year. I served two years, which is the most one can serve and be awarded the “end of service” bonus. The bi-weekly stipend amount was set based on the poverty level and was supposed to educate service members on the experience of living in “poverty”.

I do not see myself living in poverty, nor did I when I served, though I did not have a lot of cash or funds in the bank. I was and am living paycheck to paycheck. It is stressful because I cannot save for an emergency fund or for other big purchases that would increase my overall wealth and peace of mind.

While serving, I had support from family in other ways than money. They gave me a car, paid for my cell phone, paid for my auto insurance, and charged me rent that was affordable to me and definitely lower than rent from a landlord or rental office. Affordable rent, transportation, and having necessary expenses covered allowed me to serve and survive on the stipend of roughly eight hundred a month.

Do you think you could manage earning only eight hundred a month? Most people who serve in AmeriCorps are recent college graduates who can defer their federal loans while they are in service and want to earn more work experience.

Serving as a literacy tutor gave me experience to find work as a para. A fifteen to seventeen dollar an hour job was a lot of money to me! It is still stressful to budget and manage my cash flow though I am making twice what I was serving as a VISTA.

Reflecting on the things that create stress in my life has helped me learn how to recognize the signs I am stressed in my body and mood. The signs are different for everyone. For me, my skin will break out, I will defer to self-coping activities like binging a television show, and eating comfort foods that are unhealthy.

There are ways to reduce stress, in a healthy way, and on a tight budget! Serving as a VISTA for two years and then working as a para for two more made me reflect on ways to self soothe without spending a lot of money or time.

It comes down to making time for you in your schedule and setting an intention for that time.

Here are my self soothing ideas, I hope they help you find hygge and destress in your everyday life!

Watch Lo-fi Music Videos

You have probably watched the “yule log” show on Netflix or Amazon Prime. The crackling of the fire and the glow from the screen are relaxing and definitely hygge. The videos on youtube of lo-fi music playlists have the same effect. Lo-fi is an electronic music experience that usually has no lyrics and a mix of different tones, beats, and melodies, all mixed on a computer. The videos are looped with a cute animated scene and last from one to three hours.

Listen to a podcast

Listening to the podcast BBC History: In Our Time is a relaxing hour of European accents and a deep lesson on major events and people in history. The monotonous tone of the voices and the complicated unfolding of the subjects keeps my attention without being jarring, musical, or distracting.

Five Minute Skin Care

Put on a facemask while you listen to a podcast or lo-fi mix. Khiel’s makes a ginger leaf and hibiscus firming mask and it is pink, creamy, and smells amazing. It makes my skin look smoother and the blemishes less noticeable the next day! Their website sells the product for $54 and it is worth the money. It is so dense and hydrating, a little bit of it goes a long way!

Ten Minute Journaling

Spending ten minutes writing in a journal is a relief for my heart. I was gifted beautiful Pendleton notebooks that are colorful on the cover and thin enough I feel satisfied it will be filled up with the wonderful, simple, mundane, magical happenings of daily life. I write about the things I like, about goals and intentions, routines and habits, and reflections. It can be a place to record feelings, emotions, travel plans and events.

Make The Bed

Washing the sheets and pillowcases is a simple way to create hygge in your day. It can be a refreshing and pleasant experience to look forward to at the end of the day, when you can slip into clean and scented sheets. Spritz a lavender oil and water mix on the pillows and you will fall asleep thinking of easy times. 

Plan A Dinner

Planning a recipe is an easy way to give you something to look forward to during the busy work week. Choose one day to cook a comfort food and buy the ingredients ahead of time. Some of my favorites are three bean chili, pasta shells with ricotta cheese and spinach, and a black bean and corn tortilla casserole.

Watch a Documentary

Watching documentaries on Netflix like “The Secrets of Chatsworth” are relaxing because of the green and lush views of the English countryside, paired with the English accents and tumultuous history. They are usually a full hour and will leave the watcher feeling satisfied at having been entertained and educated, without feeling too attached to plots or characters to be emotionally connected and wanting to watch all night long.

If you served in AmeriCorps, comment and share with me your strategies for dealing with the low stipend; I hope to learn more about service from current and past members. 

Peace and Love,


7 thoughts on “Calming Activities

  1. Oh! These are great suggestions! I also found that engaging with my support system, like family and friends helped to decrease stress, and was an easy way to have fun and forget about my worries. It also was good cheap entertainment – what is better than an afternoon stroll around a park or by the lake with a good friend you haven’t seen in a while?!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Those are some great ideas for calming activities! During my time as a Literacy tutor for Reading Corps, there were a lot of stressful moments. I found that by the end of the day I was tired, stressed, and looking forward to a nice evening at home.

    There are a couple things I like to do to calm myself.
    1. Tea: enjoy a nice cup of tea when you arrive home. I drink it hot or cold, depending on the season. This helps centers me and helps me leave my work brain behind.
    2. Deep breaths or sighs – this just helps you release the stress with every exhale.
    3. Write music/ poetry- use this method to either write about your frustrations, or have your writing take you to another world.

    Financial stress was hard to deal with, but I made sure I knew where every penny from my paycheck was going. Luckily, I was living at home so a lot of financial pressure was take off of me. A stipend of $475 biweekly is not sustainable for anyone.

    Thanks for the tips! I can’t wait to try some of them out!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is some really educational information here for those who may be struggling to find what works for them to relax. Keep up the amazing work and never stop hygge bloggin!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really appreciate your post. It got me thinking of my own practices. It’s been difficult for me to consciously work on self care. Your entry made me realize that I’ve, unknowingly, been practicing self care already. I noticed recently that the days I “indulge” in a creatively stimulating activity, my mind and body are more centered. Because of your post, I realized this habit has been most active in the mornings and, as the day’s stress continues; I make time to take a break by continuing the projects from earlier that morning.
    Great post. Very insightful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Such a lovely article! I used to listen to podcasts all the time but haven’t made time for one in ages – I think I’ll get back into them C:

    Liked by 1 person

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