Stress is inevitable. But it is inevitable to our health, though, that we deal with it appropriately. Stress can cause a number of issues, from irritability to headaches. Long term stress can lead to more serious health issues. It can be can be silent – as it builds and builds or if we are unaware. Identifying and managing stress is preventative, healthy, empowering and ensures smoother days.
But often managing our stress just adds one more thing to our “to do” list – sometimes adding to the stress. We all have our own varying coping tools, many natural, some of them we know are good for us, and some we know are not only not good for us but enable us to continue avoiding dealing with the source of the stress. BUT I believe that managing and removing stress from our lives can be easy and enjoyable!
I’d like to share some tips. In general the simplest way to redirect stress is AWARENESS. By just noticing what pushes your buttons and how your react to them can start to reverse stress symptoms. Below I offer some tips for cultivating awareness to help shift perspective.
Take your power and health back from stress with these quick, easily integratable tools – they are super impactful because they come to stress from a place of peace and address stress on all three levels: mind, body and spirit (and because you can do them for yourself – they save money). Keep in mind that intention is more powerful than time – 10 minutes of direct, loving attention to yourself is better than 1 hour of slight effort. Life has constant change and with it NEW stresses. Take time now to handle the stress you have and revamp to welcome the new. The below tools, in random order, can help you do more than survive each day – they can help you SHINE! Try one and see how it feels.
- Breathe Light This is my favorite – it is sometimes the only tool I have time to use. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor hip’s distance, knees up. This is constructive rest. Fifteen minutes a day in this pose can allow gravity to return your alignment to neutral and release tension in your back and neck. Notice your breathing. Now bring your attention to each part of your body – head to foot. Hear each inhale and exhale and imagine white light entering each part of your body. When you’re finished, notice how your body feels and how your breathing is now.
- Self-massage Stress causes tension. Tension restricts blood-flow. Our body, mind and spirit cannot function optimally if they are not flowing, resulting in headaches, muscle pain, and depression. My health insurance does not cover massage – does yours? Most likely not. But you can go a long way by giving yourself a massage. Work feet to head, part by part: twisting, rubbing, always pushing toward the heart, and use massage oil (sesame is calming to the nerves) or your favorite lotion. Be gentle with tender parts and hold the really tight spots. Notice connections between parts that are sore, and let go of any negative thoughts or feelings that come up. Breathe into each muscle – oxygen is a healer. Thank your body for all it enables you to do each day and your body will be thankful in return. Even shorter cut? – Just do your feet really well.
- Sun Salute Sing-a-long More joy! Grab your mat, do a few rounds of sun salute while singing your favorite song – sync your movements with your song and breathing. Don’t believe that this is powerful? Try it! Don’t do yoga? Just do some stretching and strengthening exercises that feel good whilst you sing.
- Silly Walks Don’t skip this one because you think silliness is embarrassing. Fresh air, exercise and silly is a potent combination for joy and peace. Go for a walk outdoors, even 10 minutes whenever you feel anxious, stiff or depressed, bring your kids along too! And discover all the unique ways your body can walk. This stimulates your creativity and problem-solving brain, brings you present (i.e. meditation), gets more movement into stiff muscles, and the laughing releases tension and shifts perspective better than any other method.
- Words Awareness is not always easy – we don’t often have words for what we feel. We often don’t want to feel what we notice. It is even harder sometimes to see the big picture with a big negative thought in the way. An easy way to face our stresses without making them bigger or avoiding them all-together (no, they won’t go away on their own) is with words: a) Old-fashioned, but grab a journal and write down the events of your day and thoughts of the moment, don’t forget your successes b) Spend some time focusing on what you are grateful for: make a written or verbal list – the dinner table is the best for this – and watch your perspective change c) At the end of the day check your status against these four prime emotions – anger, joy, fear, and hurt, and validate those feelings with breaths of love. Rolling your eyes? TRY ME. This is the medicine. Getting in touch with yourself like this is the most amazing part of being a spirit on an earthly journey (in my opinion).
- Super Shower Overwhelmed? Sometimes we just need to wash off all that we have accumulated and no longer need. Take a shower and wash everything “toxic” down the drain to be recycled into fresh water for the earth. Take it a step further and pretend your fingers are scissors that can cut away all the extra things we’ve taken on and are weighing us down. We build connections to people and ideas and activities that we give mental energy toward. Our spirit knows what is best for us to keep and not. Pray if you aren’t certain. Send thankful and loving thoughts back to what you released – keep the circle of joy going!
