Everyone can relate to the feeling of being pulled in a million different directions and wondering how they can tackle all of life’s demands. Between school, work, children and relationships when is there time for US?
Stress is necessary for life. We need stress for learning, creating and for survival. Stress is only harmful when it becomes overwhelming and interrupts the healthy state of equilibrium that your central nervous system needs to remain balanced. Unfortunately, overwhelming stress has become an increasingly common norm of everyday life. When stressors throw your nervous system out of balance, relaxation techniques can bring it back into a balanced state by producing a relaxation response, which is a state of deep calmness that is the exact opposite of the stress response.
For many of us, relaxation consists of sitting in front of the TV and “vegging out” to the latest reality TV drama. Or some of us have a cocktail to unwind. But this does little to reduce the damaging effect of stress. If we want to effectively combat stress, we must activate the body’s natural relaxation response. It can be done by practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing and yoga. Fitting these activities into your life can help reduce everyday stress and naturally boost your energy and mood.
Practice deep breathing
Any yogi will tell you that pranayama or “life force” plays an important role in nourishing the body.
Focus on full, cleansing breaths and inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7 and exhale audibly through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat this cycle 4 times initially and work up to 8 times over the next few weeks.
Go for a short walk
Being fully present and connecting with nature on a brief walk is a great stress reliever. There are no special requirements or equipment needed. Just head out of the door and explore your neighborhood for 10-15 minutes. Take in the sights, smells and sounds around you to fully connect to the present moment.
Do something pleasurable
At this time of year exhaustion, stress and unhappiness can easily take over your life. You can start to experience “anhedonia” — that is, you can’t find pleasure in life. The things you used to enjoy now leave you feeling empty and cold. You feel as if a thick fog has put a barrier between you and simple pleasures, and few things seem to be making you happy any more.
You can counteract this by taking small steps towards the things that you used to like doing but have since forgotten about. You can make a start by choosing one or a few of the following things to do (or perhaps come up with your own ideas):
— Be kind to your body. Have a hot bath; take a nap; enjoy some of your favorite food without feelings of guilt; have your favorite hot tea.
Make a gratitude list
Write a list of 10 things that you are appreciative for. It can be small things such as your morning latte being made perfectly, to larger things like being grateful for your health or having close friends and family.
Reclaim your life
Think back to a time in your life when things seemed less frantic, before the time when some tragedy or increase in workload took over your daily existence. Or it could be more recent than that, perhaps a vacation you took in the summer./
Recall in as much detail as you can some of the activities that you were doing at that time. These could be things you did by yourself (reading your favorite magazines or listening to music, going out for walks or bike rides) or together with friends or family (from playing board games to going to the theater).
Pick one of these activities and set aside time to do it today or over this weekend. It may be an activity that takes five minutes or five hours, it could be important or trivial, it could involve others or it could be by yourself.
The most important thing is that it should be something that puts you back in touch with a part of your life that you had forgotten — a part of you that you may have been telling yourself was lost somehow, that you could not get back to. Don’t wait until you feel like doing it; do it anyway and see what happens. It’s time to reclaim your life!
Go to the movies
Call a friend or family member to go with you to the movies — but this time, with a difference. Go at a set time (say 7 p.m.) but don’t choose the movie until you arrive. Many times, what makes us the happiest in life is the most unexpected. Movies are great for all these.
Take note ahead of time if you have any resistance around the activity such as, ‘I haven’t got time for this, or, ‘What if there is nothing on that I’ll enjoy?’ These thoughts undermine your plan to take action and can discourage your intention to do something that can nourish your life. Once you get to the theatre, just enjoy the moment and get lost in the film.
Eat a snack
Choose a healthy, but tasty, snack. Sit quietly and eat it mindfully. Pay attention to the texture of the snack, the different tastes and how it makes you feel. Some good options that can fill you up- a half an avocado, a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit.
Buy a plant
Having something green inside your work or home environment has been found to induce your relaxation response. Washington State University study found that a group of stressed-out people who entered a room full of plants had a four-point drop in their blood pressure, while a comparison group who didn’t see plants dropped only two points, Prevention magazine reported.
Kiss your partner
Research has been shown that kissing your partner releases endorphins that make you feel good. So pucker up to your loved one and enjoy the relaxation and the greater connection with your partner.
Turn off your electronic devices
You have heard that announcement on airplanes, but turning off your devices can also be a way to de-stress. Power down for a half an hour or hour and do something that you enjoy, knowing that you won’t be distracted.
Take back your life and enjoy the benefits of relaxation!
Please add your comments below and any other tips that have worked for you.