Do you suffer with chronic stress and worry? You’re not alone.
Stress is a leading cause of disease and has serious detrimental effects on your body. Unfortunately, modern life is fraught with stress-inducing stimuli. From fast-paced work environments to the constant invasion of technology, economic uncertainty, ever-increasing traffic and trying political times, stress just seems like an everyday side dish.
And when you’re short on time, it’s easy to scrimp on the self care. However, the long term degenerative effects of stress on your well being are too drastic to ignore.
Recent scientific studies have shown that stress is insidious and lethal, slipping beneath our conscious awareness to shrink our brains, add fat to our bellies, and even unravel our chromosomes!
The good news:
You can do a lot of free, quick and easy things to instantly reduce stress.
Here are 8 ways to incorporate positive self care habits everyday that cost next to nothing (some are even free, save for a little time investment!) and will keep you sound of mind and body for years to come:
The more stressed and hurried we become, the less we remember to take full breathes. Your cells need oxygen for energy and also to help flush out cellular waste. Your brain needs oxygen to function optimally. When you take shallow breaths, your body has to work extra hard just to function normally. Take a few moments several times a day to breathe deeply. Make sure you focus on exhaling all the air in your lungs. Your inhale can only be as full as your exhale.
Movement releases tension, stimulates your nervous system, and encourages you to breathe more deeply, bringing in additional oxygen to the body. Studies have also shown that exercise actually keeps your brain sharp, so to maintain clear cognition, make sure you get out and move your body daily, even if it’s just walking the dog around the block. Body mind practices, such as yoga or qi gong, are excellent additions as they focus your attention on places you’re holding stress and tension in your body, allowing you to consciously release them.
3. Reorganize your home.
Chaos breeds chaos, and a messy home can create mental clutter as well. If your home isn’t a sanctuary, consider spending a Saturday doing a deep cleaning (I recommend using natural and organic cleaning products to avoid chemical off gassing that can cause headaches and nausea). Clear out clutter that you no longer need by taking it to the local Salvation Army or Goodwill. You’ll be surprised how clear headed you feel once your home is in order!
4. Use relaxing fragrances to calm your mind.
Fragrance has a deep effect on our psyche, and we quickly learn to associate certain smells with feelings and memories. Place an essential oil diffuser in your home. Lavender essential oil is soothing, Peppermint is uplifting, Bergamot is an anti-depressant, and Rosemary is energizing.
5. Cut back on caffeine.
Okay, I know this one is tough! I’m a Seattle girl, after all, and we’re known for our excessive coffee habit. With that in mind, if you feel yourself constantly jumpy, notice your hands are shaky, or you struggle with anxiety, consider limiting the coffee you drink. Switching to a different caffeine source can also do the trick. Yerba Mate and green tea are good options for some people.
Ugh! You mean sit still and clear my mind of all thoughts? Yep, that’s what I mean. When you’re stressed out, the committee in your head gets louder and louder until you can’t hear yourself think anymore. You may even forget what you think! If sitting quietly sounds about as much fun to you as getting a root canal, try joining a meditation group. The accountability and community support can make the experience fun and relaxing instead of another arduous task to complete. Time crunched? Try a meditation CD to help you drop into peace and tranquility.
We’re bombarded by thousands upon thousands of messages all day long: billboards, television, email, cell phones, text messages, magazine ads, headlines….the list goes on. Take some time to get out in nature, and leave the cell phone at home! For those of you city-bound folks, nature does not include the local landscaped park. Instead, head outside urban boundaries if you can and walk amongst old growth forest, desert landscapes, or whatever beauty your particular corner of the earth has to offer. If you have a dog, this can be a great excusion to make together. Pets have a way of reminding us how to let go and be totally present in the moment. When you return to civilization, your mind and body will feel clear and focused.
8. Release stored tension.
When you feel your shoulders tightening from sitting in traffic or staring at a computer, you can ease your own stress in five minutes or less. With your right hand, tuck your thumb under your fingers and curl your fingers down toward your palm, making a soft fist. Rest your right elbow in your left hand and use your right fist to gently tap on your left shoulder and upper arm. Tap gently, focusing more on the upward movement of your hand than the downward strike, and avoid any prominent bones. Repeat on your other side. Once finished, take a few deep, cleansing breaths and feel your shoulders relaxed and tingling.
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