Stress is something that I think we all deal with on a daily basis, whether it comes from our jobs, our loved ones, our health or just our surroundings. Stress can have harmful affects on our bodies over time and decrease our quality of life. So how do we adapt and overcome? I wanted to write about the solutions that I personally use to minimize my stress, and present them in the simpliest manner possible. When I was younger, single and had more flexibility, I would just go to the beach when I felt stressed. Now that I am older, with a more demanding job and have more responsibilities, I can’t just take off to the beach anytime I feel down. Plus, by doing that, I was almost not able to enjoy my life during the times I had to go without. We have to learn how to adapt to our surroundings and be in control of our stress, without relying on a place or substance. So here are some simple things that we can do daily to help minimize our stress.
You may be thinking, “Well that is easy. I have to breathe in order to live!”, but what I mean by that is actually deep, controlled breathing. Take a deep breath in through your nose and hold it for 3 seconds. Now, let the air out slowly through your mouth. Feel better? Breathing in this manner gives us an opportunity to stop what we are doing, and what we are thinking, and focus solely on our breath. Have you ever heard the phrase “sigh of relief”? This is so true. Breathing can help us to let go of whatever stressful thought or action that we are holding onto in that moment and take that time for ourselves.
#2. Stretch Your Muscles
We can actually carry alot of our stress in our, neck, shoulders, back and other places in our body. Does your neck ever feel tight? Do you notice that your stress tends to come along with headaches? This can be a sign that your muscles are too tight. Our neck muscle is connected to a muscle that goes up the back of your head and to your facial muscles. It is also connected all the way down our backs. Take just 5 minutes each morning or evening to stretch your muscles, and I promise, you will notice a difference in your body and the way you handle stress.
#3. Wake Up Earlier
This one has been challenging for me. I cannot tell you how many mornings I set my alarm for 6 am and hit the snooze button until it was after 7 am. However, I have found that the days that I get out of bed earlier (as difficult as that is somedays) I am able to get more accomplished before my work day, without rushing, and I feel more relaxed even on my drive to work. It takes my body, realisticly, at least a half hour of movement before I truly feel “awake”. Waking up earlier helps motivate me to get more accomplished, move around more, and in turn, I feel better throughout the day.
#4. Be Body Conscious
I have spent a lot of time this year and last, with a Chiropractor, Massage therapist, Physical therapist, and have dived into the art of yoga. Needless to say, I have been able to become completely aware of how my body feels each day, and which areas I need to focus on. If you have minor body aches and pains, I would encourage you to try Yoga at least once. It was a complete eye-opener for me! I can now tell you exactly what is causing my headache or muscle ache just from becoming more and more familiar with myself. You can become body conscious by taking more time to stretch your muscles, breathe, and know your body likes and dislikes. What feels comfortable to you? You may love laying on the couch cuddled up in your pjs, but how does that position set your spine? Is your body fully aligned? If you’re not sure, I would encourage you to see a Chiropractor at least once a year. You will learn alot!
A few of you may be wondering, “Does this mean I have to sit on the floor with my hands up and hum?” Not exactly. There are several ways that we can practice meditation, and you can completely make it your own! Meditation is simply taking time out of your day to be still, fully quiet, and at peace. This could mean lying down on the floor in a quiet room with dim lighting and just laying completely still. For some, this could mean prayer. For others, it may mean falling sleep (which can be easy to do while meditating!). The point of it is to focus only on that moment, and on your breath. Remove all distractions in that moment and focus only on you. If a thought crosses your mind, try to let it go and realize that it is important for you to have that time to yourself, fully at peace.
#6. Exercise & Healthy Diet
In the U.S., it has become so convenient for us to access food; and I mean the wrong kind of food. Manufacturers have processed toxic ingredients that go into our fast food chain menus and frozen food packaging, as well as your every day items on the shelf. They have added hormones and GMOs, and even harmful pesticides to our fruits and vegetables. How do we avoid this? By eating as healthy as possible with the options we are given. Do you feel sluggish, tired, unmotivated on a regular basis? Take time to think about what you are putting into your body. Processed food and poor ingredients can make a negative impact on your every day life. Regular exercise also increases our metabolism and energy, which helps us to feel better and more motivated throughout the day, therefore, decreasing stress levels. This boosts our metabolism and even seratonin levels, hence the “good feelings” we feel within ourselves.
#7. Cross Items off your To Do List (literally)
Our stress can be a mental game. Our body tells us that something does not seem right, or that we aren’t good enough, and we aren’t accomplishing our goals. By creating a visual stimulation of achieveing our goals, we can feel like less is on our plate and that we have accomplished more. This gives us a feeling of being organized, motivated and self-sustained. Each day, whether it’s at work or at home, write a To Do list on a notepad or the notebook in your phone. Place it somewhere where you will see it throughout the day, like on your desk or on the fridge if you are at home. Organize your priorities from the smaller tasks to the larger ones or according to which tasks you would like to finish first. When you are done with a task, physically take a pen and cross the item out. If you’re using the notebook on your phone, place a check mark next to that item. This will tell you that you have accomplished something, and give you that feeling of achievement. It is no longer in your mind of something that you have to take care of, but rather, on paper where you did not forget to do it, and visually, you have finished it. This will create space in your mind for positivity, and weight off your shoulders.
#8. Make Time for your Hobbies
Each day, you give your time to your family, your time to your boss, your time to help others. So where is the time for you? Make time to do activities that you enjoy, whether it’s reading, enjoying time outdoors, crafting, etc. Mine happens to be yoga, playing volleyball, and creating new things with my seashell collection. Whatever that is for you, don’t negate what you love to do just to please everyone else. It is so important that we make time for ourselves, so that we don’t lose sight of who we are and what makes us each unique. Block off your personal time on the calendar, even if it’s an hour during one day out of the week. Make it a priority to focus on you and easing your mind of everything else going on around you.
#9. Write Down 3 Things you are Thankful for Every Day
Do you feel overwhelemed? Or maybe feel like nothing is going right in your life? Do you feel stressed by the pressures at home or at work? Each day, spend time to write down at least 3 things that you are thankful for, and try to think of different things as you go along. I’ve learned that by doing this, it puts life into perspective for me. My life in that moment really isn’t so bad, because I have other amazing things and people in my life! I am in good health, I am blessed with a wonderful husband, I have a decent paying job (even though it frustrates me sometimes), and I know where I want to go in life. I just have to get myself there. These are just some examples of what you may be thankful for in your life. It could also be something so simple like “I’m thankful that I have a Starbucks near work, because I need my coffee!”
A couple years ago, I read an article about a study that was done on the benefits of smiling. Do you know that forcing yourself to smile even when you don’t want to can actually change your mood? Smiling can improve your overall health and even improve feelings of depression and anxiety! Smiling also changes the way people view you when they first meet you. It changes the tone of your voice in person and on the phone (a technique learned in my experience in sales). I have personally tried this technique when I felt down, frustrated and stressed. Smiling really did change my mood in that moment, just by forcing myself to do it. Even if you are having a stressful day, week or even month, we all can find at least one thing to smile about.
So the next time you feel stressed, try some of these simple methods, and I really hope that you will find peace in that moment. Life is short, so make the most of it! Every day is a new chance to be exactly who you want to be; a stress-free, more relaxed you.
~Your Singing Mermaid