It's been well documented that stress contributes to, among other things, cardiac disease, high blood pressure, higher rates of illness, obesity and even depression.
It's also well known that stress is our constant companion. However, the good news is for most of us, through lots of practice, we can become our own experts at elevating our stress levels. But the ability to relax is an acquired skill.
Luckily, you can teach yourself to handle stress in a manner that minimizes it. It's critical to establish routine that will help you relax because the more stressed you feel, the more challenging it will be to combat the effects.
Following are 11 simple things you can do to relax your body and alleviate stress. You don't have to do them all, find the one's that will work for you. The key is to use them when you feel your stress levels are out of control.
1. Take a moment to stretch. Stand up for a few minutes and stretch your body. Release the tension and stress in your muscles. Shake your arms and legs individually and get back to work. Try this. It really works!
2. Exercise. If you have more time available, 30 minutes of exercise can work wonders. Walking has tremendous health benefits, but you can also take it up a notch. Play a match of tennis or go for a run with your dog. Consider whether you’d prefer to exercise alone or with others and make it happen. There are also some wonderful apps you can add to your phone to help you work out and remind you to move your body.
3. Listen to music. Music can be very soothing. Anything by Adele or Michael Franks makes me feel great, but these artists may not do anything for you. Choose music that you find relaxing or inspiring and create a playlist that's reserved for those moments you need to feel amazing.
4. Meditate. Meditation is simple, but challenging. You can learn to focus your thoughts and relieve your tension. Keep your thoughts focused on your breath and return to these thoughts whenever you get distracted. However, if you're someone who challenges with sitting still, don't force it. It's not for everyone so don't feel guilty if it's not your cup of tea.
5. Reach out to others. Some of us find relaxation in being alone, while others feel better with others. Reach out to your friends and family. You can discuss your feelings and the challenges you’re facing. You could also choose to use the people in your life as a distraction. Go out to dinner or watch a movie. Have a little fun.
6. Laugh. Maybe laughter is the best medicine. Pull out your favorite video or spend the evening at a comedy club. Call your funniest friend for a chat. Read a book of jokes. Find something or someone that will make you laugh.
7. Feel gratitude. It’s easy to forget about all the wonderful things in your life during challenging times. Make a list of all the blessings in your life. Focus on feeling gratitude. By reminding yourself of all the good things, the bad things won’t seem nearly as bad.
8. Take a nap. One of the best ways to reset your nervous system is sleeping. Find a quiet place and lie down for an hour. A nap can be the best stress-buster. This has worked wonders for me.
9. Think happy thoughts. Remember a happy, past event. Relive it in your mind. Creative visualization can be an excellent way to take a break from your stress. Be creative and enjoy yourself. I love to go through old photos on my phone or photo albums to take me back to those special happy moments in my life
10. Drop the caffeine from your diet. Caffeine and stress don’t combine well. Give your nervous system a reprieve and avoid caffeinated beverages. This also works for alcohol. While they may do the trick at the time, they only provide temporary relief. Try to replace caffeine, alcohol (and I'll add shopping because it's been one of my go to stress reliever that caused more stress when my credit card statement arrived in the mail) with something that's free and more effective.
11. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. You could also cover your ears and focus on what you see. Block off one of your senses and focus on your environment. This is an excellent way to be more present. Giving your attention to your surroundings will stop your mind from creating more stress.
Stress is a part of daily life. Learning to manage it makes life more enjoyable.
The best time to address stress is the moment it begins.
There’s a momentum to stress. Once your stress reaches a high level, it’s far more challenging to reduce. So be sure to use them sooner, rather than later, to prevent things from getting out of control!