How to Destress Your Life – Part One
It is easy to find yourself stressed out when you have so much to get done in your day-to-day life. We all tend to fill our schedules with activities and responsibilities, often on top of having a career, raising a family, and having bills to pay. The trick to keeping your life as stress-free as possible is learning how to handle it when it arises so that you can enjoy life and not constantly feel overwhelmed. Being prepared to destress is key.
Here, in Part One, we are sharing a few techniques you can employ each day to tackle feelings of stress. In Part Two, we look at ways of managing external causes of stress. Perhaps some of these approaches will work for you.
We’ve all heard of this one before but it’s true; exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress and its effects on the body. Regular activity is best at keeping stress at bay although don’t discount going for a walk any time you feel on edge.
On a personal note, I sought more walks after I purchased a Fitbit, purely as a way of trying to get my daily step count up. I expected to feel better physically but the positive effect on my mental health was an unexpected bonus.
Fresh air and a change of environment can help you calm down and the endorphins your body releases from physical activity help improve your mood. Even a 15-minute walk squeezed into your day can dramatically decrease the amount of stress you feel on a consistent basis.
Never dismiss the power of the breath! Sometimes all you need is to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. There are an abundance of breathing techniques you can try but it can even be helpful to take simple, slow, deep breaths through your nose and exhale them through your mouth.
The 4-7-8 technique, also known as the Relaxing Breath, is easy to master: breathe in gently through your nose for four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds and then exhale it through your mouth for eight seconds, repeating the process for a total of four times.
While this won’t necessarily eliminate all your stress or avert a crisis, conscious breathing can ground you and has physical and mental benefits – especially when done on a regular basis.
Listen to Music and Nature Sounds
Music is a great way to destress because it takes your attention off potential stressors which allows you to relax. Any time you feel overly stressed, turn on some relaxed tunes to help you unwind and take a break from your day. Be mindful that the music you listen to can add to the stress if not chosen carefully, so try to stick to calm, instrumental music to get the best effects from this hack.
This technique is also helpful at night when you are trying to sleep and your mind starts to race as we all know sleep is an important stress reducer too. Try these simple tips to improve your quality of sleep, and consider listening to sleep sounds (check out Youtube) – such as rainfall on windows or waves gently crashing on a beach – to soothe your mind and help you drift off.
That said, if you know you just need to rage for a bit to get it out of your system, go for it! Just keep in mind that what we put in our brains (negative or positive) is what we output as well.
Our sense of smell is a great partner in destressing. Aromatherapy is known to encourage calm and relaxation. Scents such as lavender, rose, chamomile, frankincense, sandalwood, or orange blossom are perfect to combat stress.
You can use these scents via an aromatherapy machine, by burning incense, in perfumes, by adding them to your baths, or by lighting scented candles.
Aromatherapy has been found to help decrease the level of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) in our system. It can also help you unwind and feel more content in the moment.
An added bonus is that you can use aromatherapy with other stress-relieving techniques or when you are busy with other things. For example, you can easily light a candle in your office to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy while you work, or dab some stress-relieving scents on your wrists in the morning to keep you calmer throughout the day.
Put Down the Coffee
Hear me out. Studies have shown that people who consume large amounts of caffeine each day tend to be more stressed and anxious than those who don’t. This isn’t saying that you have to give up your daily cup. Ask yourself how much caffeine you consume in a day, including coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks. If you’re having more than a cup of coffee or one can of energy drink, it might be time to cut back and see if it helps. Alternatively, swap your favourites for decaffeinated varieties. Consuming less caffeine consistently could work wonders for your stress levels.
This destressing tip may seem a little silly, but chewing gum every day can actually help you reduce stress! Researchers believe that the act of chewing stimulates brain waves that are similar to those found in people when they are calm and relaxed.
It’s still being studied as to why gum helps us destress, but keeping a pack on hand can’t hurt. And the added bonus? Fresh breath!
Make Time for the Fun
It’s no secret that laughter can help improve your mood. It also helps you cope with stress better and relieves the physical tension that stress puts on your body.
Make time for some light-hearted shenanigans in your life so that you are harnessing the power of laughing every day. Watch a funny TV show or spend more time with friends that keep you giggling. Combine getting active with the great outdoors for some light-hearted, educational family fun. Add humour to your life wherever you can, it makes it more enjoyable. Sometimes all it takes is a few hours with your favourite people to destress, and get you back to feeling human again.
It can be easy to let your own personal wellbeing fall to the side when you are taking care of responsibilities and other people. However, continuing to put yourself last can be detrimental to your mental wellbeing.
Make time to put effort into your personal wants and needs every single day. This could be in the form of a 15-minute walk, a nightly bubble bath, or reading for pleasure before bed. Remember, you deserve it.
Try beginner yoga classes (again, there are many good ones free online). Restorative yoga often features gentle stretches, breathing techniques, and soothing meditation, all excellent stress relievers.
All in all, finding ways to destress each day isn’t as difficult as you may think. It does take some planning and action on your part, but most of the techniques mentioned here don’t require much time or money to execute. Small steps to work on reducing your stress so you will be happier and in a better mood will pay off in the long run!
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