Everybody feels stress and knows it intimately, but very few of us think about what stress actually is and how to move away from it. Stress is a thought. That’s it. No more, no less. If that’s true, then we have complete control over stress, because it’s not something that happens to us but something that happens in us. The dictionary definition of stress is, “bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.” It is your thoughts out of balance. Careful though, stress is ranked as the number 1 killer because it will invade your mind and into your body to cause a physiological response which can lead to acute illnesses…
And when things get out of control, which they do, I simply make a gentle U turn. The U turn is like a GPS for your mind, body and soul. The GPS if you like, is your very essence, and stress will affect all these parts. If you take an incorrect turn whilst out driving, your GPS in the car does not start shouting at you, criticize you or call you stupid. The GPS will simply keep trying to put you on the correct path to get to where you need to go. In the most detached yet sweetest voice imaginable, the GPS reminds you to take the next possible U-turn. Each of us has to find out how to make our own U-turn. Here are seven wonderful ways I have discovered that work very well for me to reduce stress!
Breathe. When our breathing is short and rapid, our stress hormones kick into gear— this is something that is inherited from a long time ago when our descendants were original faced with danger: “A tiger is chasing me, I must flee!” Deep, slow, full breaths have a profound affect on resetting the stress response, because the relaxation nerve goes through your diaphragm and is activated with every deep breath. Take five deep breaths now, and observe how differently you feel after.
Move. The best way to burn off the stress hormones without having to change your thinking is to move and sweat. Run, dance, jump, ride, swim, stretch, or skip—do something that is vigorous and lively. Yoga is also fabulous, as it combines movement and breathing and thus has a calming effect. We also feel good after completing exercise of some sort – perhaps at the time we feel completely exhausted, but as we recover we feel good about what we have achieved.
Bathe. For the lazy among us (including me), a salt bath is a secret weapon against stress. Add 2 cups of Epsom salt (which contains magnesium, the relaxation mineral) and perhaps either 6 drops of lavender, neroli or rose oil to a very hot bath. You would need to ensure that the oil you use is one that you like the smell of. For good advice/questions on what to chose go to this site: http://www.healingradiance.co.uk or perhaps consult a doctor. Then, add one stressed human and soak for 20 minutes. Guaranteed to induce relaxation.
Eating. Having a well balanced and nourishing diet will help reduce stress. Conversely, having ‘convenience’ food is just a slippery slope to feeding a desire which has no real benefit to your body whatsoever, other than short term emotional happiness. Rubbish eating will most definitely lead to weight issues and assist your stress levels to rise. Sure, have ‘convenience food’ every now and then, but stop any habitual use and start cooking and eating nourishing and healthy meals.
Sleep. A lack of sleep increases stress hormones in our body. A good night's sleep makes you able to tackle the day's stress more easily. When you are tired, you are less patient and more easily agitated which can increase stress. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Practicing good sleep routines along with stress-lowering tactics can help improve your quality of sleep, which in turn gives you energy in your waking hours.
Think Differently. Try practicing the art of noticing stress, noticing how your own thinking can make you stressed. A great saying is “If you did what you always did, then you will get what you always got”. What we think, how we think, what we expect, and what we tell ourselves often determines how we feel and how well we manage rising stress levels. You can learn to change your thought patterns that produce stress. Thoughts to watch out include those concerning how things should be and those that overgeneralize a set of circumstances (for example, "Yet again I have failed to meet a deadline. I am completely useless.”). So, try approaching things with a different perspective and remain upbeat – no matter what is happening.
Listen to calming music. Research has shown that listening to music can have a strong relaxing effect on our minds and bodies, especially slow, quiet and classical type music. This type of music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones. So, go on, light some candles, find a comfortable chair and get some beautiful soft music on. Allow yourself to drift with the music and eliminate negative stressful thoughts!
So, there we are. Seven ways to complete U turns on your own to move off the stress highway of our lives. We can all do without stress be it in our workplace or outside, but we must take steps to combat it and not allow it to take charge. We have the ability to take charge, so what are you waiting for…! A reminder is to also visit my blog on increasing happiness which includes many of the methods that I outline above.