5 Techniques for Stress Relief
Let's begin with a disclaimer: I can't think back to a time when I've been in a severely stressful situation. Blessed with a naturally positive disposition in addition to a comfortable and healthy upbringing, my troublesome moments have no compare to what so many have to cope with on a day to day basis. That being said, I'm in a season where anxiety and worry are not as intermittent as they once were. I can feel the weight on my chest, the tension in my neck and the waves of my thoughts crashing into one another. On the occasions that I can remind myself of the big picture, when I can put my life back into perspective that is- I can snap out of the unsettling feeling. On other occasions, I feel like I'm stuck in a westside swell, coming up for air only to look back and see another set of waves rolling in. I'm just trying to stay afloat.
I see the effects of stress on my mental and physical health, and wonder how everyone else is coping with much larger issues. The reality of stress in America these days means health and financial problems, longer hours at work ( with short vacation time-2 weeks are you freaking kidding me?!), self-esteem concerns, and according to an NPR study, "too many responsibilities overall." The same study showed that the top responses to stress include; sleeping less than usual, eating less than usual/more than usual, and being less active. Is it any wonder we are tired, sick and dispirited?
My own issues with worry and stress have forced me to look at how I am coping and the tools I've learned over the years that seemed to have gone AWOL. I found the quote "Be a warrior, not a worrier" somewhere on the internet and it's the go-to mantra when I feel myself getting caught up in the chaos. Below is a short list of approaches I personally delve into for stress relief. I hope that one or all are helpful when you're feeling overwhelmed or burdened with anxiety.
1.) Yoga & Meditation - You knew that was coming right? One of my favorite yoga teachers, Sean Corne, said "Breathe and everything changes." I couldn't agree with her more. Breathing is central to yoga and meditation. Physiologically, deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. Focusing on the breath also guides your awareness to the present, where you can be thankful for the moment, not in the past or future where anxiety is probably stemming from.
2.) Break a Sweat - It is a widely known fact that exercise releases endorphins, the brain's feel good chemicals. At the end of a long day, it can be easier to reach for that glass or wine, but my buzz from a run or bike ride outlasts that of a drink AND has way more health benefits. It doesn't have to be an intense, just get moving and release some of that worrisome energy.
3.) Express Yourself- If a work or relationship situation is bothering you, voice your concerns in a respectful way and appropriate place. It's unlikely that a problem will change if it doesn't communicated. Don't expect the other person/group to be mind readers.
4.) Schedule "ME" time- Whatever personal time looks for you, make sure you factor it into you week. Maybe it's quiet time reading a book, a solo walk, journaling, or listening to music. Setting aside intentional rest and relaxation time is something to look forward to. Don't get caught up in the hustle and forget to nurture yourself. It's a necessity, not a luxury.
5.) Gratitude List- Step outside of your brain that is so fixed on focusing on the problems and jot down a few things you are grateful for. There is ALWAYS something. Practice being grateful and you'll adopt it as a permanent trait, rather than a temporary state of mind.