Stress happens. Whether it’s meeting an urgent deadline, dealing with toxic people, or running late for an appointment during rush hour, stress is something that we all deal with on a daily basis. Stress is not entirely bad. It’s a natural signal to our bodies, telling us to get up and do something (right now!). The key is to learn how to manage and reduce it, and not let it accumulate in our bodies and minds.
Instead of reacting to stressful situations with more stress and emotional upset, take a moment to breathe, reflect and decide on how you will respond.
Dealing with a lot more stress lately? Start to notice it. Stress doesn’t just happen. Situations happen, and the stress occurs in our reactions. How we react is a choice. Instead of reacting to stressful situations with more stress and emotional upset, take a moment to breathe, reflect and decide on how you will respond. Oftentimes those few moments of mental space can recalibrate our state of thinking. I can’t guarantee that you will never be stressed again, because that’s impossible. I can, however, give you five simple steps that you can incorporate in your daily life for a healthier, happier state of mind.
1. Breathe. No matter how you feel or where you are, your breath is always with you. Connect to it. Start to breathe consciously, especially when you begin to feel stress. Notice the quality of your breath. Is it deep and fluid? Is it short and jagged? See if you can improve that quality by taking deep cleansing breaths, filling your entire body. Start a meditation practice simply by just noticing your breathing. You don’t need a meditation cushion or even a quiet space with no one around. Meditation can be done while stuck in a crowded subway for just 5 minutes.
2. Move. A lot of our daily stresses accumulate in our bodies, for months and even years. We hold a history of stress in our muscles, joints, bones, and limbs. Oftentimes chronic pain and injuries have an emotional root, due to accumulated tension or neglect. Get your body moving. Whether you like yoga, running, zumba or belly-dancing, movement will help you release tension in your body and ease your mind.
3. Nourish your body. Eat fresh vegetables and fruit, and less processed foods, and hydrate plentifully. Notice how you feel when you eat certain foods. Craving sugary and doughy things? Ask yourself, will you feel better (emotionally and physically) after eating a box of Oreos or a bowl full of cherries? How about two Oreos and a handful of cherries, washed down with a green juice or some hot tea? There are no rules, but the best foods always make you feel clear-headed and energized.
4. Rest, and relax. Take time to disconnect, unplug, and do the things that make you happy – just for fun. Go to bed early, read a book, do an art project, and spend time with friends and loved ones. We underestimate the power of relaxation and leisure, but down time is the best recovery from stress. Treat yourself to free time and give your body the rest it deserves.
5. Think positively. Now, I’m not talking about having a fixed grin, a fake laugh, and perpetually forced sense of cheeriness. It’s okay to not feel great sometimes and to express it, but it’s also easy to get carried away by negative emotions, which can lead to more stress! Take a mental step back from the situation, and repeat steps 1-4. With that space and detachment, your mind will be clearer and your body more at ease. Choose your response from there.
How do you deal with stress? Share your tips and hints in Comments so we can all learn from each other.