Raise your hand if you need help reducing the stress in your life! Life is unpredictable, and sometimes when it rains, it pours. You may not be able to remove the stressors from your life, but you can change your response and how you cope with the stress. April is Stress Awareness Month. Stress affects the mind and body in many different ways, you could be feeling stressed and not even realize the symptoms. Everyone needs a little reminder to practice self-care and take time for themselves to decompress and relieve stress. While it may feel overly indulgent or even selfish (it’s time to retrain the brain), taking time to de-stress is super essential for your mental and physical health! Take some "me-time" and destress with these wellness tips.
Even just taking a walk can release endorphins, which make us happy. Exercise is excellent for physical health and also mental health. Ever notice that you feel less angry, anxious, or stressed after working out? It’s all about those endorphins! Next time you’re feeling stressed, go for a walk (or hit the gym) even if it’s just five or ten minutes. Put away your phone (music is okay) and let your body do the rest.
It’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of negativity. Sometimes it can seem like nothing is going your way. Negative thoughts are all too easy, and quickly create a cycle of negativity. When we’re stuck in a rut like this, it can be hard to be positive. You have to work on your inner monologue and self-talk and talk back to yourself. Fight those negative thoughts, by working hard to find the positivity and gratitude wherever you can.
One of the reasons we feel so stressed is that we have no real downtime. We’re constantly being bombarded with stimuli with the tiny computers basically glued to our hands. A swipe of the finger and we have access to news, friends, celebrities, and endless entertainment. While scrolling through Instagram may feel like a break, it can be a secret source of stress. Try “unplugging” from your phone, tablet, and even TV for 15 minutes each day, preferably right before you go to bed to give your mind a real break.
Fuel Your Body
Foods have a tremendous effect on our mood. When we’re stressed, we tend to reach for the quick, easy, instant gratification of unhealthy foods, but that’s the opposite of what our body needs. Junk foods that are high in fat, salt, sugar, and calories just make you feel worse in the long run. Eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and unrefined sugars sustain the body for longer periods and help keep your energy levels high, so you don’t crash later on.
Add Plants to Your Spaces
Plants help bring a space to life and have a positive effect on your mood. Being surrounded by bright colors and beauty help to lower stress and anxiety. Even if you don’t have a lot of space, get a small succulent for your desk or buy a houseplant for your home.
It’s hard to unwind when you’re surrounded by chaos. It starts off small but somewhere down the line we realize we don’t own our stuff, our stuff owns us. Clutter takes over and claims spaces as its own. You don’t have to do the full KonMari method, but try to get rid of the clutter at least in the areas you are trying to relax in.
Focus on breathing. Breathing is something we do without having to think about it most of the time. Our bodies need oxygen, and we inhale and exhale automatically. When we focus on our breath, we can lower our stress levels. An easy breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 method. Breath in through your belly (not your chest), count to four as you breathe in. Hold your breath and count to seven. Breathe out and try to exhale all of the air as you count to eight. Repeat this five to ten times.
A quick way to unwind is to put on your favorite tunes. Create your own “destress playlist” to help unwind after stressful times. Some people find classical music relaxing, while others enjoy rocking out to strong beats and lyrics. Music has a way of transporting us to a specific time, try playing a song that makes you happy because it reminds you of a high school dance or a party you went to. Belt out lyrics that speak to your soul.
Watch a Funny Video
Screens aren’t all bad. Laughter is the best medicine for combating stress and anxiety, and our phones have easy access to Youtube which has countless hours of entertaining videos. Watch videos of fainting goats, puppies being clumsy, or funny fails. Even if the videos aren’t “that” funny, laughter is contagious and an excellent release for the body.
Pet a Furry Friend
When we pet something furry, whether it be a dog, cat, or rabbit, it decreases the cortisol levels in the body and increases oxytocin levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and it’s bad for the heart at high levels. Oxytocin is the love hormone, which makes us feel happy. If you don’t have a pet of your own to cuddle with, head to your local shelter or play with your neighbor’s pet.
While getting enough sleep is easier said than done, it’s important. When our plates and to-do lists are filled past the brim, sleep is the first to go. Ideally, we’d all get eight hours of quality sleep every night, but life happens, and we get busy. Try when you’re feeling stressed to prioritize sleep or take a nap. When you go to sleep, try to make it quality sleep. Set the mood with comfortable pajamas, sheets, and a cool, dark environment. Put your phone away and mentally swat back all of your worries and next day's to-do list.
A quick and easy way to reduce stress is to step outside and enjoy nature and sunshine. During the work week, we often get cooped up in an office and may spend the entire day indoors. Sunshine is important for our mood. It helps the body produce vitamin D. Nature has a naturally calming effect on the senses, especially water. Create a space in your garden meant for relaxing, have a comfy chair, pretty plants, and a musical water feature to lull you into a state of bliss.
Stress wreaks havoc on the body. Stress makes the mind wander, detail fog, and positive thoughts become overshadowed with negative ones. Physical stress causes muscle stiffness, headaches, and makes us feel like we’re getting sick. Daily stressors are unavoidable, but we don’t have to let them affect us the entire day. Learning how to take care of yourself and de-stress is important for productivity and sanity. Try some of these tricks to help reduce stress during the day, carving out “me time” to focus on mind and body wellness.