For our ancestors, stress was a survival skill during brief, life threatening situations. Once the danger passed, their stress levels lowered. However, in today’s world, we are constantly bombarded by stressors, such as work deadlines, traffic, and family obligations. We rarely get a break long enough to relax and relieve the stress. The over-activation of our stress hormones has been linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, lower immunity, depression, anxiety, and more.
Here are five easy stress relievers to get you started
Begin to use the meditation process to change your life. In order to change your thoughts, you must create a new way of thinking doing, being, feelings, to take actions and change your behaviors. Everyone thinks that the purpose of meditation is to handle stress, to tune out, to get away from it all. While that’s partially true, the real purpose of meditation is actually to tune in, not to get away from it all but to get in touch with it all. Not to just de-stress, but to find that peace within, the peace that spiritual traditions talk about that passes all understanding. So, meditation is a way to get in the space between your thoughts. You have a thought here, a thought there, and there’s little space between every thought.
Get a good night’s sleep
We do it all day, every day, and yet we often forget the healing powers of deep breathing. By slowing down your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure, breathing deeply relieves stress. Our soft belly meditation is our go-to for relieving stress, but any form of slow, deep breathing can help you relax and stay calm. Sleep and stress tend to cause a vicious cycle – if you’re stressed, then you can’t sleep, which makes you ill prepared to handle the stressors of the next day, leading to more stress.
In times of stress it helps to turn to a comforting routine, whether it’s taking a bath before bed, listening to your favorite playlist during the work commute, or walking the dog to the park down the street every morning. (A consistent routine also helps you sleep.) “Our bodies naturally crave routine, and by focusing on these consistent rituals you increase your body’s ability to deal with the physical aspects of stress”.
Get out of your head
Do you ever get that never-ending loop of negative thoughts and what-ifs playing in your head? That’s because stress likes to mess with your mind. A surefire and fun way to get out of your head is to engage in activities that put the focus on your hands or body (think kneading bread, sketching a picture, knitting a scarf, or climbing a rock wall). As your hands and fingers begin to fall into those familiar rhythmic moves, it sends a signal to your brain that immediately relaxes you and makes you feel grounded. So, immerse yourself in a creative, engaging activity and get ready to press the mute button.
Connect to your spiritual side
For centuries, religious groups and native tribes worldwide have used prayer beads to guide their spiritual practice, and research shows that spirituality might boost happiness in times of stress. Buy a set of prayer beads or make your own, and then create a positive affirmation or mantra that resonates with you. (No need to be religious—next time stress hits, repeat your affirmation as you work your way around and touch each bead). “The more you go around, the more you’ll experience a sense of power and detachment from the source of anxiety as your brain switches into a meditative cadence.
Find a quiet space, close your eyes, focus your breathing, and transport yourself to your happy place for a few minutes each day. Research from the University of California, Los Angeles shows your body actually produces less of the stress hormone cortisol when engaging in guided imagery. There are plenty of books and articles written on the subject if you need help getting started, but the most important thing is to find a comforting and calming image that works for you.