Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In the right context, it can give us focus, energy and determination. But, just like chocolate, too much stress can be detrimental to your mental and physical health.
The one problem we all face is what, exactly does “too much” stress look like? How much can one person reasonably take before falling apart? Like many things, the answer depends on various factors: the person, the kind of stress, the number of different stressors and the self-care stress relief that is regularly engaged in.
Plenty of studies have shown that even a little bit of meditation every day can have a significant effect on psychological and physiological effects of stress. Even just five minutes twice a day will bring down your heart rate and help calm anxiety.
But meditation can sometimes be difficult for people to access. If you’ve never been trained, or are just beginning, it can seem daunting. Below are some tricks and techniques to help you calm your mind and body quickly and relieve stress effectively.
- Visualizations: guided seem to work best for many really stressed out people. The trick is to focus on details (sounds, colors, textures, light & shadow interplay). Imagine yourself in a serene place, like a beach or a garden, then imagine everything you would see, hear and feel there.
- Stare at some fire or a RelaxBottle: There’s something magical and transporting about flame, even a small one from a candle will work, just set yourself up in a quiet space and let yourself get lost in it for a while. If fire isn’t appropriate, you can quickly and cheaply make a RelaxBottle and watch the swirling twisting colors settle. Instructions are here.
- Exercise: Stretching is key and something aerobic like running, swimming, bicycling or dancing is best. Use music that motivates you and pay attention to the physical sensations you experience, even the uncomfortable ones, and the dialogue in your head – give yourself a mental pep talk to get maximum results and reach your workout goal.
- Get in nature – gardening, walking in a park, visiting an arboretum, beach, etc. Bonus points if medium physical exertion and/or “living” water is included.
- Read an engaging, exciting book – preferably fiction. Something totally transporting.
- Write a love letter to yourself – be specific and give a lot of details about all the ways you are amazing, unique and all the good things you have done. Gush.
- Make a Dream Board – collect pictures, words, even small items that represent something you want to achieve or someplace you want to be. Make it tangible and as detailed as possible. Keep adding to it.
- Massage – Swap a head and neck massage with a friend – you’ll be amazed at how much stress you can get rid of in just 15 minutes. No friend handy? Use the corner of a doorframe to get to those high tension spots on your back and roll your feet over a wooden massage roller.
- Play – Find a dog to play with and really let yourself play like a little kid.
- Laugh – Yep, just laugh for five straight minutes. Set a timer and don’t stop until it is done. It’ll be weird and won’t sound authentic, so don’t do it anywhere where you’ll feel self conscious. But you’ll have increased the ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain. To make it last even longer, smile every time you think of it. Just smiling activates more of those chemicals and actually increases a positive mood.
I’d love to hear what you do to de-stress. Please leave a comment below.