What’s the first thing you do after you wake up? Be honest, it’s probably grabbing your phone to check on work or social media. That’s just one example of the many ways we increase our stress levels throughout the day. Here’s how to push back with simple routines.
Breathing is one of those things we’re doing all day every day but most of us don’t know how to do it properly and actually use it to our advantage. Most of the time we use shallow breathing which keeps our body in constant fight-or-flight mode, not allowing our parasympathetic nervous system—often called the rest-and-digest system—to kick in. If you’re not breathing like you’re relaxed then your body isn’t going to act like it’s relaxed.
Turning our attention to deep belly breaths stimulates the neurotransmitters which send signals to our brain and activate that rest-and-digest mode, lowering cortisol levels, and reducing inflammation. All it takes are five long breath cycles. Seriously, only five. But take your time with them; even close your eyes if the situation allows for it.
A lot of people get intimidated by the word meditation as they believe they’re “not good at it” or “don’t know how to turn off their brain.” And that’s where they have it completely wrong. Meditation is as individual as a person’s DNA—whatever gets you into zen mode is your form of meditation.
The deep breathing techniques we mentioned above can also be a form of meditation, as well as focusing on certain colors, smells, sounds, or even thoughts. Stopping right where we are and staying in that present moment is all it takes, whether we’re on an airport full of people and chaos, or a Japanese garden surrounded by colorful flowers and sounds of trickling water.
Many of us used to have some sort of journal or diary when we were kids, even if we didn’t stick with it. You know, that “Dear diary” we would confide in when we had a crush, or when a teacher would get on our nerves. Chances are, almost all of us stopped writing sometime in high school or before college or even sooner when we started having more and more tasks on our plate (and crushes turned into long-term relationships).
Well, journaling is back—and people swear by its incredible stress-reducing properties. Putting our problems on paper helps us understand them better, as we go through a subconscious form of analysis, which more often than not, helps us find some clarity, and even solutions. So, go and get yourself a pretty little journal notebook and start jotting down whatever is on your mind.
Exercise is one of the ultimate forms of de-stressing. From running and cycling to punching a bag and sweating in yoga, exercise fills us up with endorphins and serotonin which in turn, activates our parasympathetic nervous system and decreases our stress hormones. All it takes is the first few minutes and you’re already in a much happier state.
Adult Coloring Books
They’re just called “adult” because it’s a trend amongst non-kids nowadays, but they all still have a bunch of pretty animals, flowers and shapes for us to fill in. The reason why they became so popular is their super-calming effect. Remember when we were kids and we could sit in silence and color for hours? That’s the effect we’re trying to recreate!
Walking in Nature
Taking a moment to get out, stretch out our legs, and breathe in the fresh air does wonders for our overall well-being. It doesn’t have to take long, 10-15 minutes will suffice. Walking in nature helps us take in our surroundings, become aware of the present moment, allows our shoulders to naturally fall down and relax, makes us start breathing more deeply, and brings a sense of ease into our whole body.
Try walking to work or using a part of your lunch break to get out of the office building. You’ll instantly feel better and will be able to come back in with charged up batteries and fresh energy.
Podcasts have been growing in popularity over the years and it’s never been a better time to start listening—everyone and their mother is listening to them because there’s really a podcast for just about everybody! People use them to make their commute more meaningful, house chores more bearable, and sitting in traffic time well spent.
The topics they cover are so vast, you can literally find anything about everything, and there are a bunch of stress or anxiety-reducing ones that feature talks, mantras, meditations, learning techniques, exercises, and other incredible creations. All you need is your smartphone and some headphones, and you can instantly be transported to a zen world.
What pops into your mind when the word “spa” gets uttered? Dimmed lights, relaxing music, soothing smells, and candles. Recreating that setting at home helps you relax and activate the rest-and-digest mode in a very easy and quick manner. Find a candle infused with aromatic oils and breathe in its divine smell while gazing at its calming flicker. Doesn’t this sentence do the trick already?
Another aspect of the “spa treatment” is the music. And not just any music; it has to be relaxing, soothing, calming music. These type of tunes send signals into our brain and stimulate our brain waves, making the transition into a calm state a very subconscious and easy thing for our bodies to do. We can thank the gods of Spotify and Youtube for creating hundreds of playlists we can browse through and immediately find something that’ll work.
Reading a book
Immersing ourselves in the lives of our book characters has been one of the best calming therapies since, well, the invention of the printing press, and there’s no reason not to include it in this list. Getting lost in between the pages is a great way to escape reality for just a bit, and make it easier to relax our busy mind from multitasking like crazy. Not only that but there’s a host of evidence that reading is great for your body and mind. Grab a book, cover yourself with a blanket, and get ready to let it all go.
These are just some of the things you can do to de-stress, and the best part is, they don’t take long! Taking a 10-minute walk, lighting a candle, or closing your eyes and focusing on five deep inhales and exhales, are just a tiny part of your day—and it can do so much!