- Tree imagery This is the second thing I do if I’m short on time – it is grounding and re-stabilizes energy. It also helps your brain connect and shift you from funk to reality. Imagine you are a tree – get fun and really imagine what type of tree you are. Feel your feet and toes as deep strong roots, watch them get deeper and deeper into the earth holding you strong. Imagine your legs and torso are a tall, solid trunk – with lines of water flowing. Imagine your arms and head as branches and leaves reaching for the sunlight (top of your head not your forehead). Breathe deeply as you feel the water, fresh air and sunlight in your roots, trunk and branches. YES!
- Play with your child My kids are constantly asking me to play with them. Often enough I give in and play, but rarely, it seems, with all my grownup responsibilities and tired mind, do I play completely with abandon and joy. When I do, oh boy do my kids sure teach me a thing or two about what is important. BE PRESENT and give you and your kids a present. Play touches our deepest, oldest (and youngest) and wisest parts, and enables our minds to integrate our day. (Sigh)
- Pray and listen This really should be my top time-saving stress reliever, but I tend to forget that I’m not doing all this on my own. Prayer is probably the most potent stress-buster if you are really honest with your prayer. Take time to just talk to God and listen to what you hear in return – and remember that you are being helped. Don’t listen with your ears, but listen with your heart, eyes, and skin. We often soften when we remember how big the universe is and how time is longer than now.
- Reality check You may be doing more to take care of your stress than you realize, or getting more help than you’ve noticed. If you take a moment to check in with what is really happening you can see that maybe, just maybe, things aren’t as bad as they seem! This can take off some pressure, allow you to accept some available help you weren’t noticing, and give you some perspective that removes stress. We all tend to vacate reality from time to time — to come back, try asking yourself: a) What things do you currently do to wind down at the end of the day or what makes you feel good (from Facebook time to TV and dinner time to teeth brushing)? Acknowledge these now and as you do them in the future – welcome the benefits each time. This will lighten your load, amp up their relieving benefits, and give yourself a pat on the back. b) What is stressing you at this time? Make a list and then ask of each one: in the big picture does it need to happen RIGHT NOW? Is it really as awful as you think? c) What is the benefit from having this stress? Is that reason based on logic? If not you can let it go! These sometimes are hard questions to ask ourselves and be honest because we want someone to validate our problems and not admit that we may be over-reacting. Think of it as realizingrather than admitting, and that you are helping yourself. Sometimes problems are as big as you think and you DO need someone other than just yourself to validate and help you navigate them – in times like that PLEASE seek counsel from professionals. It is so worth it, and that IS typically covered by insurance!
- You are what you eatUmmmm, yeah, sorry there is no way around this – if you eat poorly, you feel poorly. When you are stressed toxic foods are even more of a burden on the body — and some even encourage the symptoms. The good news is this is the easiest, easiest one to fix (there are good versions of all your naughty favorites). Feeling stressed? Avoid at least caffeine (chocolate too), sugars/corn syrups (read your ingredients), food colorings/additives and alcohol. Want to feel better? Avoid white starches, wheat, dairy, bad fats, and processed foods altogether. Try instead plain vegetables, free range meats, organic fruits and whole grains. Get a cookbook – it’s easy and cheaper to eat this way. Stock up on probiotics and a stress complex for intense circumstances of stress.
- Love status All you need is LOVE. I think the opposite of love is stress. When you love yourself it’s hard to be fearful, when you love others it is hard to be angry, when you know others love you it’s hard to be overwhelmed or hurt. We need a lot of love each day – from babies to adults our love quota should be the same. Don’t underestimate what love does for your health.
- Take a few minutes to take stock of the amount of love you let in: hugs, smiles, laughing, positive contact with others, and intimacy.
- Seek to give/receive 10 hugs a day
- Smile everywhere you go
- Say something nice to others and notice what nice things others do for you
- Plan and indulge in intimacy
- Laugh – watch a funny movie, be goofy with a friend or child, and make a list of things that just outright make you Laugh Out Loud!
Joyful Stress-Busting, Lynn